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Lilium, Volocopter, Pop.Up Next etc .: an overview of flying taxis

Lilium, Volocopter, Pop.Up Next and Co .
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A he streets are gradually becoming scarce - and in many places they are already hopelessly overcrowded. Nevertheless, people's mobility needs should continue to be fully met. A conflict of objectives that autonomous vehicles and alternative mobility concepts such as autonomous vehicles and electric scooters should resolve on the ground. In addition, the airspace is to be used in future to get people from A to B. Not just in classic commercial aircraft, helicopters or private jets, but in air taxis. Electrically powered and autonomously controlled, the aircraft should offer individual, clean and time-efficient mobility for (almost) everyone. We present the most important projects and reveal their current status.

Volocopter

One of the most advanced aircraft is the Volocopter . The company of the same name from Bruchsal is not only planning a whole family of models, the members of which differ in the number of passenger seats or the load for the transport of goods, but is already on the move in the sky. The Volocopter with its 18 rotors has provisional traffic approval and is currently in test operation in Dubai. It won't be long before the high-flyer, which costs around 300,000 euros, should prove itself in regular operation. The well-known partners also show the trust Volocopter enjoys: Daimler secured eleven percent of the shares in 2017, and ADAC plans to use the aircraft in air rescue soon.

Lilium Jet

The whiz kid named Lilium Jet already completed. The aim of the start-up is to bring feeder traffic and direct point-to-point connections, for example from one high-rise roof to another, into the air. It should be ready in two cities as early as 2025. The 36 electric motors sit under the wings of the Lilium Jet, which should reach a cruising speed of 300 km /h and travel a maximum of 300 kilometers. Initially, the jets should be operated by pilots, but later they should also be able to fly autonomously.

e.SAT GmbH
Streetscooter and E-Go founder Günther Schuh is involved in the Silent Air Taxi project.

Silent Air Taxi

Prof. Günther Schuh is the man who invented the street scooter electric delivery van and brought the E-Go small electric car onto the market. Now the Aachen professor is also participating in the Silent Air Taxi . In the city in the Rhineland, a hybrid small aircraft is currently being developed that will offer space for a pilot and four passengers, travel up to 1,000 kilometers and fly at a cruising speed of 300 km /h. Since a runway of a maximum of 400 meters should be enough for him, the Silent Air Taxi could use 95 percent of all German airfields, according to the makers. It is scheduled to take off for the first flight in 2022, and type certification could take place two years later.

Alaka'i Technologies Skai

At the Skai from Alaka'i Technologies is a vertical take-off and landing passenger drone with space for five people. The aircraft actually moves fully autonomously, but initially a safety pilot has to be on board - that's what the flight authorities want. Six electric motors, which are supplied with energy by three fuel cells, drive six rotors. The data: 190 km /h top speed, 137 km /h cruising speed and a range of 644 kilometers. Incidentally, BMW Designworks had a hand in creating the Skai. The start of series production has not yet been scheduled.

Audi
The Pop.up Next is on depending on the coupled module autonomous air taxi or car.

Pop.Up Next

Not only startups, but also traditional aircraft manufacturers are diligently involved in the development of small air taxis. Airbus has teamed up with Audi and Italdesign and the Pop.Up Next conceived. Its highlight: the two-seater cabin can either drive or fly; it must be coupled to the corresponding locomotion module for the respective purpose. The trio demonstrated that the concept basically works at Drone Week in Amsterdam in autumn 2018. A 1: 4 model of the Pop.Up Next took off as planned and accurately set the passenger capsule down on the vehicle platform, which then drove away autonomously. The 1: 1 version should take off in the next decade.

Boeing PAV

Airbus competitor Boeing has already taken off its 'Passenger Air Vehicle' - PAV for short - in full size, in short fly and land again. This aircraft with eight propellers and four wings is also designed for vertical take-offs and landings and is powered purely electrically. The autonomous PAV is intended to transport both people and goods, although the stated range of 80 kilometers and the maximum payload of almost 230 kilograms are still very manageable. It is currently unclear when the first series models will take to the skies.

Kitty Hawk Cora

But Boeing is not only working on an air taxi itself, but is also entering into partnerships on this topic . At the end of June 2019, the airline announced a collaboration with Kitty Hawk. The company, whose sponsors also include Google co-founder and Alphabet boss Larry Page, has developed the Cora, a two-seater aircraft with an electric drive. Its 13 motors allow it to take off and land vertically and fly at a speed of up to 176 km /h. Kitty Hawk gives the range at about 100 kilometers. Cora was presented in spring 2018, the first flight took place in 2017. The cooperation between Kitty Hawk and Boeing is primarily about safety; especially about the challenges that the coexistence of autonomous and human-controlled aircraft brings with it.

