What is R.A.M.?
It stands for regional air mobility. The following sections will explain the concept of RAM comparing it to UAM under certain important differentiators characteristics such as range, performance, demographics, regulations, and infra-structure.
First and foremost it is important to clarify that urban and regional air mobility are two (2) different segments of Advanced Air Mobility. While they might present some similarities they are different in their core.
NASA has published recently a report about the regional air mobility that pretty much defines several of its characteristics.
In terms of range it defines the regional segment as 50 to 500 (min) ground miles, and in terms of demographics identified part of population that prefers to use ground transportation, and others that flock into airports for regional travel.
As seen in NASA’s report 98.4% of 50 to 500 miles travels are performed via ground transportation, and 70% of US airport traffic relates to domestic air travel.
NASA’s report makes a good point that there are many unused domestics or local airports that can be used for a potential “RAM” service given that important environmental and operational requirements are met.
If those airports are a first good start for traditional fixed-wings aircraft that meet the community-friendly requirements, it is worth noting that the VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft type can take-off and land from a space of 15 meters by 15 meters, which unlocks much more possibilities and places to reach.
The range is what differentiates this two segments and addresses specific types of demographics (seen latter). Considering the available information UAM offers 200 km or 312 ground miles of range. RAM limit is 500 ground miles per NASA’s report. Q‑Bee offers around 690 ground miles.
The map displays a comparison of ranges for each segment and what Q‑Bee is being design to accomplish.
Chicago has been defined as the reference center point for this comparison.
The difference in ranges, at a first look, indicates that a gradually an increasing number of cities are covered allowing for their integration or inclusion into a regional air mobility service.
In fact UAM companies realized that there is value in the RAM segment.
Therefore UAM can also address the RAM demographics within their limit range of 312 ground miles. Does it mean competition? Not necessarily. It can actually mean collaboration.
Mid-size helicopters have ranges from 300 to 510 ground miles.
It explains what segments of population or their characteristics is served by the regional air mobility. We will also show what UAM’s demographic is, so we can understand each.
- Regional ground travelers
- Regional air flyers
All of those with a minimum travel distance of 50 miles for people and goods.
- Intra-city (daily commuters)
- Inter-cities (daily commuters)
- Regional ground and air travelers
All within the limit of 312 miles for people and goods.
We will look into payload, external noise, and speed as part of the performance characteristics.
We understand that a vehicle for the regional air mobility segment needs a speed performance somewhere in between what a mid-size helicopter and a small jet offers.
Q‑Bee is designed to be 45% to 50% faster than mid-size helicopters. Consequently it has better speed performance than the eVTOLs from UAM.
The benefit of a good speed performance relates mainly with time savings.
Q‑Bee has a payload of 1500 pounds, which is in the range of the mid-size helicopters as well.
In terms of noise, the target is to be at the same external noise levels as the eVTOLs.
Infra-structure has to be seen from three (3) perspectives: the physical infra-structure, the enabling technology, and operational. The last two are much interdependent.
One: RAM segment proposal is to take advantage of the lower usage domestic or local airports spread the US, therefore it is not in its model to invest in vertiports, etc., but use what there is.
Two: The enabling technology related to the power matrix used not only enables each type of vehicle for each segment, but also influences the type of operational resources necessary in each airport.
Electrical vehicles will need charging ports at every airport which will require investments in electrification. The current debate is about how to build the investment pool in this type of item and how much of an appetite the public and private sectors will have for investments in this area.
Three: A hybrid power generation system, consisting of batteries and a turbine, which is Q‑Bee’s solution for electric power generation, does not need any different or additional resource than what already is made available in domestic airports. This alone represents less to no investment at all in extra infra-structure needed and makes RAM as attractive as UAM.
While the US FAA suggests the certification basis used for helicopters to support the development and operation of the new eVTOL designs, Q‑Bee included, Europe EASA is building its own body of regulations.
Regardless of the barriers imposed by regulations this gets addressed properly within the certification and development plans each company designing for UAM or RAM is adopting.
Bee Fleet is targeting the US FAA certification first and has chosen solutions to eliminate or reduce any certification risk.
Do UAM and RAM vehicles compete?
No, the vehicles designed for each segment do not compete. Let us explain it further based on the following aspects: probability of operation of a transport modal, operational costs, enabling technology, and design characteristics.
The probability of operation or usage of available modal depends on the amount of miles travelled and related operational cost. The graph below displays the probability of modals based on miles travelled. UAM will operate up to 260 NM. Q‑Bee operates up to 600 NM.
Considering the cost per available seat mile (CASM), UAM’s vehicles have a lower CASM for their 260 NM range, so does Q‑Bee for its 600 NM.
Lower CASM for each type of vehicles results from their enabling technology. For UAM vehicles batteries supply 100% of electric energy needed for operation, however limited in weight, speed and range; and RAM vehicles, in this case Q‑Bee, powered by a hybrid power matrix achieves similar CASM by flying longer distances.
Each aircraft is designed for a specific typical mission it has to accomplish, where speed, distance, load, etc. have to be take into consideration to achieve the best performance. Therefore, pretty much each aircraft is designed according to its defined typical mission characteristics which are defined based on the items listed above.
While Q‑Bee is not cost efficient for short distances, whereas UAM vehicles designs might need to change to perform longer distances, which explains some sort of natural barriers for competing on each others segments. What is means is that physically and economically the competition between the two segments is avoided, and if tried either incurs in high costs or a total re-design.