People of certain ages are familiar with the concept of flying taxis that ferry people between cities.
In 1960’s television, a family was shown living in futuristic cities where they commute in vehicles that could fly through the air.
Twenty-two years later, the science fiction fantasies of The Jetsons creators are becoming a reality.
One report says that there will soon be 430,000 eVTOL flying taxis around the globe, thanks to the development of flying taxis by the likes Uber and Boeing.
This comes as delivery drones are also being increasingly developed and tested, with the global market for these tipped to be worth $5.6bn (£4bn) by 2028, according to one estimate.
According to proponents, cities will need to create a large number of small-sized airports in order for drones and taxis (think multipropeller, huge-propeller aircrafts) to share the airspace with each other over congested areas.
The mini airports are needed to allow taxis and other vehicles to fly in places where they desire.
Joby Aviation is a California-based company that has performed more than 1000 test flights for its eVTOL aircraft.
It is hopeful of receiving approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in order to commence commercial operations by 2024.
Joby’s piloted automobile can hold four passengers and is capable of traveling at more than 200 mph (322 km/h). The vehicle also travels over 150 miles (244.1km).
Oliver Walker-Jones is a Joby spokesperson. He stated, “We envision offering our aerial ride sharing service from locations close to people’s homes, work, and desire to travel.”
We are working with the cities to make sure our service links to other modes, including co-locating skyports, train stations, airports, and other hubs.
Joby already has partnered up with US carpark firm Reef Techology in the goal of turning roofs at some of its parking lots into skyports. Related Companies is New York’s biggest landlord, and it also has a similar agreement.
“With these partners,” Mr Walker-Jones says, adding that skyports will be built in the initial launch market markets to offer attractive savings on routes that have high existing demand but frustrating levels of congestion.
Although it may sound farfetched to think of a network with skyports, many US city governments are already paying attention.
Los Angeles and Orlando announced their plans to create infrastructure for flying taxis.
Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles, says that the city’s proposals will be “a model for other local governments to use this technology at even higher levels”.
The British government has backed plans for the UK to construct the first UK skyport near Coventry’s football and rugby stadiums.
It is designed and built by Urban Air Port, a UK-backed company that Hyundai has funded. The firm registered its name as trademark.
According to the company, the airport is “the world’s smallest”. The goal of the facility is to reduce both air pollution and road congestion.
Ricky Sandhu (founder and executive chairman of Urban Air Port) says, “Existing international airports are enormous, carbon hungry, and have 1.2km runways.” It’s all about the technology used to take the plane off and landing.
“[By contract]New vehicles are able to take off vertically from the ground and land very precisely. They will require a completely new kind of infrastructure to support these vehicles.”
Sadhu also stated that Coventry’s initial location – expected to open early in 2022 – will be used as a demonstration site for logistics.
Designers of the project believe this concept will demonstrate how small urban mobility hubs in smaller cities can quickly be set up.
Sadhu explained that his goal was to prove that there is no turnaround time and that high-capacity infrastructure can be built around the vehicle.
Experts point out that there are many obstacles to flying taxis and skyports taking off.
Jennifer Richter is a Washington DC-based attorney who specializes in drone and air taxi law.
These include high-volume production, public acceptance and digital, power, and physical infrastructure investments, as well as the creation of an automated air traffic management system.
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Michael Taylor, an expert in travel and technology at US research firm JD Power says the major challenges are regulatory hurdles as well as air traffic control system.
He said, “Imagine the regulation for air traffic routes. And then multiply that number by a million.”
“It is most likely that we will establish standard drone or air taxi routes. The rules and kinks will be worked out. Standards will also be applied to all countries in order to minimize the incidences.
The biggest regulatory obstacle is the fact that taxis are still not licensed to fly commercially. This can be done by either the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), or the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
These two are continuing to research the subject – how safety can be improved and what authorisations could be created and monitored. This work at the CAA is done by an innovation team.
Aaron Belbasis of Aurecon Engineering and Design, a specialist in emerging technology, states that safety and health issues are crucial.
He says that there is more motorised vehicles on the ground, so it’s a statistical possibility that accidents could occur. Furthermore, it can be dangerous for anyone and everything in direct proximity to the taxi.
Ricky Sadhu said that his biggest concern was the fact that investments in infrastructure and skyports may not be as high as those in eVTOL vehicles.
“I don’t care as much about regulations.” He says that the regulatory landscape is changing quickly.
Sadhu said that, despite these challenges, there was already a lot of interest and demand for skyports in cities all over the US and Europe.
Sadhu stated that we aim to have 200 Urban Air Ports operational within five years globally. But we believe that this estimate is conservative because large cities will likely need more.
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