Flying Cars
By Marco Verch from Cologne, Germany (Das Volocopter Modell bei der IAA 2017) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Growing up, did you ever wonder what it would be like to live in the futuristic world of The Jetsons, complete with robot housekeepers and flying cars? Well, you might just be one step closer!

 

First Test Flight of the ‘Crewless’ Flying Car

At the end of September, Dubai debuted their ‘flying taxi’ prototype, an autonomous means of transportation, dubbed the Autonomous Air Taxi (AAT). The first test flight of the crewless aircraft lasted five minutes, with the aircraft hovering 200 meters in the air.1

Dubai prides itself on being the center for the world’s technology so it comes as no surprise that they aim to have 25 percent of their local traffic to take place in these crewless vehicles by 2030.2

Encouraging innovation and adopting the latest technologies contribute not only to the country’s development but also build bridges into the future,” said Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed.1

The AAT is being supplied by the German manufacturer Volocopter, and is capable of transporting passengers without the need for a pilot or human intervention any kind of.3 The aircraft is powered by 18 rotors and can seat two passengers. The AAT is also able to fly for a total of 30 minutes at cruising speeds of 50km/h, with a maximum speed of 100km/h.4

In the past, Dubai tested the EHang 184, a single passenger aircraft powered by 4 rotors. Though it’s unclear why Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA) chose to switch to the Volocopter aircraft, it could have to do with the Volocopters added safety features. The aircraft is electric and comes equipped with two parachutes and nine independent battery systems that can take over should something fail on the aircraft mid-flight.5

 

The Uber of the Skies

The ATT service will work much like Uber does now: users will be able to request a pickup through a mobile app. The aircraft will then meet the passenger at a nearby landing pad, called voloports, and bring them to their destination.1

The AAT will also be customizable to the passenger and their preferred flying style. “You can actually…say it should fly faster and can do sharp turns, or whether it should be smooth and more like a luxury limousine rather than a sports car,” says Volocopter’s CEO, Florin Reuter.

Volocopter is looking to make their flying taxi an accessible travel alternative throughout Dubai within the next 5 years, and then all over the world.6

And Volocopter isn’t the only company in the race to launch flying taxis. Uber is looking to start testing flying taxis in Dubai and Dallas in 2020, while Airbus is also currently working on a single passenger aircraft that has the potential to be used as a delivery drone or emergency vehicle as well.

 

 

Flying Cars In Need of Regulations

Before flying taxis become the norm, several regulations need to be put in place; the RTA says it will need to set a safety-criteria, decide pickup and drop-off locations, designate specific routes, and more.2

And though the AAT is advantageous in many ways, especially with its potential to alleviate ground traffic, there are still a few risks to consider before these aircrafts can take flight. “There are concerns that hackers might be able to take control of air taxis, diverting them and possibly causing them to crash.” said associate professor of aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, John Robbins. Other concerns include the battery power limit, poor weather conditions, and weight restrictions.

Even though Robbins has pointed out some of the aircrafts kinks, he still looks forward to the day that flying taxis begin soaring around cities. “I can see them having windows all the way around, and you getting a 360-degree view of the world around you.6

 

Would you be open to using a flying taxi instead of a ground taxi? We want to know!

 

Sources

  • The Verge: Dubai starts testing crewless two-person ‘flying taxis’ by Thuy Ong
  • National Post: The flying car is here: Dubai is testing its drone taxi service by Sara Clemence
  • Air & Cosmos International: Dubai pursuing air taxi drone plans
  • Volocopter: https://www.volocopter.com/en/product/
  • Mashable: Dubai’s flying taxi drones to begin trials in late 2017 by Brett Williams
  • MACH: Air taxis are about to take off. This one just did by Kate Baggaley

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