Fans of the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Jetsons will know that it is set in a strange future where flying cars are a common sight.
The cult film “The Fifth Element” from the 90s stars Brue Willis as a flying taxi driver who transports passengers through the skies of New York in the 23rd century.
But according to experts, the days in which flying taxis are fiction will be over in just a few years.
In less than a year, the first commercial air taxi will ferry visitors traveling around Paris for the 2024 Summer Olympics, finally ushering in the technology’s adoption.
Sir Stephen Hillier, chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority, believes we are on the verge of an “air taxi” boom and the brink of a “new revolution”.
Traveling by plane is expected to end up costing travelers around £5 to £10 per mile traveled – about the same price as a helicopter and a private car. The concept image shows a Virgin aircraft built by Vertical Aerospace flying over London
Fans of the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Jetsons will know that it is set in a strange future where flying cars are a common sight
Mr Hillier called for a global common standard for air taxis ahead of the “widespread” introduction of these vehicles, which would make use of space in the air and reduce road congestion.
And just like the electric car revolution taking place on the ground, most air taxis will be electric, meaning they won’t emit toxic pollutants.
“If we go outside at the moment and look up into the air, it’s mostly empty,” Hillier told the Financial Times.
“And we will now have the technologies to leverage this environment much more than we have in the past.”
Investors around the world are investing millions of dollars in air taxi projects that are going through various testing phases.
Bristol-based Vertical Aerospace is a British company working to build a fleet of electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft as part of a 2.8 billion pound ($4 billion) project.
VTOL aircraft can take off directly into the air without first building up speed on the ground, reducing runway space requirements.
The classic 1990s film “The Fifth Element” stars Brue Willis as a flying taxi driver who transports passengers through the skies of New York in the 23rd century. In the picture, screenshot from the film
Vertical Aerospace, a Bristol-based company, is working to build the fleet of electric-powered vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft as part of a 2.8 billion pound ($4 billion) project. Virgin Atlantic will purchase up to 150 of these aircraft, called VA-X4, to provide a Virgin Atlantic-branded short-haul network around some of the UK’s busiest cities
Companies are working on electric taxis
– Vertical Aerospace (UK)
– Bellwether (Great Britain)
– Volocopter (Germany)
– Electron Aviation (Netherlands)
– AeroMobil (Slovakia)
– EHang Holdings (China)
In a few years, VTOLs could potentially take off and land at airfields on the outskirts of a city or even at landing pads on top of skyscrapers.
Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic will buy up to 150 aircraft from Vertical Aerospace, designated VA-X4, to provide a Virgin Atlantic-branded short-haul network around some of the UK’s busiest cities.
Stephen Fitzpatrick, CEO and founder of Vertical Aerospace, told the Times that flying vehicles are safe and have a failure rate of one in a billion.
“The technology we need to build these air taxis is something we have today,” he said.
“And we are in the process of showing that they meet the very, very strict safety standards that are required to make commercial aircraft.”
“So we are in the certification phase and it will probably be another two to three years before the first commercial air taxis come onto the market.”
Fitzpatrick expects electric taxis to be cheaper and faster than ground taxis.
The plane could potentially take off and land at airfields on the outskirts of cities or even at landing pads on tall buildings
Investors around the world are investing millions of dollars in air taxi projects that are going through various testing phases. Pictured is an artist’s impression of the British company Bellwether’s VTOL over New York
For example, an air taxi from Heathrow to Canary Wharf would cost £50 with a journey time of eight to ten minutes.
In comparison, a traditional taxi typically takes up to two hours to cover the same route during rush hour and costs £150.
Another company, Netherlands-based Electron Aviation, plans to launch a “sky-hailing service” similar to Uber that users can book through an app.
Electron Aviation’s fleet of 186 mph (300 km/h) battery-electric air taxis is expected to become a reality in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom in 2027.
Although the company’s fleet will not be VTOL aircraft – they will take off like airliners – this should not be a problem as they will use the airport’s existing runways.
Meanwhile, German company Volocopter will carry passengers around Paris for the Summer Olympics next year.
It has already conducted a successful test flight of its VoloCity VTOL, which looks more like a helicopter or giant drone than a car.
Electron Aviation plans to launch its first electric air taxis in the Netherlands in 2027, before bringing its “sky-hailing service” to the UK
Earlier this month, British company Bristow Group announced it had ordered two VoloCity aircraft with the aim of establishing a commercial passenger and cargo service in the US and UK.
If VoloCity is actually used in the Olympics, it will be a “huge milestone” that will help propel the industry forward, Fitzpatrick admitted to the Times.
However, it will still be a while before a major city transforms into something worthy of The Jetsons, complete with elaborate robots and holograms.
“We will need more infrastructure, we will need more pilots, but the technology is there today,” he said.
Would YOU jump on board? The bizarre egg-shaped “air scooter” for private individuals can zip through the air at 100 km/h – and its designers claim that ANYONE can fly it
Franky Zapata, the man who flew across the English Channel on a hoverboard, has revealed his latest crazy idea – a personal flying machine.
Designed as an alternative to cars, the air scooter can zip through the air at a speed of 62 miles per hour (100 km per hour) thanks to hybrid-powered rotor blades.
Anyone with “minimal training” can operate the vehicle from its strange egg-shaped cockpit, enjoying views up to 9,800 feet (2,900 meters).
According to the inventor, a journey that would take around two hours by car at peak times would be shortened to just ten minutes with the air scooter.
However, the air scooter is not as environmentally friendly as other flight concepts as it partially uses fuel for propulsion, meaning its CO2 footprint is “comparable to a car”.