Brazil is shaping up to be one of the world’s pioneering centres for UAM development. The country manages close to 100 million domestic air passengers a year and is currently one of the world’s leading civilian helicopter and business aviation markets.
More than 4,000 eVTOL aircraft will be flying in South American skies within 15 years, according to André Duarte Stein, Co-Chief Executive Officer at EVE Air Mobility speaking at the ICAO webinar, Challenges and Opportunities for eVTOL Aircraft in South America, which took place on 30 August 2022.
The company’s milestone in February 2022 - when ANAC formalised the process for obtaining a Type Certificate for its eVTOL aircraft – is a step towards establishing a broader regulatory framework in a global marketplace. “Potentially there could be 1,000 eVTOL in Brazil alone, roughly 15, flights per day carrying up to 16 million passengers,” said André Duarte Stein. “Sao Paul is the largest market where there is potential for 400 eVTOL, but there is also Buenos Aires, Lima, Bogata and Rio. This is a new frontier for aviation in a new space.” He sees a new appetite from regulatory authorities across the region to embrace this innovation and ensure it remains safe. “It is a collaboration from the beginning with a lot of interaction and a lot of conversations. Ebe began talking not just with ANAC, but also the FAA, EASA, CAA UK, and others in 2017.”
ICAO Strategic Planning and Regional Coordination Officer Chrystelle Damar said with some vehicles likely to be ready to enter into service in 2025, there is the wider ecosystem to consider – for example the vertiport infrastructure, power supplies, communications and emergency services. Eve is working with partners including vertiport developers such as Skyports in cities worldwide, and airport authorities including Rio Galeão, to address some of these issues. “We brought along the energy company in Rio to understand how it works in practice, the power grid requirements, and the sustainability perspective,” said André Duarte Stein. While regulating these services is beyond the scope of aviation bodies like ANAC, conversations with city authorities, communities and industry form part of process. “We bring people around the table,” added Roberto Honorato. “There are a lot of start-ups unfamiliar with the aviation environment and we have to use this energy to innovate and complement our decades’ knowledge of aviation safety.”
“We see potential for over 100 routes in Rio, including about 35 vertiports around the city and some 240 eVTOLs in the future,” said André Duarte Stein. “It is important to understand this is not like adding one or two general aviation aircraft in the sky. This is a large network.” The company recently announced Halo Aviation as the launch customer for its urban air traffic management solution UATM designed to support operations in multiple urban environments.
In May 2022, Embraer, ITA (Technological Institute of Aeronautics), and FAPESP (São Paulo Research Foundation) announced the approval of a joint investment of R$48 million in an Engineering Research Center (ERC) for the future of air mobility over the next five years.
In a press release the institutions say “This unprecedented research in Brazil will gather representatives of the scientific community and professionals of the aeronautical industry in activities that are based on three pillars: low carbon aviation, autonomous systems and advanced manufacturing. The initiative creates a favourable environment for knowledge dissemination, highly qualified human resources training and production of high-impact scientific publications.”
“Over the last few months,” the press release reports “the institutions have described the research and the main activities scope to materialize this partnership, which proposed innovative technological solutions that will maximize the competitiveness in the global innovation ecosystem,” and continues “Partnerships such as the ERC guide and enable the conditions for the technology’s transfer among industry players, stakeholders and the third sector, and strengthen connections and innovations through partnership models and intellectual property management. These partnerships also generate new business incubation and stimulation of entrepreneurial activity in which the research results are applied.”
This is not the only consortium driving UAM growth in the country.
In June 2022 a partnership of global leaders in aviation and airports announces its intention to explore the infrastructure requirements of bringing eVTOL passenger flight to Brazil within this decade. The partnership is reported to include: Avolon, the aircraft leasing company; Corporación América Airports, the global private sector airport operator; GOL, a Brazilian airline; Grupo Comporte, a Brazilian transport operator; and Vertical Aerospace, the aerospace and technology company developing and manufacturing eVTOL aircraft.
The press release reports that “The partnership will explore and define vertiport design and locations, as well as further infrastructure requirements for eVTOL operations in Brazil. With its well-developed UAM market based on helicopter services, advanced aviation ecosystem and unique demographics, Brazil is set to become one of the pioneering markets for eVTOL services, including for Vertical’s VX4.”
