Airbus, known for its jumbo jets flying people between countries and continents, now wants to help commuters get around town via its new flying taxi.
Just two days ago, the European aerospace company unveiled a first glimpse of the four-seat prototype " called the CityAirbus NextGen " that could potentially see a commercial lift-off as early as 2025.
The announcement of the flying taxi could revolutionise urban transportation -- if they ever get off the ground financially.
The CityAirbus NextGen
According to the company, the CityAirbus NextGen comes equipped with fixed wings, a split tail section, and eight electrically powered propellers and is capable of reaching a cruising speed of 120 kilometres per hour.
Its battery can last for 80 kilometres, and landing noise is expected to top out at 70 decibels, low enough to blend in with the sound of everyday traffic.
The aircraft has room for four passengers.
Meet the new #CityAirbus! The next generation #eVTOL has been unveiled at the #AirbusSummit. With years of R&D under its belt, the new version is equipped with fixed wings, a V-shaped tail, & 8 electrically powered propellers to carry up to 4 pax in zero-emission flight. #UAM https://t.co/fjjPvmQTLh pic.twitter.com/eok5IPuG5b
- Airbus Helicopters (@AirbusHeli) September 21, 2021
The company added that travelling in the new flying taxi would help reduce travel time. For instance, a 45-minute trip from downtown Manhattan to JFK International Airport into just five.
Airbus' electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle is a zero-emission electric vehicle, which was first revealed at the company's first Airbus Summit on "Pioneering Sustainable Aerospace," which focuses on concepts that enhance the urban air mobility market.
"We are on a quest to co-create an entirely new market that sustainably integrates urban air mobility into the cities while addressing environmental and social concerns. Airbus is convinced that the real challenges are as much about urban integration, public acceptance, and automated air traffic management, as about vehicle technology and business models. We build on all of the capabilities to deliver a safe, sustainable, and fully integrated service to society," said Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even at the unveiling of the vehicle. The prototype's first flight is planned for 2023 with certification expected for 2025.
Flying taxis -- the future?
Much like mankind's initial attempts at flight, companies are experimenting heavily with various eVTOL concepts and have yet to agree on a single design. Some engineers are effectively shrinking airplanes, while others prefer those that function more like miniature helicopters, or concepts that employ a mix of the two.
Aerospace design expert Dr Sonya Brown, from the UNSW School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, believes 'flying cars' " for want of a better description " will eventually provide another means of urban air mobility to help reduce congestion on the road.
"Long-term, flying cars will offer us another means for short and personalised travel," she was quoted as saying.
Big cities, which are currently facing congested roads, have already seen the potential for these vehicles. For instance, Dubai is set to trial a flying taxi service in 2020, potentially to launch around 2025, while Singapore's ministry of transport has said aerial taxis will be part of the city's transit system by 2030.
For now, the critical hurdle for autonomous flight is the regulatory framework that would allow such vehicles to be mass-produced, including a robust traffic system that can manage thousands of self-flying vehicles around urban centres.
With inputs from agencies