Flying taxis are a burgeoning industry on the verge of lift off.
As Virgin Atlantic explores a flying taxi partnership with Bristol-based Vertical Aerospace, many are beginning to wonder if the service is about to become a reality for all. According to a Morgan Stanley research study, the air taxi market could be worth $1.5 trillion dollars a year by 2040.
Air taxis are commercial aircraft that can pick up not only cargo, but passengers as well, and take them to their destination. They can carry up to four passengers at a time and can fly at an altitude of 1,000 to 2,000 feet at a speed of 180mph.
Since they are also VTOLs (Vehicles capable of vertical takeoff and landing) this removes the need for a runway, meaning that passengers can be picked up from rooftops in city centers.
Coventry, in the West Midlands (UK), is to host what has been dubbed ‘the world’s smallest airport’, allowing air taxis to be incorporated into the mobility infrastructure of the city. This space could be in action as early as November of this year.
These flying taxis could become a reality sooner than we think. Europe could see the first flying taxis in service by 2024.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has said that a potential 90,000 jobs could be created, citing figures suggesting a 4.2 billion-euro market in Europe by 2030.
Bristol based Vertical Aerospace has recently announced 1,000 pre-orders for electric air taxis. They have agreed to be taken over by Broadstone Acquisition Corp, valuing the company at a whopping $2billion (£1.4 billion). The UK has already established its place as a global leader in the flying taxi market.
German startup company Lilium has already launched the world’s first, all electric five-seater jet which could be made available to the public as early as 2025, and their prototype has already completed the first phase of testing.
As of 2019, companies like Uber and Kitty Hawk have been looking at providing air taxi services. Hyundai has also announced that they aim to invest $1.5 billion in urban air mobility by 2025.
Are there concerns?
As greenhouse gas emissions continue to be a prevalent issue, there are numerous concerns surrounding the impact that the flying taxi industry will have on air pollution. Vertical Aerospace’s VA-X4 is reportedly zero-emissions, but does this mean that other air taxis will be emissions-free?
Noise pollution is also a factor concerning the general public. However, ex-NASA engineer Mark Moore says that the noise of air taxis will be reduced to a hum, allowing them to blend in with the sound of general traffic.
Since they have electric motors, they will be significantly quieter than helicopters, which generate a great deal of noise through their fast moving propeller tips.
There are also safety and cybersecurity concerns surrounding remote-controlled/AI powered vehicles. The rise in air taxis presents them as another potential target for hackers. Since flying taxis will require wireless connection to communicate items like position, speed, and altitude, they will require message integrity and authentication.
Without this, they will be prone to hackers interfering with messages, so flying taxi developers must ensure that their software is secure.
In spite of the potential issues with flying taxis, the market looks increasingly fruitful and promising. As many top companies are teasing investments in air taxi services, the industry is growing at a rapid rate, and it is likely that the science fiction models of our dreams are about to become a reality.