Once the stuff of science fiction films, flying taxis could well be in the UK’s skies as soon as 2024. Having already completed two test flights, British start-up Vertical Aerospace, believe their technology will be ready to commence trips of a 100 miles within 4 years.
The company recently released details of its latest flying electric taxi model VA-1X. The prototype is scheduled for test flights next year. The aircraft will have a 15-metre wingspan and 8 rotors capable of generating a cruising capacity of 150mph for 4 passengers and a pilot. An example of a typical journey where it could prove popular is the 47-mile distance from Brighton to London. The VA-1X air taxi could complete the trip in just 30 minutes compared to the hour it takes by train.
Vertical Aerospace intends for the flying taxi to be the world’s first winged electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOLs) to gain approval by the European Aviation Safety Agency as well as the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). A new framework of safety regulations is required so that these vehicles meet the same standards as commercial planes.
Multiple initiatives across the globe are underway, with the likes of the US Air Force, Tencent, Toyota, Boeing, Hyundai and Uber battling to deliver a commercially viable zero-emission eVTOL. Vertical Aerospace is in as good a position as any to capitalise on early demand for this emerging technology having already completed two flights with the approval of the CAA. Though most competitors are designing vehicles featuring only propellers, the VA-1X’s wings mean that it can fly faster but it will need to take off from a helipad or airport.
CEO of Vertical Aerospace, Michael Cervenka, claimed that in terms of gaining approval, “There’s a lot of hype in this space, but the reality is, we’ll be one of, if not the first, globally. There’s a real opportunity for us to have an impact in spearheading the UK’s renaissance into this exciting new sustainable aviation world.”
With shortened journey times and the capability of launching from the top of car parks, the assumption is that eVTOLs will prove popular with high net worth individuals who are keen to avoid congested roads. Flights are expected to launch at £10 per mile per person with the aim of reducing that to £5. Presumably, this price drop will coincide with the technology being sufficiently advanced for it to fly without a pilot?
Cervenka also said the firm intends to partner with a taxi service provider. Based on the estimates above, a seat on a flying taxi from London to Brighton could cost around £500. For wealthy commuters who over the last few years have been charged an arm and a leg by Govea to be wedged into a carriage like a sardine or to end up at the mercy of rail replacements and cancelled services, that might be a premium worth paying.
Though considering the trend towards remote working in recent months and the multiple challenges new tech start ups face in this space, I won’t be basing Plan’s business model on arranging a large number of eVTOL insurance risks any time soon!
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