Flying ‘air taxis’ could soon become the norm - the technology explained

Flying taxis could be coming to a city near you sooner than you think - although they might not be as futuristic as you’d imagine.

Air Taxi company Lilium has announced a new US air hub in Orlando, Florida, with the company aiming to take regional trips in its electric five seater aircraft by 2025.

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The new transportation hub will house the Lilium electric aircraft that can take off vertically and cover 185 miles in a single one hour loop trip.

Similar to Uber’s Skyport concept, the new air taxis are designed to function as passenger stations for hop on, hop off travel in flying taxis.

Are air taxis the future of travel?

Air taxis might soon become a common sight, with the latest study into the industry saying the sector could be worth $90 billion by 2050.

The new study, published in Roland Berger, predicted that we will be seeing year on year expansion of urban transport systems into the airspace, with potentially 160,000 electrically powered air taxis carrying people over traffic jams to their destination.

The air taxi industry has seen a significant increase in funding over the last five years. In 2016, approximately $40 million dollars was invested, and in 2020 that number increased to $907 million.

Currently there are 110 regions and cities around the world looking into airborne ‘cars’ as a solution to traffic congestion.

Last year, Morgan Stanley, produced a new BluePaper which estimated the autonomous urban aircraft industry creating a $1.5 trillion market by 2014.

Transport hubs for air taxis also prove to be a far cheaper alternative to building a traditional airport. Because there is no runway, the cost of the Vertport in Florida will range from €1 to €2 million.

Types of flying transport

The five seater Lilium Jet, is yet to be approved for service, but aims to allow travellers a quick and efficient way to reach their destination, for around the same cost as an Uber trip.

The aircraft has fixed wings, and is powered by 36 electric engines. The engines tilt up and down to allow the aircraft to do vertical takeoffs and landings, to avoid the need for an airport style runway.

Lilium Chief Operating Officer, Remo Gerber, told Reuters, “It’s a hundred times safer than helicopters. Pricing is five to 10 times cheaper”.

German based Velocopter is the first commercially licensed electrically powered air taxi. The taxi service runs a similar model to Uber Black, and the VeloCity craft will eventually run without a pilot. The company's first commercial flights are scheduled to take place in 2022, however, the craft only has enough room for one passenger, making it the Smart Car of air taxis.

Lilium will have competition within the United States, as Chinese drone maker, Ehang, has been testing its autonomous air taxi in North Carolina. The Ehang 216 is powered by 16 electric rotors and can travel at around 80mph.

The UK has its own stake in the market, with Bristol based company, Vertical Aerospace. Their taxi, called the VA-1X was revealed by developers in August, and could shuttle passengers between central London and Brighton in as little as 20 minutes.

The company was designed with the assistance of a team of 20 ex-F1 engineers and is expecting to finish a prototype by September 2021.