Urban mobility: speed wars between sky and earth

Numerous articles (including those in this newsletter) have been dedicated to how the uptake of self-driving cars could change the urban fabric. And for a good reason: disruptive innovation on our roads is decisive for the future of mobility infrastructure. And that’s not the only place disruptive technology is having an impact – it’s in the air and on the rails too.

The A Side to this newsletter took a look at two innovations likely to emerge alongside self-driving cars, fundamentally transforming the urban mobility landscape: Hyperloop-type trains and passenger drones. What they share in common is their promise to deliver rapid – or even extremely rapid – journeys where traffic often acts as a central problem.

So will drones manage to take over the urban skies and, more particularly, find a land-based spot for take-off and landings close to city centers? And do depressurized tubes carrying hyper-speed trains stand a chance in providing useful connections to city centers?

#Hyper-speed trains on track?

Are the various hyper-speed trains which run in low-pressure tubes, inspired by Elon Musk’s 2013 concept, technologically credible? Do they meet real needs and in economically viable conditions? Many researchers and economists are looking into these questions…

#Scientific journals

> Prospects and Challenges of the Hyperloop Transportation System: A Systematic Technology Review

Assessment of the feasibility for speeds close to the speed of sound from a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and technology.


> Modeling and Impact of Hyperloop Technology on the Electricity Grid

An impact assessment from a team of American researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on a Hyperloop system’s electric power requirements.


> On the Aerodynamic Design of the Hyperloop Concept

The aerodynamic design by two engineers from the MIT Hyperloop Team.


> Concepts of Hyperloop Wireless Communication at 1200 km/h: 5G, Wi-Fi, Propagation, Doppler and Handover

A conceptual look at Hyperloop train wireless communications by the Hyperloop Transportation Technologies engineering team.


> Towards a European Hyperloop Network: An Alternative to Air and Rail Passenger Travel

A proposition for two alternative European Hyperloop networks.


#Techno-economic assessment

> Hyperloop: a breakthrough for vacuum transportation? Technology analysis and evaluation of commercial prospects

A techno-economic assessment by the Swiss economic research institute BAK Economics.

BAK Economics

> Hyperloop concept case study by Global Infrastructure Hub


> Hyper-speed vacuum transport 

Scientific note from the Office parlementaire d’évaluation des choix scientifiques et technologiques (The French Parliamentary Office for Scientific and Technological Assessment).


> Who will take up the Hyperloop challenge? 

An article analyzing different international initiatives.


#The role of urban drones?

As manufacturers are launching an array of demos and prototypes, cities are preparing initial trails into vertiports and other droneports (the latter being a concept showcased by the Norman Foster agency in 2015, with the aim of opening up medical services in Africa). The American state of Kentucky has even declared itself “drone friendly”, promoting the development of infrastructure dedicated to urban vertical take-off and landing aircraft. One recent Guardian article pointed out that all industry players seem to agree on one point: flying drones will need vertiports. You can’t just jump into a flying taxi like you jumps into a cruising road taxi!


> Urban Mobility Days 2020 – replay

The European Commission’s three-day Urban Mobility Days initiative shines the spotlight on urban air mobility, taking a look at the UAM Initiative and the European HARMONY project.

Civitas & Eltis

> TindAIR project: aircraft coexisting in urban skies

Led by the Toulouse start-up Innov’Air, the TinAIR project aims to test a management system which detects and avoids conflict between aircrafts.

Usine Digitale

> Re.Invent Air Mobility

Choose Paris Region, ADP and RATP are looking for ideas to reinvent air mobility in the Île-de-France region’s skies, giving winning ideas the chance to test prototypes and technological solutions in real-life conditions.

Re.Invent Air Mobility

Lauréats de l’appel à manifestation d’intérêt

> Walmart and Flyrex test urban delivery drones

The Israeli startup FLyrex has teamed up with Walmart to develop an urban delivery service in-line with American regulation.

> Special report on urban air mobility 

The March 2021 issue of Air&Cosmos magazine is entirely dedicated to urban air mobility.

Air & Cosmos

> Europe launches urban aircraft test campaign

The AMU-LED project brings together manufacturers, specialists in air traffic control systems and control authorities. The objective: to test aircrafts operating conditions in an urban setting and define a safe framework for use by the end of 2022.

Sesar Joint Undertaking


> Aerocity: when planes shape the city

Research volume by Nathalie Roseau, research director at LATTS (Laboratoires Techniques, Territoires et Sociétés). As a town planner, professor at the Ecole des Ponts Paris-Tech, and metropolis specialist, she explores the close links between airports, airspace and urban development and imaginaries.

HAL-Archives Ouvertes

> Flight Plan 2030

White paper from EmbraerX on the future of urban air mobility.


> En-route to urban air mobility

White paper from Altran (CapGemini) which forecasts a major uptake of urban passenger drones by 2040.


> Airbus getting into position

Jörg P. Müller, Head of Programs and Strategy at Urban Airbus Mobility, shares his opinion on the future of urban mobility.

Roland Berger

#Already on our radar






What do we do?

The VINCI Group created Leonard to tackle the challenges posed by the transformation of regions and lifestyles. Our goal is to unite a community of key stakeholders in order to build the city of the future together.