Pretty critical, according to Embraer executives speaking to the media last week about the future of the eVTOL market. While various models of eVTOL will have to commence operations with a pilot onboard, the longer term goal is to achieve certification for eVTOLs that fly autonomously, without a pilot. The ultimate viability of the eVTOL proposition relies in no small part on achieving this.
This is for a number of reasons – not the least of which is the ongoing pilot shortage, which will worsen as large numbers of eVTOL units enter operation in the next few years. Pilots also take up valuable space in these very small aircraft, contributing to power burn while occupying space that might otherwise be available to a paying passenger.
We have suggested that there might be an interim stage in this evolution, such that eVTOLs could be piloted remotely using technology like the metaverse. For a four-seat vehicle, removing the pilot would represent an immediate 25% improvement in return for the operator and would enable the industry to reach economic sustainability sooner, even before complete autonomy of flight is achieved. You can read our thoughts here.