Last week, the European Aviation Safety Agency proposed an interim measure to address issues related the environment and eVTOL use, especially noise. The document contains applicable noise technical specifications and procedures that applicants should use when applying for a type certificate for an eVTOL. Generally, the specifications describe ways to measure the noise produced in a variety of settings - such as during take-off, overflight, and landing - and propose certain limits.
The proposed noise specifications were initiated from regulations and guidance material applicable to heavy helicopters. These procedures were then adapted for the unique qualities of eVTOL aircraft, such as the existence of multiple vertical rotors. The use of modifications to existing standards is a common thread we have seen as regulators begin to propose guidance and rules for eVTOL applicants.
Noise, the environment, and community acceptance
As we have discussed previously, eVTOL use will depend significantly on the regulatory development of pathways for technical certifications, including type, airworthiness and operational. But these technical benchmarks alone fail to consider one of the most important components of eVTOL success: community acceptance.
After all, if a community strongly opposes eVTOL use in my backyard, technical certifications alone will not achieve seamless introduction of eVTOL flight. The public has a strong voice in the introduction of new technology, and it is a voice they are not afraid to use. We have learned from our eVTOL precursor-of -sorts, drones, that failing to address community acceptance can make a well-intended drone "test zone" come to a grinding halt.
So what is to be done? For one, it behooves the eVTOL community to consider the elements of eVTOL operations that are likely to cause heartburn to a community. All that buzzing and noise? "No thanks," communities might say. Both the FAA and EASA have addressed the environmental impacts of noise in a variety of aviation settings. As applied to eVTOLs, proactive measures like EASA's environmental proposal to address noise, may help shift the tide to community acceptance of new aircraft technologies with open arms.