When facing yet more delays and cancellations on Southern Railway and hearing about my colleagues’ traffic woes, I happened to start listening to a TED Talk by aviation entrepreneur Rodin Lyasoff. His presentation ‘How autonomous flying taxis could change the way you travel’ introduces a new (and very welcome) mode of transport that I would have liked the option of this morning – the autonomous flying taxi.
It got me thinking about how much easier we could all get to work and meetings on time, fit extra activities into our daily lives and see our friends more often. The US arguably has it worse, but the UK is pretty terrible at times too.
Lyasoff explains how some days he can fly to LA faster than he can drive to San Francisco, even though its only 40 miles away from his home in Mountain View. There really aren’t a lot of good solutions for traffic congestion, so he proposes flying over it! He believes the sky is under-utilised and that it will never get congested as air traffic management wouldn’t allow it.
Is flying a long term compelling alternative to travelling on the ground? Will the next iteration of Uber be an aeroplane icon to fly us to our destination?
Lyasoff sells it best, “Imagine this, you call an Uber, it takes you to a nearby landing spot. We call these vertiports. Then there’s an aeroplane there waiting for you to fly you over all the traffic in the middle and then on the other side another Uber takes you to a friend’s house.”
He reckons this would take 30 minutes versus two hours and cost around 60 dollars. And you get to fly!
Helicopters can be expensive, hard to fly and loud for daily use and so an aircraft that can pick up and land in small spaces is needed. His solution is Vahana, which combines electric flight and autonomy. Electric flight is lighter, cleaner, cheaper and quieter than combustion engines. Vahana takes off and lands vertically but travels forward like a traditional aeroplane and is fully self-piloted, you push a button and it flies and lands by itself with a single passenger and single piece of luggage. Pretty cool stuff!
We’re not there yet, but is this the future of our cities? Will we be getting an autonomous flying taxi to work or that next meeting soon? Just this week, councillors in Munich called for a landing pad at the city’s main railway station for flying taxis.
While you contemplate that, I’ll leave you with an inspirational quote from Lyasoff, “In the past century, flight connected our planet. In the next, it will reconnect our local communities.”