Insight | Unlocking the future of Aviation


Unlocking the future of Aviation


The next decade will be one of profound change for commercial aviation as advanced air mobility technologies come to market. What won’t change, however, is Inmarsat’s continuing commitment to keeping customers connected.

A new era is dawning

Advanced air mobility (AAM) is set to transform many sectors – from humanitarian aid and logistics to telecoms and agriculture. And the pace of change is fast.

AAM is the air transport concept for the future. Under AAM, revolutionary new kinds of aircraft – including uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) – and innovative supporting technologies are integrated into the existing air travel system. AAM is giving the world new ways to move both people and cargo, across urban, rural and remote regions.

UAVs, supported by services like Inmarsat Velaris, are beginning to enter commercial airspace, while eVTOLs (electrically powered vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOLs) are currently being trialed with safety pilots onboard. Eventually, such vehicles will become truly autonomous, unlocking commercial, personal and ecological benefits across the globe.

AAM innovations have the potential to connect communities to each other and a diverse range of industries to even more customers. These technologies could define 21st-century logistics, support the fight against climate change, create more inclusive infrastructure and help build more sustainable cities. 

A 2022/2023 Teal Group Report predicts we will see more than 32 million commercial UAVs in service by 2031. The next decades will look very different from those that have come before.

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To download the full report please click below.

Transforming air transport

Even prior to the pandemic, companies have been experimenting with UAVs as part of AAM innovations. There are many systems being developed and trialed through national initiatives and entrepreneurial activity.

One manufacturer, for example, is developing a hybrid-electric autonomous cargo drone capable of transporting up to 460 kg of cargo. In 2022, another manufacturer even flew a new electric, automated helicopter taxi in air traffic for the first time. Short-range, commercial transport by UAV may not be as far away from reality as we might think.

AAM’s impact on logistics unlocks countless benefits to businesses and consumers, enhancing the speed and efficiency of transport. Early predictions are that more than one million drones will be carrying out retail deliveries by 2026.

These technologies offer higher speeds than ground-based vehicles as well as cost savings, especially for the final mile of deliveries. In fact, cost savings could be as high as 70%.

Saving lives by taking to the skies

Fields such as emergency response and rural monitoring are being transformed. UAVs will become ‘eyes in the sky’, helping identify potential ecological dangers or crimes from afar.

They are already helping deliver essential items – such as medicine and life-saving equipment – to rural or difficult-to-access locations. It is likely that this activity will increase as patient outcomes are improved.

An extrapolation of the current UAV medical delivery market indicates a size of approximately USD$1.3bn by 2030, representing almost 5% of the total predicted UAV global market.

Early medical trials are showing impressive results. In early 2021, Skyports completed a three-month demonstration project for UAV deliveries of medical supplies between two Scottish hospitals – a distance of over 12 miles. By using UAVs, it was possible to reduce delivery times to around 15 minutes, in comparison to the 45 minutes typically required by road and ferry.

More sustainable mobility

Environmental sustainability is one of the most pressing issues confronting modern society. Using electrical UAVs for autonomous cargo and last-mile delivery could be the greener, cheaper solution we are all looking for.

The transportation sector is currently one of the largest contributors to pollutant gas emissions. In the US, this sector accounts for approximately 27% of total emissions, with 83% of that coming from ground-based vehicles.

Electrification – and ultimately automation – of both cargo and passenger delivery fleets could help us get closer to overall emissions targets. Replacing fossil-fuel-powered fleets of ground transport vehicles with UAVs would, at least, mean less congestion on roads and cleaner air in our towns and cities.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions (grams equivalent) per 24 hours; Cranfield University

The challenges still to overcome

There are, of course, a number of barriers to the widespread adoption of UAVs. The first is the need to establish a global airspace management regulation regime.

Well-structured and relevant regulations for overarching uncrewed air-transport systems will be absolutely essential in defining roles and responsibilities for all those utilising our shared sky.

As an industry, we will also need to embrace ‘digital skies’ – moving away from voice-based communications in air traffic management to a fully digitalised infrastructure. In a world in which piloted flights are sharing the skies with autonomous vehicles, developing reliable machine-to-machine communications will be essential to safety.

The third major challenge is convincing the public to accept such radical change to the nature of transport, highlighting the benefits, and being realistic about risks.

Governments, businesses, and developers – in truth, all AAM stakeholders – will need to collaborate closely and openly, with each other and with the public. The goal should be to identify infrastructural and technological limitations, potential safety concerns, and economic impacts. All parties involved will need to work through these considerations to create a framework for AAM that truly benefits all. 

The first step to developing this is fostering a comprehensive understanding of the growing sector. That is exactly where Inmarsat – and the in-depth report that you can download from this page – can help.

The sky is not the limit – it’s just the beginning

With a long history in air traffic management, and ultra-reliable connectivity deployed globally, Inmarsat is uniquely positioned to help AAM take off.

Inmarsat Velaris is already providing the connectivity needed to unlock the potential of these new technologies. Just imagine what we could achieve together in just a few short years.

To get a glimpse of the AAM future, and understand the challenges and opportunities in this space, download our whitepaper.