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The mass of the future: autonomous flight? | technology


In the middle of a clue, who did not want to press a button, go up and fly over the rest of the cars?

This dream can be realized in 2025, when the first flying taxis fly in the sky, the experts agreed on a panel at the festival South-West (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.

"People have been dreaming about this for decades and now technology is available"Said Michael E. Acker, senior vice president of technology and innovation at Bell Helicopter. "The only question is: what will we do with it?"

Thacker said that his company had teamed up with Uber and some aeronautical companies, including Safran of France, to create a fleet of flying taxis that are called vertical and lander cars (VTOLs).

God Nexus, As this hybrid electric propulsion plane is called, was first introduced in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Between 20 and 30 other companies are working on similar concepts, starting with small start-ups for large companies such as Airbus, which recently introduced the CityAirbus electric plane.

Ober plans to launch its first taxis in Los Angeles and Dallas, two major cities in the United States.

Why not a helicopter? Thacker explained that these taxis were safer and quieter and noted that commercial use would begin in 2025.

"It will not replace land transport, but it will increase it in another dimension," he said. "And it's not that it's going to jump overnight with thousands of airplanes, there will be a few dozen of them in some cities … first using helicopter gunships and helicopters."

The air taxi of Bell Naxos and David McKinney AFP
The air taxi of Bell Naxos and David McKinney AFP

The third dimension

Bell executives said unmanned aircraft, like emergency medical equipment, should fly long before taxis because they encounter fewer restrictions.

Jaiwon Shin, associate director of the NASA Aerospace Research Mission, said however that although 2025 seems to be a reasonable date for the limited launch of flying vehicles, it will take longer for the market to fully expand.

"For this market to really flourish … I think we really need to mature the market on a scale and it can take a decade," he said.

In addition to roadblocks that still need to be overcome before these flying vehicles have green light.

You should see "if you can really test the vehicle in urban space," said Shivika Sahdev, of McKinsey Consulting.

One of the biggest technological hurdles to overcome is the battery. Most prototypes use electric propulsion batteries and currently do not have enough power to fly over a long distance.

Either way, the industry is optimistic

In a report titled "Vision 2050" presented at SXSW, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) predicted that by 2050, the use of flying taxis and other autonomous UAVs would be widespread, mainly thanks to artificial intelligence.

Joseph Lago AFP
Joseph Lago AFP

"For me, artificial intelligence is easier in the air," said Scott Drennan, director of innovation Bell. "There's a lot of room there, we have a third dimension to maneuver."

"And it's not the far west up," he said. "The laws of Heaven are more defined than the rules here on land."

Another advantage of flying cars is the GPS, says Anil Nandori, vice president of Intel's Dron Group.

"GPS accuracy today is a few more meters," he said. "For land vehicles it's not accurate enough, but once you go up to the third dimension, that's enough."

For those who are still skeptical about the future, technology journalist Arty Chahani says this only: "If you had told me ten years ago that I would ask for a car driven by a foreigner for my mother who lives 4,800 kilometers away I would tell you that you are crazy."

"And that's what I do to her all the time."

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