Whether in conference sessions or securities filings, electric vertical take-off and landing developers have long acknowledged that community acceptance will be critical to the success of their emerging industry. Yet, most of the discussions around community acceptance have taken place in the abstract, since there was little evidence that the general public knew much or cared about “flying cars” that were still years away from commercial operations.
That changed last week with the deadline for responses to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s request for information (RFI) on advanced air mobility. The DOT received more than 400 responses, a majority of them from disgruntled citizens who are deeply suspicious of plans to deploy “hundreds or thousands” of eVTOL air taxis in the skies over Los Angeles by 2028. The commenting effort was spearheaded by Studio City for Quiet Skies, a group of residents who organized in response to routing changes at Hollywood Burbank Airport that dramatically increased jet noise in their neighborhoods starting in 2016.
To date, most of the eVTOL industry’s messaging has been targeted at investors, lawmakers and regulators whose collective support will be essential for getting the industry over its first big hurdle: certifying these novel aircraft. However, the response to the RFI suggests that aggressive timelines and ambitious scaling plans touted for the benefit of investors could backfire when it comes to building public support for eVTOLs — and that the industry will soon need to grapple with the specific concerns of communities that will be impacted by them.
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