Airbus will begin testing its first prototype flying car next year in a move that could reshape the short distance transport market currently served by taxis and rideshare services such as Uber.
Dubbed ‘CityAirbus’ and capable of vertical take-offs and landings, the vehicle would be piloted by a human at first to comply with existing regulations – similar to a helicopter – but it’s visioned to eventually become self-flying and fully automated as laws adapt over time.
While individuals could certainly buy them for their own private use, Airbus is focused on the sharing economy and providing rides for paying passengers.
Customers would use an app to book their CityAirbus journey, proceed to the nearest helipad where the aircraft could stop and then climb aboard to reach their destination.
“A flight would cost nearly the equivalent of a normal taxi ride for each passenger, but would be faster, more environmentally sustainable and exciting,” Airbus says.
“I’m no big fan of Star Wars, but it’s not crazy to imagine that one day our big cities will have flying cars making their way along roads in the sky,” adds Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders.
“In a not too distant future, we’ll use our smartphones to book a fully automated flying taxi that will land outside our front door – without any pilot.”
Prior to CityAirbus test flights, the company will trial drone-based delivery of parcels at the National University of Singapore from mid-2017.
The trial will see the drones travelling along pre-determined flight paths, with multiple drones operating at once and mobile-based notifications being sent to package recipients: alerting them when their parcel is ready to collect from a smaller-scale landing pad.
[Click the image above to enlarge it.]
Once Airbus has ironed-out the kinks, the trial will be expanded to ships at the Port of Singapore where drones will deliver parcels from dry land onto cargo vessels, ready for delivery by sea mail.
As to when the project makes that big leap from flying parcels onto landing pads to ferrying passengers across large cities? We’ll find out soon enough.
Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT