Will “The Flying Taxis” Be Authorized by FAA And CAA?

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  • Ethan Pines/The Forbes Collection The bosses of Joby Aviation hope to be able to start commercial flights of their flying taxi in 2024 
  • They aim to build out skyports in initial launch markets that offer attractive savings on routes with high existing demand and frustrating levels of congestion on the ground
  • Seeking to become the world’s first operational hub for air taxis and cargo drones, it is being designed by a Hyundai-backed UK company called Urban Air Port

The thought of flying taxis ferrying people across cities puts to mind the once-popular animated TV series The Jetsons for many people of a certain age, reports BBC.

Flying Taxis and Mini Airports

The creators of The Jetsons’ science fiction aspirations are closer than ever to becoming a reality two decades into the twenty-first century.

With the likes of Uber and Boeing developing eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) flying taxis, one report predicts that by 2040 there will be 430,000 such vehicles in operation around the world.

These mini airports will be needed so that the taxis can land in the spots where people want to go.

California-based firm, Joby Aviation, is at the forefront of developing flying taxis, having now carried out more than 1,000 test flights of its eVTOL craft.

Joby’s the piloted vehicle can carry four passengers, travel at up to 200 mph (322 km/ph), and has a range of more than 150 miles (241km).

And it has signed a similar deal with property business Related Companies, New York’s largest landlord.

“With these partners, we aim to build out skyports in initial launch markets that offer attractive savings on routes with high existing demand and frustrating levels of congestion on the ground,” adds Mr. Walker-Jones.

About the skyports

While a network of skyports may seem far-fetched, the concept is already receiving considerable positive attention from several US city administrations.

In the UK, plans to build the country’s first Skyport in Coventry near the city’s rugby and football stadium have the backing of the British government.

Billed as the “world’s smallest airport”, the firm hopes that the zero-emissions facility will be replicated around the globe to cut both road congestion and air pollution from cars and lorries.

That’s because of the technology and how the aircraft take off and land.

“[By contract], new vehicles can take-off vertically and land extremely accurately. There’s going to be a whole new type of infrastructure needed to support those.”

Administration and Authorization

Mr. Sadhu adds that the initial site in Coventry – which is expected to become open in early 2022 – will serve as a “logistics demonstration.”

“Our goal is to show that the turnaround time can be minimal so that with a very small footprint, you can get high-capacity infrastructure that can support the vehicles,” Mr. Sadhu said.

“Whether and when we reach a point reminiscent of the Jetsons will depend on how the industry handles several key hurdles,” says Jennifer Richter, a Washington-DC-based lawyer who specializes in the law surrounding drones and air taxis.

Regarding regulatory hurdles, the biggest barrier is that flying taxis have yet to be given the authorization to fly commercially by the relevant authorities, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the US, or the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Both of these are, however, continuing to study the issue – the safety of such vehicles, and how authorization can be formulated and subsequently monitored.

At the CAA this work is being done by a specific innovation team.

Infrastructure

Aaron Belbasis, an expert in emerging technology at engineering and design firm Aurecon, says that health and safety issues are paramount.

He points out that with more motorized vehicles in the air it is a statistical probability that more accidents will occur, adding that if a flying taxi fell in an uncontrolled way it “could amount to a descent with as much aerodynamic finesse as a rock, posing great danger to all on-board, and anyone or anything in the direct parabolic vicinity of the vehicle”.

Ricky Sadhu says his main concern is that investment in skyports and other infrastructure may lack behind investment in the eVTOL vehicles themselves.

“We’re aiming to see 200 Urban Air Ports deployed within the next five years, globally,” Mr. Sadhu added. 

“But we think that’s conservative because big cities will need significantly more.”

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Source: BBC

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