If you have seen The Jetsons, the idea of flying around in a personal aircraft must have seemed enticing! While you cannot own a private aircraft right yet, you can still get a ride on a flying taxi in a few years.
Many aviation technology companies around the world have already conducted test runs of their air taxi concepts and could launch their service even before 2025! All that remains to be done is to establish regulations and certifications for the industry and things are good to go.
In this blog, we will find out the possible impact of flying taxi on the transport industry, commuters, and society as a whole. Then we will take a look at the eight most promising flying taxi companies around the globe.
What are the Possible Perks of Flying Taxis?
The transport industry is becoming more convenient and friendly to the customer with every passing day. Aerial taxis could be the next significant disruption awaiting the ride-hailing sector with the likes of Uber investing millions of dollars in their vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) projects.
Air taxis would change how cities work and bring a host of advantages for the commuters. So what are the potential benefits?
- Zero Carbon Emissions
The demand for short-haul flights has been on the rise in recent years. Hundreds of flights operate each day adding to the woes of local air pollution and climate change. Flying taxis can decarbonize air travel and pave the way for environment-friendly transport.
Vertical Aerospace in the UK is designing VTOL crafts based on F1 design which makes them aerodynamic and lightweight. The VTOL crafts are powered by batteries and produce zero carbon emissions.
The adoption of aerial taxis in large scale would lower air pollution in urban areas.
- Reach Your Destination Faster
Uber is working on flying taxis that can attain speeds of 150 to 200 miles an hour flying at an altitude of 1,000 and 2,000 feet. Now that is something cars can never achieve unless you are riding around in a sports car!
You can hop on a flying taxi and zoom ahead to your destination in a matter of minutes! Air taxis also don't need to wait in traffic congestion or take diversions for closed roads. You can fly in a straight line from point A to point B which is the shortest distance route to take.
The VTOL vehicles made by Uber can cover up to 60 miles before needing a recharge. That means you can look forward to quick and environment-friendly travel in and around the city.
- Affordable Service
Aerial taxis seem to be an awesome concept that is slowly coming to life. But will the average citizen be able to afford the cost of the service?
Many experts feel that air travel will be out of bounds for the regular customer due to the cost. You might think you need to spend hundreds of dollars on a ride, but Uber disagrees!
The company claims that its service could be quite friendly to your pockets. The Uber air taxi can reduce the cost of travel by using electric propulsion technology. A ride on a flying taxi can come down to $5 per mile, which costs almost the same as a ride on Uber Black luxury vehicle.
Uber is also thinking of introducing the ride-sharing concept for their air taxis, which will split the cost between the passengers in the vehicle. If that happens, you may only end up with fares roughly equivalent to Uber X which uses four passenger sedans.
In comparison, the per mile cost of operating a helicopter is around $9!
Gradually, the mass production of air taxis and the introduction of self-piloting technology will make the prices go down further. At a point, taking a Uber air taxi may become less expensive than owning a car.
- Reduce Traffic Congestion
If taking a flying taxi really becomes cheaper than owning a car then lots of people will stop driving. That means a number of cars would go off the roads making cities congestion-free!
No longer would cars need to wait at traffic jams or the freeways; cities can have a speedy transport system where every bus and public transport reach their destination on time.
Of course, we are talking about mass adoption of flying taxis for something like this to happen!
- Creation of New Jobs
In the future, air taxis would become unmanned devices controlled by artificial intelligence to navigate the skies. But that is still in the future and companies like Uber will first introduce flying taxis manned by pilots.
This would lead to the creation of new jobs for pilots to drive the air fleet of different air taxi businesses. Perks like working closer to home and lower duration of flights would make the jobs lucrative to the masses.
Pretty soon we could also see new pilot training schools come up creating more jobs for the people! Of course, flying is a high-skill job and needs proper training and experience making it possible for flying taxi pilots to earn high incomes.
Some companies have made serious progress in the field of VTOL projects and planning to launch their services in the coming years. Let's take a look at some of the companies that promise to make a difference in our traditional transport system.
Flying Taxi Companies Across the World to Look Out For
Uber promises to offer flying taxis at the push of a button just like you use the taxi booking app to book a ride! The company first unveiled its plan to operate a flying fleet back in 2016 in a whitepaper. Since then it has roped in manufacturers like Boeing to develop its VTOL.
The Uber Elevate Summit in May 2018 provided first glimpses of what Uber is working on. Several agencies like Boeing's Aurora Flight Sciences, Pipistrel Aircraft, Corgan, Bell Helicopter, Embraer and Karem Aircraft showcased their models for Uber.
