Will the city of the future have its roads in the sky?

Hollywood’s version of the city of the future is one with small airborne vehicles darting among the skyscrapers, with the road limited only by the driver’s—or the vehicle’s-- imagination.

 

Could the ‘air taxi’, in fact, be the future of transport in cities?

“It’s not only the future” says Thales’ André Cléroux, Avionic Functions Product Line Director, “It’s beginning to happen now, with cities, aircraft manufacturers and even Uber announcing air taxis over the next few years.”

Cléroux explains, “Air taxis are the answer to congestion in urban areas as well as to the extremely high cost of investments in surface transport systems. Despite our ease of telecommunications today, people still need to get around so that we can see others for both professional and personal contact.”

The one to four passenger vehicles will be vertically-launched, eventually autonomous, and electrically-powered.

“Electrical power of course will be another benefit for the environment” says André Cléroux “and we believe that, all of these benefits, when taken together, will have a big impact on the way cities are designed---and on the way we live in them.”

That’s already evident in one of the first municipal adopters of air taxis—the city of Dubai. Its Road and Transport Authority has already flown a prototype of its ‘Autonomous Air Taxi” vehicle. It will be the basis for the city’s future ‘self-flying taxi service’ in a bid to transform Dubai into “the world’s smartest city”.

Uber will be a partner in the launch in Dubai, scheduled in only two years for the 2020 Dubai World Expo. The company says it will also launch the service in Dallas the same year.

Behind self-flying air taxis will be a major effort to assure safety and performance, especially in increasingly-crowded skies, says André Cléroux., “We are talking about thousands and thousands of air taxis. We need to assure safety through fail-safe technologies and clear rules and regulations. Thales is playing its part in contributing its long experience in Air Traffic Control and aircraft performance. So Thales engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Connectivity, Cybersecurity and Big Data Analytics will be aboard when the air taxis really take off”.

This article is part of a series of articles published for the Farnborough International Airshow in England, 16-22nd July 2018.