New era of transportation: get ready for air taxis and jetpacks

Using jetpacks, flying cars, and drones to get around seems like something out of a sci-fi movie, but the advanced air mobility (AAM) market makes it all possible.

As urbanization leaves city streets cluttered and advancements in technology allow vehicles considered impossible just a few decades ago, the use of the skies for small-scale airplanes has become increasingly attractive.

“We cannot continue to use road transport; 3D mobility is really important,” said Anna Kominik, Asia Pacific director at Wisk, in an interview broadcast Thursday at the Reuters Next conference.

Wisk, a unit of Boeing Co., has been testing Cora, an autonomous electric aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter, for four years at its base in Tekapo, New Zealand.

Wisk is liaising with regulators, including the United States Federal Aviation Administration, to obtain approval for public use of the air taxi, which can carry two passengers up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) at speeds going up to 150 kilometers per hour or km / h (93 mph).

“Sixty-seven percent of the world’s population will be cities by 2030, so ground-based infrastructure cannot keep up and is expensive to overhaul,” Kominik said during a recorded roundtable on November 5. “We have to go to heaven as a resource.”

PAL-V, based in the Netherlands, keeps one foot on the ground while taking to the skies. Its two-seater Liberty autogyro, which has a maximum speed of 180 km / h and a flight range of 400 kilometers, received authorization this year to travel on European roads.

Delivery to customers will begin in 2023 once they complete the required training, said Robert Dingemanse, managing director of PAL-V International.

He added that PAL-V had orders, including down payments, from 15 countries, with interests from 193 countries.

Kominik declined to put a timeline on when Cora would carry her first passengers.

“We don’t expect to be the first to market; we expect to be the best,” she said.

Develop an ecosystem

The advanced air mobility market could be worth nearly $ 17 billion by 2025 and $ 110 billion by 2035, according to Allied Market Research.

The same report suggests that the piloted segment will hold more than three-quarters of the market share in 2025, but the autonomous segment will experience the fastest growth between 2025 and 2035.

Dingemanse said he expected the Liberty to be used for a range of applications, including pipeline observation, policing and health operations in remote areas.

Likewise, Richard Browning has already tested his Gravity jetpack with military personnel in several countries and emergency response personnel in the United Kingdom.

With 317 pounds of thrust, the suit can carry one person for about four minutes. The company is working on updates to extend flight time, and Browning has put together a dataset on jetpack usage in 35 countries.

Kominik said building an “ecosystem” of use cases is essential as the industry and technology grows.

“It requires a very different mindset from government policy, regulators and the community,” she said. “We have to create this, because it’s not there at the moment.

California-based Wisk selected New Zealand because it was unique in the world in allowing “beyond the line of sight” testing of autonomous aircraft.

Impacts of the coronavirus

Dingemanse and Kominik said the pandemic has helped and hurt the industry.

Sales of the PAL-V slowed as in-person testing became restricted, Dingemanse said, but the crisis has boosted the private jet industry and heightened the human need to meet face-to-face.

“In that sense, it’s a benefit for our solution, which is a personal space when you travel,” he said.

Kominik said New Zealand’s strict border restrictions had kept some key staff from entering in recent months, but also spurred the opening of a new testing site in Australia.

Browning is keen to return to public demonstrations to inspire a new generation: “Unloading a 1,000-horsepower combination at a school – with an invite, of course – is a great way to keep kids from looking at an iPad for a while. “

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