Flying over traffic: understand the testing phase for “flying cars” in Rio

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Those traveling by car from Barra da Tijuca, in the west side of Rio de Janeiro, to Galeão international airport, on Ilha do Governador, need to be patient.

There are basically two route options, both longer than 30 km: take the Yellow Line, crossing the city through mountainous stretches, or take the Red Line, which circles the shore and the historic center of the capital. At peak times, traversing these paths can take almost two hours.

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There is also a third option that connects Barra to Galeão in just 15 minutes. However, this path, free from traffic lights and traffic jams, is exclusive to “flying cars”. Or rather, it will be in a few years, as these vehicles do not yet exist.

For now, the route is being evaluated by a helicopter, which simulates the performance of the future electric vertical take-off (eVTOL) aircraft from Eve, the Embraer group division focused on urban air mobility projects.

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The simulation promoted by Eve in Rio de Janeiro is a CONOPS, which stands for Operation Concept.

“It is a study methodology where there is a great debate with all current actors in air mobility and companies that may participate in this market in the future”, explains Luiz Renato Mauad, Eve’s vice president of fleet services and operations, in an interview with CNN Business Brasil.

“We are debating and designing what will be necessary and what procedures need to be created or changed for this industry to really become a reality”, he says.

The air mobility actors mentioned by Mauad make up the entire chain that will form the transport service by eVTOLs in the future.

The process begins with Flapper, a shared flights company that sells aircraft seats through an app. Then comes Helisul, the helicopter operator that runs the flights. These two companies will even be some of Eve’s first customers — each has ordered 100 Eve eVTOLs.

On the ground, the work is under the responsibility of RIOGaleão, the concessionaire that manages Galeão airport, and the Mario Henrique Simonsen Business Center, in Barra da Tijuca, which are the pick-up and drop-off points for passengers in the Eve simulation.

The initiative is also monitored by agents from ANAC (National Civil Aviation Agency) and DECEA (Department of Airspace Control), bodies that will later be responsible for the inspection and air traffic control of the eVTOLs.

“Urban air mobility will require the creation of physical infrastructure and changes in air procedures. That is why it is important for all these actors to participate in the simulation and their feedback”, says Mauad.

“We are also collecting the impressions of passengers boarding flights and even helicopter pilots. This concept study in Rio de Janeiro will generate a document, signed by all the parties involved, explaining to the community what needs to be done to have a safe and scalable operation with eVTOLs in the future”, says Mauad. “The document with the final considerations of CONOPS will be published in January 2022.”

flying over traffic

According to Mauad, the simulation carried out with the helicopter is conducted in the same way as the intention to operate the eVTOLs. “The aircraft travels through an exclusive air corridor between Barra and Galeão, flying at around 120 km/h at an altitude of 800 feet (243.8 meters). The value of tickets used in the simulation, on average R$200, is also what we expect for the future. The idea is that transporting eVTOL will cost between one and a half to twice the price of a car trip with Uber or taxi.”

In contact with the report, Alexandre Roxo, manager of Centro Empresarial Mario Henrique Simonsen, said that the experience with Eve is an important lesson for the implementation of eVTOLs in the coming years.

“Business condominiums and other real estate developments need to prepare for the arrival of eVTOLs. The simulation with Eve brings the opportunity to learn what we must implement and adapt in our space to receive these vehicles. eVTOLs will arrive in a few years, that’s for sure. However, before that happens, we already have to build the necessary infrastructure to receive them, such as the passenger boarding lounges”, said Roxo.

Philipe Karat, traffic development manager at RIOGaleão, is another professional committed to Eve’s CONOPS. “It is a business with great potential and disruptive in aviation. Our role in this project is to assess the impacts that operations with eVTOLs will bring to Galeão airport. In the future, I believe we will have eVTOLs take-offs every 20 minutes to different parts of Rio de Janeiro. Urban air mobility will revolutionize transport.”

Interested in the shortcut from Barra to Galeão? So better hurry up and book your seat right away. The Eve simulation, which started on November 8th, is temporary and the experimental helicopter flights end on December 6th. After that, the special route is not expected to be reactivated until mid-2026, the year Eve plans to deliver the first eVTOLs.

Reference: CNN Brasil

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