Good news everyone, we will be able to fly away in taxis two years from now. Don’t believe us?
I don’t know about you, but the idea of jumping above our congested highways and dodging the daily grind of driving frustration appeals to me. And yes, before we hear the obvious obstacles that will have to be handled, they will have to be handled and that won’t happen tomorrow. But obstacles are handled as time and society progress.
When modern cars first appeared, horse-carriage operators said it would be the end of the world and that pedestrians would be killed and that they would cause enormous traffic jams. Okay, so those things did come to happen, but solutions are available and cars did replace the horse-carriage market.
The hardest solutions to implement are those that beg for common sense.
Are we bringing the traffic jams away from our roads to the air? Hold your horses. We are nowhere near that scenario. It will take a good decade before flying taxis and other vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles clog our skies. By then, there will be systems to keep it all under control — the same way airplanes fly today, but on a smaller scale. Will they be noisy? Do you know any vehicle that isn’t? Will they pollute? Of course. Come on, the way we manufacture anything pollutes. That revolution hasn’t happened yet. But they will replace other vehicles and will hopefully be fully electric and cleaner.
Now that we’ve put away alarmist concerns, let’s talk about the fun part. Flying taxis are in the making and it’s a good thing. Germany-based Volocopter feels commercial electric VTOL aircraft are much closer than we can imagine. Just how close? Try: before 2020.
According to Volocopter cofounder and CIO Alex Zosel speaking at the TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin panel: “We think that in two or three years we’ll have the first commercial applications somewhere in the world with our service.”
He further added: “I believe strongly the first commercial application will be a point to point solution over a bottleneck somewhere where you have a lot of congestions or you have a river or something else. And then you have some aircrafts — like 10 or 20 aircrafts — flying point to point and shuttling people. … This will come really fast.”
Lilium VTOL Flying Taxis Also Confirms Flying Taxis Soon
Another company we covered a while back is Lilium, another VTOL contender that was present and agreed with the time schedule. Yann de Vries of Atomico, a company that invests in Lilium, was quoted as saying: “Within 15 minutes, with Lilium, you can be within a 70km radius. So think about all the possibilities these offer,” he suggested. “You can never do this with a car, even with autonomous vehicles, with all the traffic on the roads.”
“Here you can build a high-speed, mesh network of 300 km per hour links to any point that’s required, right? The use case is you land from London into JFK and then you can be in Manhattan … less than 10 mins later.”
Making VTOL a Reality
As with anything new, technology or otherwise, changes will have to happen and laws will have to be created. When air traffic increased in the ’60s, countries beefed up their commercial traffic radar systems and have so far kept up with the daily commercial flying demands. The same will happen with VTOL aircraft.
The real problem is where? Where will they take off? Where will they land? Everyone probably still remembers the helicopter accident in New York City in which a helicopter fell off what was once the Pan Am Building, now the MetLife building. Well, maybe everyone doesn’t remember — that was in 1977 — but many of us do. So far, all companies believe helipads are the best choice to start the commercialization of VTOL aircraft. As the business case develops, we can imagine parking structures adding a helipad. In fact, de Vries said that 90% of the US population lives within 15 minutes of an existing pad. Hmm…
Relax, the world is changing, and so are we.