Latin America is one of the most important markets for the helicopter segment, and therefore, it is a viable region where electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft will have strong development. In the last few weeks, there has been a couple of interesting pieces of news regarding this technology. Let’s analyze the eVTOLs future in Latin America.
Brazilian OEM Embraer is already developing an eVTOL aircraft suited for the Latin American market, the EVE. On July 22, Eve Urban Air Mobility Solutions (EVE) announced an alliance with Flapper to develop the Urban Air Mobility in Latin America. Flapper is an independent private aviation platform, similar to what Airbus and Voom did in São Paulo and Mexico City.
The partnership will serve as a proof-of-concept for future regional operations of EVE’s eVTOL aircraft, EVA.
This is a preview of Embraer’s EVA eVTOL in South America. (Embraer)
How will it work? According to Embraer, EVE will provide Flapper with up to 25.000 hours of flight time per year with a helicopter fleet. Both companies will operate in key South American cities like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte (Brazil), Santiago de Chile (Chile), Bogotá (Colombia), and Mexico City (Mexico).
Together, EVE and Flapper will foster a culture of on-demand UAM booking. Additionally, if it works, Flapper will buy up to 25 EVAs aircraft.
Azul and Lilium
Embraer and Flapper aren’t the only companies that are developing the eVTOL market in Latin America. Brazilian carrier Azul recently announced its plan to invest up to $1 billion with Lilium. Azul could take delivery of up to 220 eVTOL aircraft by 2025. Both companies will work to “radically transform high-speed regional transportation.”
Lilium said: “Combining Azul’s deep knowledge of the Brazilian market with Lilium’s unique eVTOL aircraft platform, the companies plan to negotiate the terms for the establishment of a co-branded network in Brazil.” John Rodgerson, Azul’s CEO, added: “As we did in the Brazilian domestic market over the last 13 years, we look forward to again, now with the Lilium Jet, working to create a whole new market in the years to come.”
Animated picture of Azul and Lilium’s eVTOL aircraft in Brazil. (Lilium).
The dangers of eVTOL aircraft in Latin America
While the development of the eVTOL industry is exciting, the Latin American governments are very much behind when it comes to updating their regulations. As Paul Malicki, Flapper’s CEO, said, “six out of the ten largest urban helicopter fleets are in Latin America.” The region currently has one of the densest helicopter infrastructures in the world. While the Latin American population has a high acceptance of rotor aircraft, there’s still the question of how the eVTOL will be introduced into an already congested airspace.
Take for example cities like Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City, which have civilian airports within their borders. Governments, private developers, ATC providers, airlines, and the local societies will have to develop a plan to allow the safe operation of these new kinds of aircraft. The current landscape doesn’t give hope. For instance, the Mexican authorities have not been able to regulate the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or drones. While there is a law in place, the lack of enforcement has led to many incidents of drones flying where they shouldn’t.
The big issue here is that local governments are continuously trying to catch with the fast development of new technologies. It is only a matter of days (in terms of public policy) for the eVTOLs to arrive in Latin America. How will governments react when they do? That’s the question we should all be preparing for.
Daniel Martínez Garbuno is a Mexican journalist. He has specialized in the air industry working mainly for A21, a Mexican media outlet focused entirely on the aviation world. He has also published on other sites like Simple Flying, Roads & Kingdoms, Proceso, El Economista, Buzos de la Noticia, Contenido, and Notimex.