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Could you take a trip in a pilotsless air taxicab?
Technology firms are in competition to create the first sustainable passengers' taxi, whether crewed or unmanned, but how fast could these smart helicopters really fly over our city? To be the first country to launch droning cabs, Dubai is fast. At the end of June, the Road and Transport Authority (RTA) entered into an alliance with a pilot company Volocopter to test pilots' aerial taxi systems towards the end of this year.
"You' ll never need the crash chute on board," Volocopter tells us. The RTA from Dubai has also joined forces with the Chinese Ehang to test the Ehang 184 individual passanger "autonomous aircraft" of the drones manufacturer. However, the biggest town in the United Arab Emirates is facing fierce rivalry. This February, the carpooling tycoon boosted Nasa head technician Mark Moore and commissioned him to manage their Elevate - "a futur o f on-demand Urban Aviation" project.
Airbus, the leading airplane manufacturer in France, is also working on a Vahana aerial taxis model and says it will start tests at the end of 2017 and will have one by 2020. In Sao Paulo, Brazil's tenth busiest town in the whole wide sense of the word, there are an average of 180 kilometres of congestion on Friday, sometimes stretching over a distance of 295 kilometres.
It'?s no wonder that aerial cabs are a powerful tool in people's imagination. The Ehang transports a lone traveller, Volocopter two, while City Airbus has four to six persons in its sights. Uber Moore says that when three or four persons share a swimmingpool, the price is "very similar to the price of a UberX[car] today". The Chinese Ehang UAV is currently flying for 23 mins.
This would therefore restrict the UAV to a commercial unprofitable three-minute journey. "It' really a problem," says Janina Frankel-Yoeli, Israeli vice-president of Urban Aeronautics, a company that instead takes a humane stance with a internal ignition motor for aerialxis. However, Mr Moore argued that battery upgrades are "on the right path to get them there in 2023" when Uber planned to have his first 50 aerial cabs made.
"60 mile is the longest voyage through a town. A different option could be a two-piece UAV where the cells are placed in a removable basis that can be quickly exchanged between flight times, says Tim Robinson, journalist for the Royal Aeronautical Society's Aerospace journal. "I' m quite sure if a UAV was holding out and had an empty lithium ion backpack, it wouldn't let you take off no matter what route you were on," he says.
As soon as the batteries reach a crucial point, the UAV would make an evacuation stop. In most large towns there are already helicopter aerial passageways that could use aerial taxi services, says Mr Moore. These include enhanced sense-and-avoid technologies that allow UAVs to interact with other airliners to bypass each other.
Stand-alone droning technology can take a long while to gain the confidence of supervisory authorities, not to speak of the general population. Ubers Mr. Moore thinks that from 2023 on, aerial cabs will have stand-alone capabilities, but in the first five to ten years they will have HR aviators, while collecting enough information to persuade regulation authorities that aerial cabs are secure.
In the meantime, Dubai seems to be ahead of the pack, because Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said: "By 2030, 25% of urban public transport must be autonomous". "who will ever take a UAV if one crashes?"