It has been a staple of science fiction films like Bladerunner for years – busy city centres filled with small planes flying through the air in automated taxis taking the populace from one destination to the other.
However, now major car manufacturers like Hyundai, Ford, Toyota, and others are extending their interest in electric mobility and begam to look at other ways of expanding its uses.
The latest to showcase their ideas are Volkswagen, who have just unveiled their first VTOL (Vertical and Take Off and Landing) passenger drone.
It is just a prototype at this stage, but to demonstrate that this is not a gimmick, they are planning several test flights later this year to promote the concept.
The projected demand
It has been predicted that eVTOL taxis will be very popular in the cities of the future. In particular, China has been identified as a future market. It already has more than 160 cities with a population of more than a million people each, and traffic congestion is a major problem that many people face.
With automated taxis, VIP passengers will be able to move between roofs of buildings, giving them time to read newspapers or peruse online sites like Bet 365 Bangladesh avoiding all the problems of their earth-bound contemporaries.
The current model
The current model – named Volkswagen V.M.O. is 11.2 meters long and 10.6 m wide and has eight rotors for vertical lift and landing, and two propellors for horizontal flight. It is fully electric and has helicopter skids as opposed to wheels. It is designed to carry up to four passengers with baggage and has a maximum range of 200 kilometers.
If all goes to plan and the test flights prove successful, then the intention is to subject it to even more rigorous flight testing in 2023, and then Volkswagen’s Chinese subsidiary will work with the relevant authorities in the country to achieve certification.
There Is competition
Volkswagen is not alone though. A Chinese company, Ehang Inc, has not only produced its own version of the drone taxi, but they have already conducted more than a thousand test flights in China and Dubai. Testing their craft under a variety of conditions, such as speed, height, visibility, and different weather conditions.
Meanwhile California-based Vahana (who are backed by the aerospace manufacturer Airbus) have just finished tests on a drone taxi, and are working on plans for vehicles with more spacious designs and longer ranges.
As with autonomous self-drive road vehicles, there will inevitably be those who worry about the safety of these drone taxis. What is to prevent the drones from crashing into each other or colliding with buildings and other objects? Ehaing’s solution is to always have a pilot on board ready to take over in case of emergency, or in case of bad weather.
There is also a longer-term concern which is that drone taxis could eventually become so popular that the skies around the cities of the future will be as cluttered as the roads of today.
Whilst drone taxi services are still some way off becoming a viable option for consumers. This is no longer just the product of the imagination of science fiction writers. They are on their way, and no doubt, the bold and the daring will be queuing up to try them out.