The future of transportation is autonomous. Self-driving vehicles and unmanned air taxis have the potential to create a world in which the computer is literally in the driver’s seat. Flying vehicles may sound like a Jetsonian, “pie in the sky” concept, but it’s a reality that’s coming to Utah within the coming decade.
“Industry analysts project that urban air mobility will be integrated by 2023,” says Jared Esselman, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT)’s Director of Aeronautics. “We may see a new method of air transportation in the next five years and we are working to ensure Utah is ready for it. Safety is our top priority so the proper regulations and infrastructure will need to be established.”
What does this mean for the future of mobility in Utah?
Urban Air Mobility (UAM) is a new transportation system in which unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs) like air taxis and personal flying vehicles operate in airspace over an urban environment. UAM technologies are advancing rapidly to support the safe transportation of packages and people. While current commercial flight occurs between 30,000 to 35,000 feet above ground level (AGL), a UAM system will operate between 200-2,000 feet AGL.
More than a dozen Utah-based companies and entities are already working in the UAM industry and Deseret UAS is one of them. Deseret UAS is a state-funded non-profit organization created through a partnership with Tooele and Box Elder Counties, in close collaboration with Ogden City. The organization’s mission is to facilitate rural economic development through the advancement of the urban air mobility (UAM) industry here in Utah.
Companies are racing to commercialize their UAM technologies and need places to test like the miles of wide-open land and air that these rural counties have to offer. In addition, Deseret UAS’ ability to secure Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight test authorizations makes Utah the perfect environment for companies to locate here and bring hundreds of jobs with them.
“We are on the cusp of a transportation revolution,” says Deseret UAS Board Chair and Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne. “The significance of this moment cannot be overstated. We are at an inflection point in the history of human transportation that will improve our air quality, support a robust economy, and fundamentally enhance our quality of life.”