How flying cars will join UAE’s business aviation club. The future of air taxi in Dubai.

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  • According to a Morgan Stanley Research study, the flying – electric air taxis market is about to unwrap its substantial potential in the next decade, with its value rising to $1.5 trillion globally by 2040.
  • This blend of a drone technology and convertible car-aircraft, may become a more sustainable, green transport solution. Which, in a wake of the straightening global climate crisis becomes a more appealing transport mode.
  • Numerous global brands, and some of a new comers trying to mark their names on the map of the arising flying taxi market.

Futuristic flying cars, have been a human aspiration since showcased in the famous movie “Back to the future” in the past century. In current, 21st century, major brands like Toyota, Uber, Hyundai, Airbus and Boeing are promising a very close transformation of a dream to reality. Most ventures already have a prototype undergoing testing.

Electric air taxis come in quite few shapes and sizes, and most of experimental models look quite different from conventional fixed-wing aircraft. Electric motors replace jet engines, and vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, designed to avoid the need for long runways, use of rotating wings & propellers is evolving. Only a few companies are making vehicles that actually look like cars with wings.

Hyundai has presented an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) “flying car” concept in early 2020. With two tilt-rotors on the tail, and 10 other rotors distributed around the egg-shaped cabin, the aircraft is designed to take off vertically, transition to wing-borne lift in cruise, and then transition back to vertical flight to land. The five-person vehicle will have a cruising speed of 180 mph (290 km/h) and a cruising altitude of around 1,000–2,000 feet (300–600 meters) above ground. 

Similar concept materialized in the CityAirbus – the new eVTOL being developed by Airbus’ helicopter division for intra-city travel with flying taxis. The futuristic-looking demonstrator can carry four passengers with a range of 60 miles, traveling at 75 miles per hour.

SkyDrive, a Japanese flying taxi startup backed by Toyota, successfully demonstrated a prototype vehicle conducting a manned flight for the first time in August 2020. The prototype SD-03, is essentially a piloted drone big enough to fit the pilot only. However, SkyDrive plans to develop a two-seat version, which could potentially offer short-distance flights across busy cities, as early as 2023.

In June 2021, German engineered Volocopter has completed the first ever public crewed test flight of a fully electrical vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) air taxi that can be operated fully autonomous with a pilot using a joystick, or remote-controlled from the ground.

July, 2021, brought another break through while in Slovakia the first convertible flying car has made a successful manned inter-city test flight. The car-aircraft, is equipped with retractable wings, a 160HP BMW engine with a fixed-propeller, and a ballistic parachute. The unusual car-aircraft can convert from an aircraft to a car in under three minutes. This hybrid car-aircraft created by Klein Vision, is still in the prototype stage but hit a new milestone with its test flight.

No matter the shape and type, electrical air-taxi is meant to resolve important urbanization issues. Urban centers across the globe are struggling to come to terms with the rising vehicle numbers and the resulting congestion, pollution, especially during peak traffic hours. When air taxis become widely commercialized, they will definitely ease the traffic burden on city roads. The sustainable nature of air taxi technology allows to decrease emission impact on the ecology.

It’s not surprising that major auto and aviation companies are rushing to grasp opportunities in this emerging market. The business has potential to significantly disrupt the landscape of urban mobility, and investors are pouring millions into commercialization efforts. It’s a market that should continue to mature during this decade and then boom globally.

An urban air mobility (UAM) study, by Frost & Sullivan, suggests air taxis era will see its beginning in 2022 in Dubai and expanding with a compound annual growth rate of about 46% to more than 430,000 units in operation by 2040.

But even in spite of all the futuristic prospects and mobility benefits, air taxi is unlikely to fast become a mass market service. The cost of such service is likely to serve as a consumer limitation, placing flying electric taxis and private air-vehicle ownership under the umbrella of more exclusive private aviation. 

Morgan Stanley has suggested that the flying car market could begin as “an ultra-niche add-on to existing transportation infrastructure, similar to how helicopters operate today.” Personal helicopter travel is the preference for many privileged people, however, in decades of its existence it hasn’t expanded beyond wealthy passengers.

According to the Foxbusiness, Pentagon Motor Group ran the numbers, and found that the cost of a flying car will come in at $686,455.43, even more than the 2021 Ferrari SF90 Stradale, which has an MSRP of $625,000. Additionally, between an estimated $37,000 for a flying license, $17,000 for insurance, nearly $14,000 for parking, flying car buyers will spend an additional $68,000 in their first year of ownership, according to the group.

Taking a ride on one of these luxurious vehicles will also not be cheap. It is estimated that Volocopter air-taxi could take passengers for a 15-minute flight at $355. In comparison, Uber’s helicopter ride cost about $200 to $225 for the same trip.

Another potential challenge in moving closer to the era of flying cars is infrastructure. As cars need roads, flying vehicles need some launch/landing platform. VTOLs will obviate the need for runways or on-the-ground parking, but they will require dedicated air corridors and sky-harbours to store craft and most probably –  airports.  In the next decade only wealthy countries will be able to accommodate flying car technology and bring its infrastructure to the functional-for-purpose state. The UK, for example, is building the world’s first airport for flying cars.

The US, China, Dubai, and Israel are all experimenting with flying cars today, and all of these and many other places are likely to allow commercial operations by 2025. Dubai, one of the pioneer markets, is moving first in air taxis, with a maiden air taxi test flight with Volocopter held in Sept 2017 and a planned first commercial service launch by 2022.

Although the estimated cost of a flying car, or a trip on it is excessive for most, it is worth remembering that the technology is in its beginnings.

Considering the unconditional love of Dubai residents to luxury products and innovation – the extraordinary air taxi service will become a worthy addition to the exclusive Business Aviation club.