Air taxis to launch in 2020 in the UK

Posted by Welcome Lishivha on 11 September 2018

Commercial flights on demand (air taxis) may be a reality sooner than you think.

Photo sourced from Vertical Aerospace.

Air taxis are like aeroplanes that operate much like Uber and Taxify: they arrive at the nearest location that allows for vertical landing and take-off (no need for a landing runway) and transport passengers to a landing spot near their desired destination.

Air travel like this would at the very least mean avoiding traffic, but if the range of these air taxis could be extended it could negate the need to travel to an airport. Service providers like Uber have expressed interest in providing this service if it can be done at a reasonable rate.  Vertical Aerospace, which recently received licensing for their first air taxi model has not yet made an announcement on pricing.

This Bristol flight-based company was founded by Stephen Fitzpatrick in 2016, former owner of the F1 Manor Racing team. Fitzpatrick has incorporated technology gained from F1 racing cars to build electricity-powered Vertical Take Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft. “The technology we were using in Formula 1 was just too high-spec to be applied to the challenges of the typical road car. What you can get from an F1 engine has more power density per kilo than a jet turbine,” said Fitzpatrick to Reuters.

The unnamed tested model is now being modified into a multi-passenger and piloted version for short-haul flights. The first range will be a piloted 4-passenger air taxi. While future plans include extending the range of vehicles to multi-passenger autonomous airborne flights, one imagines that pilotless air taxis would require more stringent regulation, making licensing a bigger task.

Photo sourced from Vertical Aerospace.

Upon obtaining their license from the Civil Aviation Authority, Vertical Aerospace has since completed various tests and have found that the test model can only complete 5-minute flights at 80kmph. Upcoming models are expected to perform much better. The electricity powered vehicle that’s made from carob promises to leave zero carbon footprint, which comes as a consequence of using insights from F1 racing cars along with the consideration of carbon fuel that produces greenhouse gasses such carbon dioxide (CO2).

Vertical Aerospace plans to launch their commercial services in 2020 in Britain, with intercity air taxi trips from Bristol to London and Sheffield to Liverpool.

Uber’s aviation company, Uber Elevate has also recently announced that they will be launching an air taxi service and tests from 2020 in Japan, India, Australia, Brazil, the US and France. They’ve also announced their plans to use drones to deliver food to people’s doorsteps, a service that is already being tested in San Diego.

Other companies that have come out to launch their air taxis services include Airbus, Lilium, Rolls Royce, Volocopter and AeroMobil which is working on a limousine that can transform into an aircraft. Rolls Royce is also in on the game, revealing its own Vertical Take Off and Landing (eVTOL) model.

Aviation companies are quite adamant in pioneering this mode of transport and keep on testing and improving their models. Although 2020 might seem a bit ambitious for these services to be offered commercially – considering the regulations that need to be passed – it appear that progress is being made.

Watch the first test.