US: Flying taxis likely to become a possibility in the next six to ten years, according to a story published in FastCompany’s website on Uber. The ride-hailing giant last year brought a white paper for expanding its ideas on urban air travelling, which included the choice of cities to start testing the technology and the initial lineup of five aircraft makers. These aircraft manufacturers will be tasked with building economical, four-passenger, electric craft that will—eventually—fly themselves.
These flying aircrafts shall be capable of vertical takeoffs and landings, in order to fit into mini-airports, known as vertiports that will be spread around cities. And the aircrafts will have to be quiet enough to take off and land near homes and offices without driving people crazy.
Hence, the likely plan in all cities is to locate vertiports on top of buildings. “It’s anything from residential structures to office structures that have roof space they can use,” says Jeff Holden, Uber’s chief product officer, “or structures they can build or add onto.”
But for a company like Uber, finding such places to take off and land would be a great challenge especially in the U.S., where a hodgepodge of local, state, and federal agencies all have to get on board and convince the public that the technology is safe and not too intrusive.
In Dubai, it should be easier to get it started. “It’s a monarchy, so they have the ability to move very quickly with things that they get behind strategically,” says Jeff. “The certification of machinery and the approach to getting the aircraft through could be a much faster path [than in the U.S.].”
In fact, Dubai has already given a green signal to the program that is expected to start sky taxi flights in July. When it comes to Uber, Dubai hopes to have at least a demonstration Uber vehicle ready to show off in three years when it hosts the 2020 World Expo.
“To make [an air taxi business] happen is going to require infrastructure, because it doesn’t make sense to take a 15-minute flight if you have to drive a half hour out of town to get to the nearest airport,” says Yolanka Wulff, executive director of the CAFE (Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency) Foundation. (Neither Wulff nor CAFE are associated with Uber.)
Uber’s taxis will start service with fully certified commercial pilots, who may be the company’s first full-time drivers. Such aeronautics pros aren’t very cheap, however, or very common; and neither will the initial flights be. “I don’t think it will be a crazy premium,” says Holden. “I think it will be something that a lot of people will seriously consider, but it won’t start as an everyday [service].”