Among the different types of aerial vehicles, one of the newest technologies, notable both for its efficiency and its environmental friendliness, is the all-electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) system. These multi-rotor vehicles have vertical take-off and landing capabilities in the already existing vertiports (drone landing and take-off spaces for both the delivery of goods and the transportation of people to other parts of the city) and, in some cases, autonomous driving.
From Singapore to Spain: what's being done internationally
These new cabs are no longer just futuristic dreams. In Singapore, pioneering company Volocopter presented one of the first vertiport designs at the 2019 Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) World Congress. It not only has its VoloPort vertiport, it also has its electric VoloCity air cab, the VoloIQ operating system and the VoloDrone for heavy-lift cargo transport. In fact, the company recently completed its first public US test of its air taxi.
The United Kingdom plans to open the first airport for delivery drones and flying taxis by the end of the year. The air cab company EHang, based in Guangzhou (China), plans to build the first European "vertiport" in Italy in 2021. In Spain, Ferrovial announced a plan to build 20 heliports for flying cabs in Spain.
Even Uber was an early player in the flying taxi business with Uber Elevate, which it sold in 2020 to Joby Aviation. Other large companies such as Airbus have carried out numerous prototypes with different characteristics and capabilities, such as Vahana or CityAirbus or Pop.Up Next, the flying cab created jointly with Audi and ItalDesign.
The solution of mobility in cities
Who would have imagined 50 years ago that you could order a cab to take you through the skies? What belonged to science fiction is taking shape day by day. More and more companies are developing new technologies and solutions to make ordering a taxi by smartphone to travel the city through the air a reality.
As history shows, humans have been using hired cabs practically as long as cities have existed. eVTOLs could help create new mobility services with the potential to alleviate the most entrenched mobility problems and move together towards sustainable mobility. Our role now is to help develop digital solutions that will enable us to manage air traffic, safety and innovation in the next era of aviation and the new cab service: the flying taxi.