Regional air mobility(RAM), short-distance (RAM short-distance): Air transportation vehicles with ranges of more than 100km, but less than 300km.
Regional air mobility long-distance (RAM long-distance): Air transportation vehicles with ranges greater than 300km but a capacity up to 19 passengers.
Regional air transport (RAT): Air transportation vehicles with ranges of more than 300km, and a capacity of greater than 19 passengers.
Despite longstanding decline in the regional aviation sector, investment in new, sustainably powered regional aircraft has skyrocketed in the last two years to more than USD 3 billion.
One key reason: short flights are well suited to trialing important technologies like electric, hydrogen and hybrid propulsion. However, there is still much to be done to exploit the full potential of this new generation of mobility.
Increasingly, regional flight is also being seen as a testing ground for sustainable technologies. Research and development of alternative aircraft propulsion has been ongoing for the last two decades. However, the increasingly urgent need to reduce aviation emissions is now rapidly accelerating progress. 2020 saw more investment in alternative propulsion projects than the previous ten years combined, while 2021 recorded a further rise. There are now almost 400 development projects underway worldwide for alternative propulsion regional aircraft.
Most focus on either electric or hybrid systems. Fully electric propulsion is best suited to the short-distance UAM and RAM markets; hydrogen propulsion offers greater range but is only being explored by a small number of projects due to current technological limitations of fuel cells and batteries.
A closer look at the number of projects in each sector shows that RAM long-distance dominates, with 35% of all projects focusing on aircraft for ranges of more than 300km and fewer than 19 passengers. This is extremely surprising as the vast majority of funding, particularly in 2021, went to projects looking at either the UAM or short-distance RAM sectors.
Considerable technological progress has already been made. This likely explains why many developers are now focusing on both the short- and long-distance RAM segments, which offer greater market potential. Investors, on the other hand, are either yet to realize this or are betting on more established short-distance UAM projects with the intention of widening their scope once technology is ready and the market more mature.