Will urban air mobility fly? The efficiency and distributional impacts of UAM in different urban spatial structures

Anna Straubinger*, Erik T. Verhoef, Henri L.F. de Groot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Recent technological developments open up possibilities for introducing a vast number of novel mobility concepts in urban environments. One of these new concepts is urban air mobility (UAM). It makes use of passenger drones for on-demand transport in urban settings, promising high travel speeds for those willing and able to pay. This research aims to answer the question how benefits from UAM will be distributed, taking into account the spatial dimension and the differential impacts on low- and high-skilled households. We develop a framework that can more generally be used to assess the welfare impacts resulting from the introduction of novel transport modes. The development of an urban spatial computable general equilibrium model building on the polycentric modelling tradition developed by Anas and co-authors allows for an analysis of mutually dependent effects on the land, labour and product markets, triggered by changes on the transport market. Allowing for an endogenous spatial structure through the introduction of agglomeration effects and an amenity-based approach, the framework investigates the relevance of the initial spatial structure for the impact of the introduction of UAM. Incorporating different skill levels of households allows to assess location choice and travel behaviour for households with different characteristics. A numerical simulation of the model shows that the different initial spatial structures impose comparable welfare changes. Variations in UAM features like marginal cost, prices, land demand for infrastructure, vertical travel speed and access and egress times have a (much) more decisive impact on modal choice and welfare effects than the initial urban structure. Simulations show that considering households of different skill levels brings additional insights, as welfare effects of UAM introduction strongly differ between groups and sometimes even go in opposing directions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103124
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalTransportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Agglomeration effects
  • Spatial equilibrium
  • Urban air mobility
  • Welfare effects

Cite this