Product development is a task all too familiar to the product team at Zephyr. The development of autonomous aircrafts is front and center of future expansion in the aviation world, and Zephyr are determined to lead the way. Zephyr, in collaboration with Research First, were tasked with understanding how users and the broader community would react to a technology as innovative as autonomous aircraft (and how these responses might be understood and shaped). This was a key part of the product development cycle, and a critical component of its social licence to operate.
This research required an intrinsic understanding of the human condition, including insight into reassurance and communication factors, as well as the emotional response of passengers to a novel and experimental mode of flight. The research process used input from literature and focus groups to provide insight into people’s perception of safety and control, and how best to account for these in the design of the product. Furthermore, subsequent research will allow insight into the way in which people interact with the autonomous aircraft community, with particular focus on how positive messaging can be actioned, marketed, or advocated for, and negative views of the industry mitigated, in order to gain a better understanding of the market and target audience before launching the product.
As a result of this work, Zephyr were able to determine what kinds of information, and in what form, to provide to passengers on autonomous aircrafts. When the company who imagined a world where electric flight was part of our everyday lives was looking for a research partner down-under, we said – pick us. And they did – simply because of our proven ability to apply social science insights to real world problems.
Our work with Zephyr has been pivotal to their ability to move forward in realising their dream. The partnership with Air New Zealand that is destined to see the very first - ever - air taxi to our skies is just one step closer to stepping into the future.