Though flying cars may seem like props worthy of Blade Runner’s dystopian cinematics, strong efforts are being undertaken to prepare for their introduction in megacities with mobility problems. Emissions-free aerial vehicles that can effectively, feasibly and swiftly transport people and goods within urban areas could help alleviate collapsed road networks and long, extenuating commute times.
This installment of Mexico Aviation and Aerospace Review’s “Tomorrow’s Flying Taxi, Today” will present three eVTOL projects equipping state-of-the-art technology.
Designed to carry up to five passengers in short distance flights, AirisOne is the eVTOL proposal of Bermuda-based design and manufacturing company Airis Aerospace. The company started designing this aircraft with the goal of taking part in programs for air ride-sharing such as Uber Elevate.
AirisOne will employ a 3.7m-wide counter-rotating coaxial lift fan to take off and land vertically and eight thrusters for winged horizontal flight. As all other eVTOLs destined to become air taxis, AirisOne will fly autonomously using electricity. As its security features, the aircraft will use emergency routing, ballistic parachutes and fully redundant avionics systems.
Once finished, AirisOne is expected to transport ride-hailers between vertipods at distances of 320km and reach a speed of 280km/h. Though still in the design phase, AirisOne is planned to start demonstration flights in 2020 and start offering commercial transportation services in 2025.
Passenger Drone uses 16 engines and propellers to carry two passengers over 20-25 minutes at a top-speed of 60-80km/h. While it may seem that it has little autonomy or speed compared to other eVTOLs, Passenger Drone has the advantage of no longer being in design or sub-scale stages. The company producing it, also called Passenger Drone, flew it for the first time without passengers in May 2017 and its first manned flights took place in August of that year.
This eVTOL can transport passengers through pre-programmed flight paths or be piloted remotely through technologies such as Advanced Flight Control, Field Oriented Motor Control and Encrypted Communication Channels. The aircraft employs optic fiber in most of its components to ensure reduced weight and no magnetic interference in its systems.
Looking like a mix of a common drone, a helicopter and an ultralight trike, Passenger Drone takes advantage of top-of-the-line flight support software to ensure a user-friendly interface whereby passengers only need to input their destination in a touchscreen to fly autonomously or semi-autonomously and emissions-free.
Through 4G telemetry and control capability, this aircraft can remain connected in real time to Passenger Drone’s Ground Control and Monitoring Center to be piloted from afar. This feature also sends flight information in real time and displays information such as air traffic or weather on its screens.
In February 2018, US-based company Airspace Experience Technologies (AirspaceX) presented a small-scale version of its eVTOL MOBi-ONE as part of its participation in the North American International Auto Show. As a subsidiary of Detroit Aircraft Corporation, AirspaceX aims to take advantage of advances in electric propulsion, lightweight materials and automation to deliver affordable on-demand mobility solutions. According to the company’s CEO John Rimanelli, DAC and AirspaceX have the vision of mass-producing aircraft to make its vehicles affordable for the travelling public.
MOBi-ONE is designed to reach a range of 104km, cruise speed of 240km/h and transport 200 kg of cargo or up to four passengers. The aircraft equips four electric engines in its tilt-wing that enable it to reach a top speed of 402km/h (250mph). According to The Vertical Flight Technical Society and AirspaceX, MOBi-ONE will include V2X collision avoidance and safety messaging features in its avionics system to ensure safe autonomous flights while still offering the option of pilot-assisted operations.
The aircraft is planned to not only serve urban air mobility of passengers and cargo at low costs and with no emissions, but also to complete evacuation, tactical intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and research missions. The company aims to launch 2,500 aircraft by 2026, but it must first finish MOBi-ONE’s engineering packages to build a full-scale version of the aircraft, comply with the necessary FAA certifications and start operations. The next milestone is starting production in 2020.