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Flying Taxis. Why Don't They Fly Yet?

Ever wondered how flying taxis would affect the city and make your life easier? Getting to work by air, enjoying spectacular views, avoiding traffic jams – just like in your favorite sci-fi movies. Masterfully presented imaginary flying cars projects in “Blade Runner”, “Fifth Element” and “Back to the Future” became an inspiration for some of the current flying machine developers. A roadless reality, the “Back to the Future” character Doc was talking about, seems to be much closer than we think. To go even further – how about those machines being driverless and fully-automatic?

Numerous unmanned aircraft elaborations are already ongoing in different parts of the world. Most of them are based on eVTOL – electric and hybrid-electric powered vertical takeoff and landing system, the leading technology when it comes to making passenger drones technically possible. Uber, one of the main developers in the field, expects flying cars to come into operation by 2023 - a truly ambitious deadline.

Involved in Uber Air project as a partner, Boeing revealed on January 22, 2019, the successful flight test performance of its new urban air mobility vehicle. The experimental air taxi, presented by Boeing department NeXt and Aurora Flight Sciences, is fully electric and could fly distances of up to 80 km.

Boeing’s European rival Airbus has its own urban aerial transportation project. Vahana, the Airbus flying taxi project, completed its maiden flight back in January 2018. The all-electric, VTOL system-based vehicle is especially interesting due to initial self-piloting design. Independent flying taxi groundworks are as well done by Intel corporation in partnership with Chinese unmanned aerial vehicle developers EHang. Since 2015 EHang small electric aircraft performed over 40 successful journeys, and is already considered a true game-changer in the industry.

Before the technology truly enters the market, a number of obstacles must be resolved. There are issues with limited battery life, which only allows flying short distances for the time being. Then comes noise elimination and the high manufacturing price. There are also legal issues – permissions needed from governments, development of air mobility routes, and questions of air traffic control integration.

This topic as well as many other aviation tech trends will be discussed during a special AIR Tech panel within AIR Convention Asia - conference, exhibition and awards, taking place in Bangkok, Thailand in May, 2019.

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