There is much promise in urban air mobility, exploiting electric powertrains for clean, low noise, operation in dense environments. However, electric power suffers from comparatively poor specific energy (that is, the amount of energy stored per unit mass). In this talk I will explain some of the fundamental tradeoffs that face UAM solutions that build on electric powertrains, coupled with the requirement of being hover-capable so that they may maneuver in tight urban environments. Two recent research results will be presented in this context, one allowing for online optimization of flight characteristics, and the second exploiting modular vehicles which promise almost unlimited flight range.
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