Today, we see many sci-fi movies showing cars and other transports flying. Well, many automobile companies are already on the verge of creating it. But, the question is if the technology can be applied in real life?
FREMONT, CA: Urban mobility is on its way back to the future. Recently, an executive of Uber promised the new upcoming elusive flying car. At a conference recently, Uber announced the details of its 30-minute Uber Copter service from Manhattan to JFK.
The issue with electric aircraft is that whether they are arriving sooner or later, they will ferry a handful of individuals across a city, creating noise in the skies as well as congestion on roads.
The economics of airlines says that the aircraft is required to be in consistent use, flying back and forth. It has been estimated by Roland Berger that 1,00,000 ‘passenger drones’ can be operated by 2050. The flying taxi can make 40 commuter trips of 20 miles each in a shift of eight-hour in case of less congestion.
High-speed rail is a futile hope in many US cities, as finding a public investment that is running into billions is nearly impossible.
The other issue which arises is safety. The accident record of private helicopters is much worse than cars. It is necessary to address safety regarding the flying taxis running around the tall buildings in all kinds of weather.
However, electric aircraft makers like Lilium emphasize that electric cars are much secure than helicopters since they possess more engines and rotors and less susceptible to one point of failure. But technology needs to get more advances before Uber’s ultimate aim of autonomous flying taxi fleets is considered.
Meanwhile, noise is an everyday problem. If a small drone’s noise flying overhead can be intrusive, then an air taxi with numerous people on board will require robust thrust to ascent vertically.
Uber aims at making its flying taxis to be only half as loud as a truck of medium size passing a house at 50 feet. Uber is already envisaging hundreds of flights per day in some cities. The combined effect can appear like a motorway in the sky.
Medium-range electric jets that produce less emissions and noise than traditional jets have potential. Lilium aims at operating services up to 300km between cities and towns and Zunum Aero backed by Boeing. Aero is creating a hybrid electric regional jet in the US. Rapid transport on an electric aircraft sounds a good idea in case rail links turn un-economic.
However, investors and regulators will be the ones determining the weather services like Uber Air merit approval and if it is worth the financial risk. But, it is advisable to pause and think before turning science fiction into fact.
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