The test flights are expected to resume in 2020, in locations like Dubai, Dallas, and LA. They are expected to expand to another international location by 2023.
Uber is also working with NASA to develop its air traffic control systems. Over 70 manufacturers are also engaged in developing aerial taxi designs for the Uber network.
The flying taxis will take off and land on vertiports created on unused rooftops and current helipads.
- Airbus Vahana
Airbus has made considerable progress with their aerial taxi project giving a tough competition to rivals like Boeing. The Airbus Vahana project was launched two years back and the company conducted its first test flight back in February 2018.
The VTOL safely lifted in the air for 53 seconds and cruised to an altitude of five meters or 16 feet. The test flight successfully proved the vertical takeoff and landing capabilities Airbus was working on.
The company conducted another test flight in February 2019 and tested the horizontal flying capabilities of their VTOL. The flying taxi took off vertically and used eight propellers to gain forward motion by alerting the angles. The test proved successful and the VTOL maintained few minutes of flight.
Airbus is now working on achieving speeds of 120 to 140 miles per hour.
- Workhorse Surefly
Workhorse unveiled their Surefly prototype in 2017 Paris Air Show and made quite a few test flights till now. The air taxi is capable of carrying weights up to 550 pounds and reach speeds of 70 miles per hour covering 70 miles.
The vehicle is developed using hybrid technology and uses petrol to increase the distance covered. The engine of the flying taxis is the same as BMW's C600 and i3 scooters and powers eight propellers placed on an 'X' shaped axis.
Workhorse ran test flights during CES 2018 and you can even find videos of the unmanned copter flying across Dubai skies. But initially, the company will employ pilots who control the vehicle with a joystick.
The company also exhibited its octocopter in 2019 Detroit Auto Show.
Volvocopter has gathered the attention of air taxi enthusiasts with its powerful 18-rotor electric variant. The vehicle was first testes in 2013 and went through hundreds of manned and unmanned test flights over the years including 2018 CES at Las Vegas.
The air taxi can fly up to 30 minutes at a stretch and gain speeds of 62 miles per hour. Known as Autonomous Air Taxi, the company is conducting a 5-year trial run in Dubai from 2017.
By 2030, Volvocopter aims to conduct 25% of all aerial commutes through autonomous flying taxis.
- Autonomous Passenger Drone
Passenger Drone is another company eyeing to enter the air taxi market. The VTOL vehicle uses 16 electric rotors and is made from carbon fiber composites for weight reduction. Two passengers can sit one behind the other and even use a joystick to fly the aerial taxis.
Passengers just need to provide their destination on the touchscreen and the software then takes over the flying. The company has been testing their flying taxis in Dubai and Europe with one person on board with a pilot.
The flying taxi can cover 20 miles at a stretch at 34 to 40 miles per hour with a flight time of 30 to 35 minutes.
- Ehang 184
The Ehang 184 Autonomous Air Vehicle made its appearance for the first time in 2016 CES . The VTO craft can carry a single passenger for 25 minutes at around 80 miles per hour. The flying taxi can even handle Force 7 conditions carrying a payload of a maximum 500 pounds.
The company even received an Experimental Airworthiness Certificate from the FAA and carried out test flights in different weather conditions involving heavy fog, heat, high winds and night run. Like other players, Ehang is also eyeing at Dubai to conduct its trial runs.
The company is working on increasing the payload to 617 pounds and introducing manual controls for passengers with piloting experience.
Joby is a pioneer in aviation technology and working on their multirotor convertible aircraft for over a decade. The company raised $970,000 from the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), a Pentagon-run organization created to help the defense utilize advanced technology.
Joby also raised $100 million from venture capital companies to get regulatory certification and start pre-production processes. The company also has experience of working with NASA on different projects so looks like they are going to transform aerial taxis into reality.
Munich-based Lilium says they will be ready with their air taxis much sooner than 2025. In fact, they are looking for interested cities to host the service!
The Lilium Jet VTOL is among the most powerful flying taxi concepts with a range of 186 miles and a top speed of 185 miles per hour. The vehicle will also accommodate 5 passengers which are highest for any air taxi company.
The company ran a test flight in 2017 and released a video of the aircraft in flight. Instead of rotors, the vehicles use electric ducted fans to reduce noise and increase efficiency.
Air Taxis Could be Coming Sooner Than You Think
With so many companies hard at work developing their concepts, flying taxis may not be a distant thing of the future. Most of us could be soon sharing a ride on an aerial taxi, cruising over the buildings of the city to our destinations.