The concept of air taxis has long fascinated the minds of both development engineers and potential customers. True, the authors of such ideas draw too ambitious plans for their creation and implementation, because sometimes you can hear that cars will rise into the sky in a couple of years. However, in fact, before their promising projects can really be implemented, engineers need to solve a number of tasks in order to clearly define and develop the necessary technologies, control systems, and banal air traffic rules.
1. Rethinking the aviation industry
The emergence of dozens of air taxi concepts is seen by a number of experts as an excellent platform for change within the industry itself, which seems to be increasingly stagnant in recent years. In particular, this is the opinion of René Landry, Aviation Systems Researcher at ETS, Technical University of Montreal: “It's time to rethink aviation. The avionics we use now are based on a common architecture that was developed during World War II. Equipment, for example, is duplicated for redundancy, huge and inefficient cables are used. A lot of innovations could be introduced here”.
2. Transfer of control to software
It goes without saying that in the beginning, flying taxis will be lifted into the air by the forces of human pilots. And although self-governing systems are already at the stage of active development, they are still very far from their real implementation. So far, the main task of engineers on this issue remains the modernization of existing unmanned systems, which, for example, are used in military drones. Experts see the main obstacle to the creation of certified, safe versions of control systems for air taxi passengers, the so-called "lack of imagination" on the part of the system. So far, she is not capable of the judgments necessary to successfully work in non-standard conditions.
3. Electrification of air transport
Almost all air taxi developers are unanimous in the opinion that the best option for such flying cars would be the widespread use of electric traction. Among the advantages of the latter in comparison with internal combustion engines, they distinguish simplicity of design, higher reliability and ease of control. Now on the way to the implementation of such concepts is the lack of technology for creating such batteries that would make it possible, for example, for regional aircraft to overcome several hundred kilometers in one flight. So far, potential air taxis can only operate within one locality, and even then, this is only possible if high-speed charging technologies are ready.
4. Higher production profitability
Any technology, no matter how innovative it was, will inevitably collide with such a concept as a market. Accordingly, no matter how effective and ambitious one or another air taxi concept is considered, if it is unprofitable, no one will undertake funding for it. Today, the developers face many challenges in this regard, because they need a whole set of elements to create their air taxis, and most of them are modern and high-tech, which means they have unique requirements for the production process.
These are, for example, composites and alloys for housings, individual units and systems, and, of course, batteries and motors. In addition, highly qualified specialists are required for the production of such complex structures, which is always in short supply. Therefore, although the production of flying machines on an industrial scale will begin one day, it will not be in one decade.
5. The problem of noise
Air taxis are primarily aircraft. And the noise produced by the same planes or helicopters, to put it mildly, is rather big. And under operating conditions in an urban environment, this issue does develop into a big problem. The main problem in this regard, engineers see in the task of creating such blades and turbines that would work quieter, but at the same time they drive through the same volume of air necessary to create the proper level of lift. And for such technologies, innovative solutions are required, which either do not yet exist, or they themselves are at the development stage. Therefore, the air taxi will become truly silent not in five years, and not in ten.
Would you like to know more about one of the most famous and original flying car projects today? Then read: 36 engines for 5 passengers: why are there so many engines in the air taxi concept