The Silicon Review
In recent times, due to the ever-growing vehicle population, commuting has become very difficult. McKinsey had reported that more than two workweeks are spent in traffic by a typical Los Angeles commuter. A new hope has risen to end our commuting woes in the form of Urban Air Mobility (UAM). It is a term that is used in the aviation industry and it refers to on-demand transportation in a new generation of vertical take-off and landing aircraft, also known as VTOLs. Traffic is getting beyond worse, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to go from one place to another. UAM leverages the sky to better link people to cities and regions, giving them more possibilities to connect.
Firms in the aviation segment are working tirelessly in UAM and Varon Vehicles Corporation is one such firm ready to disrupt urban mobility. Felipe Varon, the CEO, has been working on new ways to fly via newly developed electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOL) that use recent enabling technologies like batteries, electric motors and state of the art flight computers. He has been working on the idea of using these types of vehicles for urban applications for over 20 years, initially developing what would eventually become known as drones, but always with the idea of urban applications to provide a solution for problems like mobility and lack of infrastructure. The company was founded a bit over three years ago, as the realization of this dream. Initially, the company had the purpose of developing a proprietary air vehicle for urban air mobility, but it soon pivoted to an infrastructure company with a city perspective, becoming an Urban Air Mobility ecosystem leader in Latin America where it is pursuing plans to implement its first systems in Colombia, working together with the country’s government and aeronautics authorities.
In conversation with Felipe Varon, Founder and CEO of Varon Vehicles Corporation
Q. What motivated you to address the need for an efficient mobility/transportation alternative for urban living?
The company’s founder and co-founders and team are Colombian. They have identified an enormous business opportunity in one of the most serious problems affecting particularly Latin American people’s quality of life, which is the lack of adequate mobility infrastructure that derives in tremendous mobility problems. They recognized the opportunity to provide transportation means over the low airspace over the cities. This would require the new type of eVTOL air vehicles, which are becoming available, a series of subsystems from the digital age and foremost, an adequate set of new rules and regulations to implement the systems properly without generating significant problems and conflicts with existing aircraft. Thus, the company has been working together with Civil Aviation Authorities to develop a unique airspace integration architecture that allows such integration.
Q. Is passenger transportation the only focus of your company’s services?
No. Each infrastructure pillar we have has different business cases. Passenger transportation or air taxi, like many call it, is just one business case within the transportation infrastructure pillar in which transportation network companies (TNCs) will be our partners and customers. But there are others like freight transportation, patient transportation between hospitals and tourism applications. Within each of the remaining pillars, there are also diverse business cases. We’re designing different businesses on the energy infrastructure pillar by finding ways to exploit the energy assets that we will have at each of our vertiports like battery banks, self-generation systems and connectivity to the grid. On the real estate vertical, we are getting into land value generation by being a company that generates city growth. When we place vertiports outside of the existing urban structures, we will provide a way to alleviate the existing pressure for growth without governments’ need to build physical mobility infrastructures like roads, metro systems, or rail systems. This will generate commercial and housing development around our vertiports and this is an integral part of our design. Finally, on the data infrastructure side, we are very creative in setting ways to capture currently non-existing data, which we will process and sell to different data markets like urban 3D mapping, the environmental data market and weather forecast data market.
Q. Advanced technology and digital living comes with an expensive price tag. How affordable is this future-tech to the public?
We don’t know how much a specific trip is going to cost a passenger. There is still a long road to travel before we can talk about public service and costs. But we do know that we must achieve competitiveness, at least eventually, to be able to thrive as an industry. And we have all the elements to do it. But putting all these pieces together takes time. The discussions right now circle around what technologies are the best to achieve this competitiveness and what premiums are different communities willing to pay to get to their destinations faster, safer and cleaner, then building around these economics.
Q. What are your plans for the future development of your company?
We are targeted towards implementation in Latin America, starting in Colombia. We are well underway in plans to implement our first infrastructure network in a top chosen location. We have been working very closely with the Colombian Aeronautics Authorities and global UAM stakeholders like air vehicle manufacturers, subsystems providers, vertiport architect firms, mobility experts, urban planners and investors. Our plans are that somewhere around five years we should have our first system operating.
Meet the leader behind the success of Varon Vehicles Corporation
Felipe Varon is the CEO and Founder of Varon Vehicles Corporation. He is an Electrical Engineer with 18 years of experience in leading edge military technology, deeply involved with military and civilian Unmanned Aerial Systems including tactical and strategic systems, drone expert and operator, with graduate studies in Finances, Contracting Law, Entrepreneurship and Innovation in several Universities including Harvard and MIT. Began working on drone type flying platforms some 20 years ago with the vision that these would become the flying cars of the future. Today his company is leading an Urban Air Mobility ecosystem in Latin America targeted towards first UAM systems implementation.