Lilium’s flying taxi is landing.
Mobility

Flying taxis: from the road to the air

Mobility

Flying taxis: from the road to the air

June 7, 2019

Flying taxis could be part of the future of mobility. They offer a fair few benefits over their land-based counterparts. Not tied to any set routes and therefore more flexible, they leave the traffic on the ground behind them. And what’s more, users get to enjoy a wonderful view over the city rooftops.

 

Discover here:

  • How realistic flying taxis are from today’s perspective
  • Which specific concepts and prototypes exist
  • Why the technology also opens up an opportunity for start-ups
  • How politics can help flying taxis get off to a successful start

Transport is undergoing a huge change. Electric drives are increasingly taking over from classic combustion engines. However, it’s not just electric cars that are on the rise, but brand new mobility concepts, too. Car-sharing → is enjoying ever-growing popularity and ride-sharing services like MOIA deliver their clients to their destination without any stress.

All of this is still playing out on the roads. However, parts of the traffic may soon shift to the skies in future. The key concept here is flying taxis. They are significantly smaller than conventional vehicles, are powered by local emissions-free electric motors and have the potential to remove a lot of the strain from road traffic in cities.

Countless companies are already working hard to develop this type of flying vehicle. And it’s incredible how far they have actually got. Many of them could even launch in the next few years. So, what type of concepts are around and what conditions need to be in place for flying taxis to take off?

Audi and Airbus: The “Italdesign Pop.Up Next”

Humans have been dreaming of combining a car and plane for decades now. The iconic film “Back to the Future II” brought even more popularity to the idea. In the film, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travelled through time in a flying car.

The Audi subsidiary Italdesign has been working on bringing this dream to life since 2016. The companies are receiving support in their work from the European plane manufacturer Airbus. The company is providing the knowledge needed about flight operations. Audi is the vehicle expert while Italdesign is bringing the design to life.

A concept is already in place. It goes by the name “Pop.Up Next” → and consists of three main parts. The passenger cell has space for two people. It can be attached to a chassis, which transforms it into an autonomous car. This transports the passengers to the nearest landing spot. There the capsule detaches itself and docks onto a flying drone.

This covers the largest part of the journey, flying its passengers as close as possible to their target destination. Once there, another chassis is waiting to cover the final metres of the journey. The system is completely autonomous from start to finish.

There is already a miniature prototype ready. At Drone Week in Amsterdam, it demonstrated that the idea will work in principle. Audi, Airbus and Italdesign are now working on a life-size version. The aim is that the Pop.Up Next will eventually be open to everyone as it will be used as part of an on-demand service.

“CityAirbus”: A plane for four

One wheel-free model is the “CityAirbus”Opens an external link, which Airbus has developed in conjunction with Siemens. This version therefore relies on fixed landing spots. The principle is more therefore more similar to a bus or a train than a taxi.

The large flying vehicle has space for up to four people. Like the Pop.Up Next, the take-off and landing processes are vertical. This reduces the amount of space needed for stations in cities. The aim is that the CityAirbus will fly electrically. This should enable it to produce less noise and fewer emissions.

The flying taxi celebrated its world première in Ingolstadt. This is not a coincidence as Airbus is planning to perform its first test flights in the Bavarian city. It is part of the EU Urban Air Mobility (UAM) project. So, the future of traffic could therefore begin in the home of Audi.

“Volocopter”, “Lilium” & Co.: Start-ups get in on the action, too

When it comes to flying taxis, Germany is ahead of the technological curve. This is also demonstrated by several young start-ups working in the area. These include companies like “Volocopter” from Bruchsal (Baden-Württemberg) →. The company is working on its second prototype – the Volocopter X2. It already has a few test flights under its belt and is ready for trials under realistic conditions.

 

It could soon be working in cooperation with the German road association, the ADAC. In the field of air rescue, the Volocopter is designed to be able to fly emergency doctors and their equipment to jobs. This could save a lot of time. This is important as we all know that every second counts in the case of severe injuries.

The start-up “Lilium”Opens an external link comes from Munich. It is also working on a vertical launcher – the “jet”. As many 36 electric motors are designed to support take-off and propulsion. The Lilium Jet doesn’t have any wheels either, so it can’t just roll through the city. The vehicle is planned to act as a flying taxi for up to five people.

With its wings, the jet is designed to offer the benefits of a classic plane in the air. As such, it is able to glide for short periods. Ideally, this will save more energy for longer journeys. Lilium is currently testing the concept – the flying taxi completed its first flight in Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich in mid-May 2019.

Flying taxis rely on the speedy 5G network

Even though a flight in a flying taxi is possible in practice, it also requires infrastructure to take off. Autonomous systems require the 5G network to be expanded across Germany. This is the only technology that will allow the flying vehicles to communicate quickly enough with the ground and other systems.

They also need space for landing and charging. While some of this space may be on private land, public stations will be easier for users to reach. Charging stations are also needed for the vehicles.

With traffic on the ground being clearly regulated by law, there are currently no rules in place for the potential use of flying taxis. Politicians like the German Minister for Digital Technology, Dorothee Bär, and the Bavarian Minister President, Markus Söder, are already working regulations in this area. The German Minister for Transport, Andreas Scheuer, (all from the CSU party) even attended the presentation of the CityAirbus in Ingolstadt