Europe moves closer to making VTOL air taxis a reality

The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA), the regulatory body that provides the rules of the skies needed for commercial airlines and other air travel providers to operate, has released new certification guidelines that set the stage for commercial operation of both hybrid and electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) craft. This is a key step toward actually making it possible to operate an air mobility service from a technical perspective, but also from a regulatory one (at least in Europe) as well.

The EASA’s new special conditions add two new certification categories, including one “basic” and one “enhanced,” both applying to “small-category” craft which are classified as aircraft that carry nine or fewer people and weight 7,000 lbs or less when fully loaded. Basic certification requires only that the aircraft in question are able to perform a controlled emergency landing, as defined by the safety rules set out by the EASA in terms of protection of passengers and others; enhanced certification means the aircraft is able to also fly and land safely on a continuous basis, and for any aircraft intending to operate commercially, both certifications are required.

This isn’t yet the full regulatory framework necessary for true, full-scale commercial operation — it’s a step before that, and the EASA says that “the experience gained through the application of the VTOL special condition will feed into the Rulemaking process,” so basically as they see how companies work with these conditions they’ll adapt what becomes the final governing rules. But it’s still a step on the path toward on-demand aerial taxi service, which is good news for anyone working on making air mobility a reality.