Birgit Priemer
Also helicopter manufacturer Bell is involved in the development of autonomous flying taxis.

Bell Nexus

The helicopter manufacturer Bell is also working on an aircraft . The last version of the Project Nexus made its debut at the CES in early 2019 and had six encased rotors, each with a diameter of 2.44 meters and coupled to an electric motor. There is also a turbine mounted on the stern. The Bell Nexus has a hybrid drive that stores excess energy in a battery that is carried along. This solution should ensure a greater range and higher payloads than a purely electric drive. However, the forecast payload of 450 kilograms with four passengers could almost be exhausted. The first prototypes should already be able to fly autonomously in 2020, and series production is planned for the mid-2020s.

Jetpack Aviation Recreational Speeder

Most air taxis are relatively similar in appearance and concept. But the speeder from Jetpack Aviation Recreational is different. It's a kind of flying motorcycle powered by turbines. The manufacturer has come up with two versions: One for private use with four turbines that can go up to 100 km /h. And an experimental variant with a speed of up to 240 km /h with five turbines, which is to be used by rescue services or the military. The speeder should be able to soar up to 4,500 meters in the air. The start of series production is still uncertain, but you can pre-order the flying motorcycle for 10,000 euros. The total price should be around 380,000 euros.

Terrafugia TF-X

And then there are some companies that want to bring flying cars onto the market. Above all Terrafugia . The hybrid model TF-X was presented four years ago as a 1:10 model and is currently being developed for series production. In the take-off and landing phase, the rotors are driven by electric motors; in flight operations, a combustion engine drives the tail propeller. In this configuration, a cruising speed of 320 km /h and a range of 800 kilometers should be possible. LocatedIf the Terrafugia TF-X is on the ground, the wings attached to the roof can be folded in and the rotors housed in the vehicle flanks; the TF-X then moves as a car. The Terrafugia debut called Transition can already be reserved and should be on the market soon.

Aeromobil Flying Car

The major opponent of the American company Terrafugia is based in Slovakia. The Flying Car from Aeromobil has a hybrid drive: on the road, two electric motors with 110 hp drive the front wheels and accelerate it to a maximum of 160 km /h. In the air, a four-cylinder boxer with a displacement of two liters and turbocharging takes over. The maximum speed of the two-seater is 360 km /h in the air. At 75 percent power and at an altitude of 1,200 meters, the range is 750 kilometers. Aeromobil is currently building its first copy, and the maiden flight should not be long in coming. It is still unclear when series production will start.

PAL- V
The PAL-V Liberty is both a three-wheeled car and a helicopter-like aircraft.

PAL-V Liberty

The Dutch company PAL-V - that stands for Personal Air- and Land-Vehicle - offers his Liberty flying car already regularly for sale. Pre-orderers can secure the tricycle, which can be turned into a helicopter and has the blessing of the authorities, from a net price of 299,000 euros plus local taxes; a Pioneer Edition even costs 499,000 euros net. The tail units and rotors are folded in during road operation. If the PAL-V is to go into the air, the cabin is raised and the flight elements extend. After three to five minutes, the metamorphosis should be complete and the Liberty can take off - provided there is a runway at least 180 meters long.

Tesla and SpaceX

Elon Musk tweeted again a little - and fired with itSpeculation as to whether his companies Tesla and SpaceX may be working on an electric air taxi. When asked specifically by a Twitter user, Musk noted that such aircraft are currently still too limited in their range, but that could change in the coming years thanks to better batteries. In his opinion, the batteries could have the necessary energy density in about five years. Of course, that doesn't mean that Tesla and SpaceX are actually pursuing the issue at the moment. But with the know-how available in both companies, they could be predestined to develop electrically powered air taxis. In any case, it should be worthwhile to closely monitor Musk's future activities and statements in the field.

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Lazzarini Design Hover Coupé

When developing air taxis or flying cars, the focus is on their practical use. This is why most of the representatives take some getting used to. Not so the Hover Coupé by Lazzarini Design , whose design is based on an elegant vintage car: the Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8 from 1920. The drive, on the other hand, is ultra-modern: four turbines lift up to two passengers vertically and accelerate the Hover Coupé to a maximum of 550 km /h. In terms of chances for series production, one should be rather skeptical about the Lazzarini project.

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