Tech startups and established brands are competing with each other to be the first to develop and publicly release air taxis into the sky. However, while their plans are ambitious, they still have a way to go.
Flying taxis context
Flying taxis or cars, also known as electric air taxis, will possibly populate the skies as early as 2022. A handful of tech companies are scrambling to produce the first commercialized air taxis (imagine drones large enough to carry humans), with funding provided by large companies within the transport industry such as Boeing, Airbus, Toyota, and Uber. Different models are currently in development, but they are all categorized as vertical takeoff and landing (VOTL) aircraft that do not need a runway to take flight. Flying taxis are being developed to cruise at an average of 290 kilometers per hour and reach an altitude of 300 to 600 meters. Most of them are operated by rotors instead of engines to make them lightweight and quieter.
According to Morgan Stanley Research, the market for autonomous urban aircraft can reach $1.5 trillion by 2040. Research firm Frost & Sullivan forecast that flying taxis will start operating in Dubai as early as 2022-3 and have a compound annual growth of 46 percent by 2040. However, according to Aviation Week magazine, it’s likely that mass transportation through flying taxis will only be possible after 2035.
Vertical takeoff and landing aviation companies such as United States-based Joby Aviation cite that urban air transportation will ease ground traffic that is becoming increasingly unmanageable every year. Annually, workers in Los Angeles and Sydney waste an equivalent of seven working weeks sitting in traffic, while Londoners spend 227 hours or nine days a year in their daily commute. Intracity travel will be cut by hours with flying taxis as VTOL aircraft can take the shortest possible routes without navigating through roadblocks and bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Of course, the concept of air taxis has been around for some time but in the form of urban helicopters that are often prohibitively expensive for the average commuter. However, the potential future mass production of flying taxis (based on scaled-up technological innovations applied from commercial drones) may make airfares more affordable, opening up new markets to wider consumer bases instead of just the wealthy. And since many flying taxi models are being designed to run on electricity, they may also produce fewer carbon emissions than cars.
Implications for flying taxis
Wider implications of flying taxis being developed and mass-produced may include:
- Transport/mobility apps and companies offering different tiers of air taxi services, from premium to basic, and with various add-ons (snacks, entertainment, etc.).
- Driverless VTOL models becoming the norm (2040s) as transportation-as-a-service firms try to make fares affordable and save on labor costs.
- A full reassessment of transport legislation to accommodate this new mode of transportation beyond what has been made available for helicopters, as well as funding for new public transport infrastructure, monitoring facilities, and the creation of air lanes. This public-sector expense may limit the wide-scale adoption of flying taxis, especially among less developed nations.
- Ancillary services, such as legal and insurance services, cybersecurity, telecommunications, real estate, software, and automotive increasing in demand to support urban air mobility.
- Emergency and police services may transition a portion of their vehicle fleets to VTOLs to enable faster response times to urban and rural emergencies.
Vragen om op te reageren
- Would you be interested in riding in flying taxis?
- What are the possible challenges in opening airspace to flying taxis?