You’d think that airships were a thing of the past, but now we’re going to show you why these huge aircraft are making a comeback. There are few things more frustrating than sitting in traffic. But there’s a growing demand in the tech space to make flying cars like the 60s cartoon ‘The Jetsons’ a reality. Officially known as electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, the “eV-TOL” vehicles take off, hover and land vertically. With a market worth up to $25 billion by 2035, it’s no wonder investors are keeping their eyes on the sky. Purely electrically powered aircraft are built without directly emitting carbon dioxide. And more than 50 companies are developing several prototype aircraft capable of carrying up to 20 passengers.
One such company is the Turkish AirCar. This Istanbul start-up is proving that take-off is closer than we think. Traffic and pollution are the bane of urban life. Since its founding in 2017, AirCar has been looking for a way to break congestion. Instead of waiting for governments to build bigger roads and better public transport, the company has stepped in. AirCar, which operates in Silicon Valley’s “Turkish version” of Silicon Valley, has partnered with the country’s largest software company.
The ultimate goal is to create a network of flying taxis that are fully electric and self-driving. After more than a thousand small-scale trials, testing of a full-scale prototype began this year. According to AirCar’s CEO, the company expects to be carrying passengers by early 2025.
“It all started in 2017. I have been exposed to sustainable technologies in my studies and work. And I realised that using current technologies in lithium-ion batteries, composites, drone technologies and artificial intelligence, we can get into this business. I thought it was the right time to start because everything starts early, as it is a difficult technology and a difficult problem to solve,” explained Eray Altunbozar, CEO of AirCar.
But what about larger shipments ? According to French company Flying Whales, its huge, airship-like vehicles can both carry 60 tonnes of cargo over long distances and do so in a sustainable way. The company’s CEO says their idea could bring healthcare to the boil.
“The idea is to use a high-capacity airship to go to an island or other remote area to act as a hospital. It stays there for two weeks, then treats the people around it, and then spends another two weeks in a new location. Then he can come back two or three times a year, depending on the need. He can provide the population with the same health care that is available in the big cities,” said Sebastien Bougonnal, “The regulation of flying things over a certain weight is very strictly regulated by both the European Aviation Safety Agency and the US Federal Aviation Administration, and there are regulators in every country in the world that follow strict manufacturing design guidelines. I’m very pleased that there is a safety and regulatory network in place,” added Phil Seymour, President of IBA Aviation Consultancy.
“In the short term I’m not very optimistic because if you compare the load, the number of passengers that a train can carry from say the centre of Berlin to the airport with a conventional or even a modern helicopter, you get a much smaller number. If you want to go for hundreds of people, you will have a very congested airspace, which I suspect many people will not like,” said Andreas Bardenhagen, a professor at the Berlin University of Technology.