Back in June 2019 we reported on Uber’s announcement that they were committed to developing an air taxi concept, with a plan to start test flights in 2020.
In recent developments it would seem that the world’s largest taxi business is not alone in its ambitions to take taxi services to the skies.
Currently, congestion in the UK alone With forecasts indicating that the sector looks set to top close to £150bn by 2040, early investment opportunities are likely to have many a VC reaching for their cheque book.
UK-based Vertical Aerospace and the German Lilium have both reported significant breakthroughs in eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) technology… flying taxis to the rest of us. Between them, the eVTOL businesses have produced vehicles that can carry up to 250kg and produce forward thrust. While that may not sound particularly ground breaking, it’s kind of a big deal in the industry and marks a significant step forward in the sector. Furthermore, Lilium and Vertical Aerospace expect their aircraft to have a flying range of 185 miles and 100 miles, respectively.
The benefits of eVTOLS are clear – as well as providing a way for travellers to avoid the congestion down on terra firma, these airborne vehicles require no runway (vertical take off and landing – it’s in the name) but also provide zero-emission transport by using electric power.
As with any new sector, rules and regulations have yet to be established. Aviation regulators in the US and Europe are currently producing the standards to which eVTOLs should operate. That in itself is a huge task – producing standards for a developing concept will surely require significant input from the teams developing the vehicles’ hardware and software, along with established aviation authorities and city planners. Indeed, Uber has already signed two Space Act Agreements with NASA to jointly investigate how to ensure that, in future, urban air traffic is managed safely and efficiently.
Both the tech and the regulation to make flying taxis a reality are clearly a few years away – Uber optimistically hope to begin commercial operations in 2023. For now, you’ll just have to continue your excruciating commute in the same old way.