In Blade Runner, the flying cars were termed Spinners, capable of performing vertical take-off and landings. Spinners can able to hover around intended areas. The most exciting part is, they use Jet Propulsion.1
In 1982, it may seem futuristic, but now there are actual passenger drones that can able to fly a passenger or two from one place to another.
Video Credits: Cyber Chaos Crew
Blade Runner is not the only movie to feature flying cars, The Absent-Minded Professor, released in 1961, was the first movie to feature a flying car. Many movies featured flying cars, including Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Blade Runner: 2049, Back to the Future, etc.2
What is a Drone Taxi?
A Drone Taxi or Passenger Drone is a type of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that carries the passenger in the drone and travels from one place to another in a city by choosing the shortest air route. The passenger drone will never get stuck in a traffic jam.
Drone taxis are intelligent drones capable of carrying a passenger safely to the intended location. The difference between other aerial transport and drone taxis is they are operated without an onboard pilot, which implies they’re actual drones that hold very active and sensitive living payloads.
World’s First Drone Taxi
Ehang, a technology company based in Guangzhou, China, developed the Ehang 184, the world’s first drone taxi or passenger drone. Ehang 184 can able to carry a payload of 100 Kilograms for an average flight time of 25 minutes. The payload here refers to the person who is traveling on the drone.3
Ehang 184 consists of Eight Propeller and Four Arms, which indicates that there will be two propellers coaxially mounted in each arm. The average charging time of Ehang 184 will take around 2 to 4 hours. It can able to accumulate two passengers at a time. This model was retired in 2020 and is replaced by the Ehang 216.
Ehang 216 - Two Seater Passenger Drone
The Ehang 216 is a two-seater with 16 propellers in a coaxial double-baled design. It contains eight arms similar to the hexacopter configuration. Ehang 216 made over 1,000 flights by July 2018, and its maximum range flown was 8.8 km. Ehang 216 flight is fully autonomous, the operations can be monitored from an Ehang or its customer command-and-control center.4
Video Credits: Ehang
The EHang 216 received a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) from Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) for test flights in Québec, Canada. In March 2020, the Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority issued a permit for manned test and certification flights.
VoloCity - By Volocopter
Apart from Ehang, several companies are actively involved in the development of passenger drones. Volocopter is an aircraft manufacturer based in Bruchsal, Germany. The drone taxi or air taxi developed by them is named VoloCity.
Video Credits: Volocopter
VoloCity is also a two-seater passenger drone. The flight of the VoloCity is controlled by varying the speed of 18 propellers independently.
The VoloCity has 18 small fixed-pitched propellers and 18 electric motors on top of the beam structure, which keeps the aircraft noise to a minimum, making a quiet and pleasant warm sound.5
Vahana - By Airbus
Airbus Vahana is a single-seat passenger drone, which means it can able to hold only a passenger at a time. Also, it’s a self-piloted passenger drone similar to others. The cruise speed of Vahana is 190 km/hr, and the maximum cruise speed is 220 km/hr.
Video Credits: Airbus
In November 2019, Vahana took its final test flight at the Pendleton UAS Range in Oregon, USA, bringing the flagship program to a close. The flight testing program culminated in over 13 hours of flight time, totaling almost 500 nautical miles.6
Joby Aviation is a Californian venture-backed aerospace company that is developing an Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft, which intends to operate as an air taxi or drone taxi service.
Video Credits: Joby Aviation
Joby Aviation’s first full-scale prototype took to the skies in 2017. As well as becoming a strategic investor in Joby, Toyota has deployed dozens of engineers to work shoulder-to-shoulder with Joby Aviation, lending their expertise on factory layout, manufacturing process development, and high-volume production.
In 2020, Joby Aviation partnered with Uber to provide aerial ridesharing service in the Uber App. Their passenger-drone can able to accommodate four passengers in a ride.7
In this article, I’ve tried to explain about the drone-taxi with the acquired information from various sources. I’m expectantly waiting for your valuable feedback and suggestions regarding this article.
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