For a long time now, it’s not just sci-fi seen in the Winged Bounty Hunter that is the flying car: you’re hearing more and more about the wing trials of existing technology. True, the vehicles don’t look like the ones Harrison Ford sat in in the 1982 film, but we find some interesting solutions.
The Blade Runner movie – based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Androids Dream of Electric Lambs – was set in an imaginary 2019 Los Angeles, a futuristic city where constant acid rain is constantly falling and “skimmers” flying in the air . Last November (when the movie was playing) we looked out the window and, looking at the sky, we missed the sight full of flying cars we could see in the movie, so we don’t keep it here, but the flying car already exists.
These vehicles could transform our transport, work and lives for decades to come. The ever-increasing energy density of batteries, the advancement of materials science and computer simulation have enabled the development of many personal aircraft, enabling the emergence of all kinds of vehicles in the air, from electric gliders to fixed-wing craft to quadrocopters. We looked at some of those that already exist and are currently under development.
Currently, the autonomous urban aircraft market still seems a bit sci-fi. Dozens of start-ups compete to develop commercial jet packages, flying motorcycles and personal taxis. Venture capitalists, the automotive industry and airlines (even the Uber car carrier with the ambitious Uber Elevate) are increasingly active players in this field, which could develop into a market of up to $ 1.5 billion by 2040. Meanwhile, air traffic control bodies are constantly developing systems and safety standards to manage this new area.
For example, Volocopter in Germany is selling the VoloCity vehicle, the first commercially licensed electric air taxi to travel without a pilot.
It’s like a Uber Black or any other premium service.
– says Fabien Nestmann, Volocopter’s vice president of public affairs.
There is some difference, though. Initially, there will be space for only one passenger in VoloCity. This is initially more costly per trip, but they hope to build consumer confidence before moving to fully self-driving models: we are talking about an electric, wingless vehicle powered by nine batteries and transporting passengers across a planned landing network – at airports vertical take-off and landing aircraft – in larger cities.
VoloCity is scheduled to launch its first commercial flights in 2022. These first flights cost € 300 per ticket. But ultimately, according to Nestmann, the company aims to make costs competitive with, say, a Uber Black.
We don’t want it to be a toy for the rich, but part of a well-integrated journey for anyone in an urban area.
Other companies are working with existing automakers to create models that they plan to develop for potential commercial use.
The Japanese startup SkyDrive, for example, recently teamed up with Toyota to conduct a test flight with its all-electric air taxi, the world’s smallest electric vehicle, and take off and land vertically. This summer, the company successfully flew its SD-03 vehicle around an airport for a few minutes under the control of a pilot.
Demand for fast transport has increased, but people have not yet provided a clear solution to traffic, not even through options like electric cars or fast alternatives such as the French TGV train.
Says Takako Wada, a representative of the company. According to him, the mobility of flying SkyDrive may be the answer to these needs.