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Heli-Expo 2018: Airbus and Blade together on urban transportation

1st March 2018 - 21:59 GMT | by Tim Martin in Las Vegas


Airbus Helicopters and the digital aviation service Blade are to form a strategic partnership aimed at the on-demand urban transport market.

Blade, having launched in 2014, is an asset free company which offers helicopter app bookings across 22 routes in seven US states. Core to its business model is the building of demand for urban transportation by using helicopter manufacturers and operators 'to provide a convenient and cost effective service for customers.' 

Speaking with journalists, Chris Emerson, president and head of the North America region for Airbus, said that the service's launch city of Dallas would include Blade working together with Airbus Ride, an events based shuttle service.

He added that the partnership would subsequently allow Airbus to explore and understand trends within the urban transportation market, by using a service which already has a 'pool of demand and technical advantage in the market.'

Airbus now want to gather market data that will identify how often customers use on-demand services and the distances flown for each journey.

'This data will be a gold mine for us as we begin to understand the behaviour of this market place - [and assess the pattern of] ten minute flights, 20 minute flights, and items like how far advanced bookings are made,' Emerson said.

The service is viewed by Airbus as 'complimentary' to its recent urban transport projects which include Voom as well as Airbus Ride - the company state that the former has now flown 3,000 passengers since commencing commercial operations in Sao Paulo in April 2017. 

While industry has been debating timelines for a transition to eVTOL platforms Rob Wiesenthal, CEO of Blade emphasised the fact that a period of 'co-habitation' is likely to take place before then.

'If you step back eVTOL has to be cost effective and quiet. Right now it’s not a light switch where all of a sudden it can happen overnight. Take a look at Tesla which has been around for 10 years and every 30 minutes you might pass, which don't forget costs $100,000 - so it’s not going to be an immediate jump,' he said.

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