Just a few years ago, it felt like flying cars were still a distant sci-fi future. But investment has increased rapidly, and a number of companies are now building air taxis to make our city journeys faster, easier and cleaner.
After years of wishful thinking, it’s suddenly happening. Investment in advanced aerial mobility (as the sector is known) has more than tripled in the last year, and analysts at Morgan Stanley expect the global air taxi market to be worth £2.7 trillion ($3.7 trillion) by 2050.
A number of companies around the world are currently preparing eVTOL vehicles (electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles), which could revolutionise the way we get around big cities.
Quiet, comfortable and carbon-free, eVTOLs promise to rise above congested roads, easing urban transport issues while getting passengers to their destinations in record time. Meanwhile, regulators on the ground are working hard to prepare the rules and infrastructure required to make this new form of transport feasible.
Many developers believe their vehicles will be safety certified and cleared for take off by 2025, if not sooner. Boeing, Airbus and Hyundai are some of the familiar names building air taxis. Another is Joby, which bought Uber Elevate, the ride-sharing giant’s foray into eVTOLs, in December 2020. Meanwhile, British firm Vertical claims to have the highest number of conditional pre-orders with the likes of Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines among the investors lining up for its VA-X4 vehicle.
Air taxis are not exactly the flying cars promised by movies like Blade Runner, however. Rather, it’s electrified air travel scaled down to black cab proportions. It’s Uber for the skies. Think helicopters without the emissions or the reliance on one main rotor.