Flying Taxis Set for Lift Off
Are You Ready for Flying Taxis in the Near Future?
This week I noticed that UK flying-taxi company, Vertical Aerospace, announced it had secured 1,000 pre-orders, giving a clear indication that flying taxis are going to be a reality in our lifetime. So that got me thinking, privacy, security and jobs…
If you look across the nascent flying-taxi industry, otherwise know a eVTOL (electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing), there are several young companies making positive headway in the market, including Vertical Aerospace, EHang, Volocopter and Lilium. There are of course others who are actively developing these technologies, too, but looking at these four you can get a sense of what’s to come.
All four seem to be starting their journey with a pilot-on-board, but ending with fully autonomous operations. Some have their sights set on shorter, more frequent cross-city hops, others on intercity and airport connections. All are building electric vehicles dependent on the continued renewable energy transition to achieve lofty carbon-free travel promises, as well as helping to manage fuels costs to help keep control on costs from the outset.
Keeping control of costs is imperative. Many commentators have already cast doubts on equitability of flying-taxis, suggesting they will be the domain of only the elite, whilst the rest fight their way through crowded, congested, polluted ground transportation systems. So, whilst a “convenience premium” should be expected, eliminating as much operational cost at the outset will be high on the agenda to enable these businesses to profitably scale across the broadest passenger demographics.
Flying-Taxis and SDGs
One of the environmental promises of flying taxis is to reduce carbon emissions from fuel. This can take several forms, including a potential reduction intercity flights, but also through the reduction of other ground transportation – this seems a bit overly optimistic to me because some of the transportation it will replace is already well along the renewable journey (electric trains and trams, hydrogen busses), and road vehicle electrification is also in progress. From this point of view, though, I think reduced city congestion could be something to look at. Congestion is a major contributor to emissions, air pollution and waste (inefficiencies due to delays).
Beyond SDG 13 (climate) and SDG 3 (health) flying taxis obviously tick the infrastructure, innovation and industry (SDG 9), sustainable cities (SDG 11), and renewable energies (SDG 7) with the potential to help across others such as economic growth and jobs (SDG 8). Of course, none of this is going to be possible without strong partnerships, SDG 17.
Whilst pondering on this topic today, I also noticed TechCrunch’s article that talks of the growth of investment in what’s known as hard-tech. This seems interestingly aligned as the development and commercialisation of these services will require a new investment attitude that thinks beyond our modern software-focus. I wonder if Uber’s investment portfolio included line items for novel vehicle types, development of new security protocols and nationwide infrastructure – probably not.