McKinsey predicts advanced mobility in 2030

A future when electric flying vehicles will be affordable and sustainable is not far away.

Electric flying vehicles will be inclusive and offer a seamless experience.
Electric flying vehicles will be inclusive and offer a seamless experience. Photo Credit: McKinsey & Company

McKinsey & Company experts on aerospace and mobility describe a future in which electric flying vehicles are a safe, affordable, and sustainable way to travel in their paper, Advanced Air Mobility in 2030.

They described how electric aircraft could be a common mode of transportation and an alternative to traditional taxis. However, public acceptance may take longer regarding the use of unpiloted passenger drones.

Benedikt Kloss, associate partner; Kersten Heineke, partner; and Robin Riedel, partner, shared their insights:

Kloss believed that flying taxis “will happen” and the question is “when it’s going to happen – not if”. He added that across geographies, more than 15 to 20% of survey respondents said they could “definitely imagine switching from their current mode of mobility to a flying-taxi service in the future”. Commuters spend more than US$400 billion globally for taxi services every year. E-hailing is another US$100 billion. “If you now imagine that flying taxis can capture some of this market share and become a real alternative to the taxi by 2030, the market opportunity is in the range of several billion US dollars.”

Riedel said aircraft will be much smaller than today’s aircraft, and they will be much more accessible. “They’re going to land in your neighbourhoods. You might take a short car ride or a micromobility scooter ride to get to the vertiport, and you’ll go through there just like you do at a taxi stand today. You’ll get on an aircraft that will take you quite rapidly across the city or to the next city or anywhere within a 100- or 150-mile radius.”

Heineke, said this all will be one seamless experience: “I imagine it to be fully integrated into my mobility app: my e-scooter ride to the office in the morning, the trip to the airport, the flight, the trip from the airport into the city, and then, again, the scooter for the last mile. It may even be one integrated ticket. All of these new vehicles are going to be fully electric; they’re going to be much cleaner and completely emission-free.” Cars will continue to complement such inventions, he added.

Riedel said that in about 10 years, this mode of transportation will eventually become “quite frequently used. It will be safe, it will save many of us time, it will be sustainable—so there’s a bright future to look forward to.”

Kloss was of the opinion that flying above the street is much safer than driving with other people on the road. These air taxis will not be autonomous, said Riedel, because there are still big hurdles to overcome, alongside with public acceptance. Working groups are working on accountability. The industry would evolve from having the pilot in the vehicle, taking the pilot out of the vehicle, to having the pilot on the ground as a one-on-one operation - one pilot for one vehicle, but remotely operated. “And then, over time, this ratio goes down.”

Heineke doubted that full autonomy will be industry practice, where the vehicle makes all the decision making, and where there is no remote observation. “I don’t think this will ever happen. We don’t have it today in conventional air mobility: all the planes are supervised. I think we’ll see something similar in advanced air mobility.”

McKinsey & Company’s Kersten Heineke: by 2030, there will be a sizable number of players, ranging from 10-20.
McKinsey & Company’s Kersten Heineke: by 2030, there will be a sizable number of players, ranging from 10-20. Photo Credit: McKinsey & Company


Heineke said: “By 2030, we will still see a sizable number of players out there: 10, 15, maybe even 20. Why? Because by 2030, the technology will still be ramping up. But, ultimately, I think there’s space for five or so players globally. We’re talking about the democratisation of helicopter flight and, ultimately, the democratisation of private jets.

“That’s something that many people would not be able to afford if it weren’t for these advanced air mobility vehicles. Taking a private jet is something that probably less than 1%, or much less than 1%, of the population will ever do in their entire lifetime.”

Riedel believed that such modes of transportation would not be “a toy for the rich but something that is broadly providing value to people.” He added: “…if we really get this industry to scale, this could be the same price as a taxi. I’m excited about the ability of advanced air mobility to be sustainable and inclusive, and I’m excited to see the ramping up of a brand-new industry.”