The Essex-based company Skyports will unveil the world’s first hub for flying taxis, for industry executives at the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress later this month in Singapore, according to Bloomberg.
They’ll demonstrate their new “vertiport” with a test flight of an electric aircraft from the German company Volocopter, which has said Singapore is a likely choice to launch its first air taxis.
It’s another step closer to establishing a global network of accessible flying taxis. Helicopters already offer vertically launched, urban air travel, but recent innovations have opened the door to more affordable, safer, quieter, and cleaner alternatives. Companies are hoping to introduce air taxis as an option that’s not reserved only for the very wealthy.
According to Citigroup, flying taxis could become a $5 billion industry by 2030 with 20,000 electric passenger aircraft sold each year, and with regular air taxis first offered by 2025. Uber is aiming to launch air taxi services in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Melbourne even earlier, by 2023.
Ranges are expected to start with 10 to 20-minute trips of up to fifty miles, Citigroup predicts. To be worth the expense, which will be twice that of normal ride-hailing services at about $3.75 a mile, taxis will need to travel long enough distances to help riders avoid wait times in heavy traffic.
Air taxi operations still need to gain approval from regulators, and to gauge whether the public will feel safe flying in the vehicles, which are small, drone-like craft. Some may ultimately fly autonomously.
The Singapore demonstration will aim to warm regulators and the public to the idea. Visitors will be able to tour the building and sit inside the aircraft on the ground. There will be a three-minute demonstration flight, but without passengers.
“We want to see how the public reacts to it, whether it’s too loud, whether they would feel safe flying in it,” according to Volocopter spokesperson Helena Treek.
And Citigroup analyst Pavan Daswani said:
“It’s a Catch-22: regulators and the public will only get more comfortable as more are flying, but you need the regulations in place for more of them to fly.”
Volocopter is backed by Daimler, Intel, and Geely. Its aircraft are small helicopters with 18 rotors. The company has run more than 1,000 test flights, some with human pilots, and others by remote control.
The first commercial flights will be piloted, with room for one passenger. But in five to ten years, the company hopes to offer fully autonomous flights.
Photo by Spielvogel [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]