As the demand to cut carbon emissions is more significant than ever, are we closer to flying cars than we think? With a growing urban population, it’s no wonder that roads and railways are near breaking point. The number of people on earth is reaching ten billion in just over 30 years, and solutions must be found to prepare for the additional demand.

Challenges

Read about technology and develop your digital literacy by creating content on tech topics

Air taxis: How far away from them are we?

As the demand to cut carbon emissions is more significant than ever, are we closer to flying cars than we think?

With a growing urban population, it’s no wonder that roads and railways are near breaking point. The number of people on earth is reaching ten billion in just over 30 years, and solutions must be found to prepare for the additional demand. 

What’s the answer? The sky? 

Popular culture has always portrayed a romanticised version of “flying cars’ which seems so far from reality that it is not achievable in the conceivable future. However, this is not referred to in the practical modern discussion. The correct name for an airborne taxi service is Automated Air Mobility. That is not as simple as one may think, as the logistical nightmare of integrating this concept with the existing transportation infrastructure prevents the idea from literally “taking off”. Disappointingly for some, it will never be as portrayed by film and television; no streets of flying cars and mid-air motorways, beating up the Glenfinnan Viaduct in a Ford Anglia and certainly no DeLoreans. The world would not look too dissimilar from the present.

Urban airfields

This transport model would require the construction of “urban airfields” from which the autonomous aircraft would operate. These could be anywhere in a city, provided it facilitates safe operation. It poses little risk to the vehicle, its occupants, pedestrians, and those using traditional transport links. In large cities, rooftops are the optimum pre-existing facility. Alternatively, airfields could be utilised and combined with public transport to provide an airborne service sooner. The key is integrating with minimal disruption and development of unnecessary infrastructure, enabling the service to be moved into areas without the extent of funding present in major urban areas such as London, New York and Los Angeles. Fundamentally, operational development costs need to be minimalised and the existing framework utilised to make the concept succeed on a large scale. 

From idea to reality

This idea can be made real only with the help of current technology.  The hardware and software required to operate aircraft in this way are present in the current civil aviation industry. These include autopilot systems that enable aeroplanes to fly with minimal pilot input and remote air traffic services that allow controllers to staff many facilities from a single location. 

It is not a simple process, but it demonstrates that capability. Development costs would be slashed, making the service more affordable. Keeping costs down will open up the concept to a broader audience and advance toward mainstreaming automated air mobility. 

What challenges exist? 

Above all, integrating this automated airborne transport with the existing 

aviation framework. Considerations will need to be taken to allow this to work with pre-existing airspace and traffic. 

Many cities have heliports, and as a result, helicopters are in the skies. The uncrewed craft will be regulated in the urban environment to operate safely. In addition, the technological reliance is such that there can be zero error margins. 

Getting the technology to this level will take time; consequently, it will be several years before we see this on a large scale. However, the fact that most of the tech is already here means that the wait will likely be shorter than you think. 

2040

The first example of an air taxi service is said to emerge in Dubai within the next few years, which will help illustrate how the service will function and what our cities may look like in the future. It was estimated that by 2040, this type of service would be worth up to $1.3 trillion. The higher the demand, the more resources are dedicated to bringing it to fruition, and the delivery time drops.

Once proof of concept exists, it will quickly spread across urban environments and make what was once a dream a reality. 

Want to find out more? 

See these links for some extra info on autonomous air mobility.

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/06/the-flying-taxi-market-is-ready-to-change-worldwide-travel.html
https://www.greenbiz.com/article/7-urban-air-mobility-companies-watch
https://www.ft.com/content/1cfb0986-07a0-4b6a-8145-aca083868141

Create digital content on this topic

27-jpg

Air taxis: How far away from them are we?

Useful links on this topic

discover more about the digital world