But much of the progress towards UAM is driven by the presence of Embraer’s Eve Urban Air Mobility, which has been busy developing partnerships with infrastructure providers and aircraft operators to begin UAM services in the country by 2026. Eve has become a focus for developing an industrial air taxi eco-system in the country. Strategic partners include Halo Aviation in the USA and UK, Ascent in Singapore and more recently, Skyports. It has also recently announced agreements with ABS Jets and The Mobile Repair Team (MRT).
Eve’s (other) most significant partnerships:
• In April 2022 Eve and Thales teamed to work on the technical issues for developing eVTOL services in Brazil. Thales’ work in this area will focus on developing avionics, electric, flight control, navigation, communication, and connectivity systems. According to a press statement:“Both Thales Technological Space Centre, in São José dos Campos, and their recently opened Avionics Centre, in São Bernardo do Campo, will provide support to Eve’s and Embraer’s teams working on the project, which will also rely on Thales’ engineers from France, Canada and the United States”.
• In October 2021 Eve and Avantto (Aviation Management Services) signed a Letter of Intention (LOT) aimed at developing the UAM ecosystem in Latin America, reports a press release. This partnership includes an order for 100 of Eve’s eVTOL aircraft, as well as a collaboration to develop a new eVTOL operation in Brazil and across Latin America. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2026. The developments will focus on critical aspects of the passenger experience in order to design for all users, including how to maximise accessibility and inclusiveness in vertiports and eVTOL boarding operations.
• In June 2021 Eve and Helisul Aviation, a leading helicopter operator in Latin America, announced a partnership which included an order for up to 50 eVTOLs with deliveries expected to begin in 2026. Helisul and Eve aimed to start their collaboration with a proof of concept (POC) operation, using helicopters to validate parameters that apply to future eVTOL activities.
• In June 2021 Eve and vertiport company, Skyports, formed a partnership to develop urban air mobility (UAM) solutions, with a focus on vehicle-vertiport operations in Asia and the Americas.
According to a July 2021 BlueSKy Business Aviation News press report: Eve expects to provide Flapper with up to 25,000 hours of flight time per year across key cities in South America, including São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte (all in Brazil), Santiago de Chile (Chile), Bogotá (Colombia), and Mexico City (Mexico). “The parties plan to foster a culture of on-demand UAM booking using helicopters to serve as data collection for the future development of the EVA. This agreement has the potential to bring up to 25 of Eve’s Electric Vertical Aircraft to Flapper’s platform.”
Eve is not the only air taxi manufacturer to take market share in Brazil.
• Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras in August 2021 signed an order with Lilium worth USD1 billion for 220 six-seat eVTOLs to be delivered in 2025. Part of the deal is for Azul to operate and maintain the Lilium Jet fleet, while the German company provides an “aircraft health monitoring platform”, replacement batteries and other custom spare parts. Azul will also support Lilium with the necessary regulatory Brazilian approval processes for certification of the Lilium Jet and any other required regulatory approvals. In October 2021 ABB E-mobility and Lilium plans to provide the charging infrastructure for Lilium’s eVTOLs, reports a press release. The plans include launching networks in Florida, Germany and Brazil.
• Gol Linhas Aéreas will receive 250 vehicles from Vertical Aerospace through a September 2021 deal signed with the Irish plane-leasing firm Avolon.
• In September 2021 Europcar Brazil announced its intention to purchase 50 eGyro eVTOL aircraft from Skyworks Aeronautics for use in Brazil.
At the August 2022 ICAO eVTOL webinar, Roberto J S Honorato, Head of the Airworthiness Department at Brazilian regulator Civil Aviation Agency of Brazil (ANAC) said Brazilian regulation already allows new aircraft to be certified, but new requirements may be needed for this technology. He anticipates a guideline document within a few months aimed at the eVTOL market to replace a case-by-case approach. “We have to be careful about beginning regulations without sufficient experience of the new technology. We are working on the rulemaking now. Regulations need to support this industry development, and not act as a barrier.” Activities include extensive interaction with industry, learning from initial concepts of operations (ConOps) under development, and working with neighbouring aviation authorities.