New SUMP Practitioner Briefing on Urban Air Mobility

By Hannah Figg / Updated: 15 Dec 2021

Sustainable urban mobility planning (SUMP) is a strategic and integrated approach to dealing with the complexity of urban transport. Across Europe, local authorities and their private operating partners are striving to create sustainable solutions for passenger transport and freight that foster accessible, safe and affordable mobility, while aligning with European Green Deal emissions reduction objectives. At the same time, urban air mobility (UAM) is an ever-growing topic of discussions that goes beyond the boundaries of technological developments in the aviation industry as it has attracted the attention of mobility actors and local authorities as a means of contributing to sustainable and integrated mobility across cities and regions.

UAM, its emerging associated technologies (albeit some are not entirely new) and regulatory frameworks, as well as the opportunities they promise to open for various urban stakeholders, can without doubt claim to be innovative. Yet UAM is not only an element of aviation and mobility technologies advancement but predominantly about mobility planning and urban development. To this end, UAM may feature prominently in the formation of urban innovation and sustainable transition strategies. A core question cities and regions face, is: How should UAM be integrated in higher level urban mobility planning? Or, in more practical terms: Which role should UAM assume in existing, or envisioned, urban transportation systems?

This Practitioner Briefing on SUMP and Urban Air Mobility (SUMP-UAM) has been developed by the UIC2, the Urban-Air-Mobility Initiative Cities Community, of the EU's Smart Cities Marketplace. UIC2 was established in October 2017 and is a city-centric (and regions) community that brings the voice of European cities and regions in the emerging sector of urban air mobility. Its mission is to drive the sustainable and responsible transition of urban mobility to the vertical (third) dimension.

The SUMP-UAM Practitioner Briefing first introduces the fundamentals on the evolving domain of UAM. It then outlines the eight SUMP principles and addresses them within the current UAM context. It also presents the SUMP cycle, by focusing on the phases and sub-steps where the SUMP concept and the UAM domain interrelate in specific and interesting ways. Furthermore, it provides detailed descriptions of examples from UIC2 cities and regions that have been actively engaged in UAM and have contributed to this document. It concludes by drawing conclusions and recommendations for action.

The reported work emphasises the importance of integrating UAM into the sustainable urban mobility planning process (i.e. the SUMP process cycle), through the eight SUMP principles and the four phases of the SUMP cycle. It introduces UAM as a complementary transportation mode of smart mobility in smart cities in the context of responsible innovation for sustainable and integrated urban mobility, and it should be perceived as part of the wider Mobility Network Management (MNM) concept. It builds on the experience of pioneering European cities and regions that have been involved early on with the topic of urban air mobility.

One of the essential messages the authors intend to convey with the SUMP-UAM Pratitioner Briefing is that the cities and regions are best placed to define the fundamental characteristics of the UAM services to meet their citizens’ needs. To this end, local authorities and policy makers shall be equipped accordingly to dynamically assess the current and future performance of UAM services. For example, UAM is not, as yet, a mature new mode of transportation to be considered in existing or short-term modal split analysis, as shown by early research. The SUMP-UAM Practitioner Briefing has highlighted the importance of citizen- and stakeholder-involvement at virtually every planning and implementation stage of urban mobility and, in particular, of UAM. Public involvement and public acceptance have become key issues in UAM related projects, as it has become obvious to the UAM community that without sufficient public involvement and acceptance, even the best and socially most beneficial UAM plan will almost certainly fail. Considering the aforementioned issues, the UAM community may draw parallels and lessons learnt from the European Partnership on Connected, Cooperative and Automated Mobility (CCAM), established in 2021; CCAM, is addressing similar issues in mobility and urban planning.

The step to introduce UAM in an urban area is nothing short of long-term strategic decision making which touches upon various other high-level fields of decision making, for example, either a city’s innovation strategy or the fundamentals of urban planning. The introduction of UAM calls for a holistic planning approach that encompasses not only the integration of UAM, along with its support infrastructure on the ground into the transportation system, but also the urban infrastructure and overall city liveability. This is necessary to ensure the purposeful emergence of a responsible and sustainable UAM ecosystem.

Read the publication here. This and other SUMP Practitioner Briefings and Topic Guides can be accessed via the Eltis website here.


Submitted by Vassilis Agouridas on 15 December 2021



Policy and research
Urban mobility planning