There was a time when the Consumer Electronics Show, the most prominent technology expo in the world, was mostly a showcase for new televisions, computers and gadgets; over the last few years, however, CES has greatly diversified its exhibits, and the commercial aviation industry made a splash this year thanks to legendary rotor aircraft manufacturer Bell.
According to a news report published by AIN Online, visitors at the 2018 CES in Las Vegas were invited to stop by the Bell booth, where they could climb aboard a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft model and don virtual reality headsets to experience urban air taxi services, which are expected to be offered by personal transportation companies such as Uber over the next few years.
The VTOL Future of Personal Transportation
In essence, a VTOL urban air taxi is an advanced electric helicopter that does not require as much space for takeoff and landing operations. The Federal Aviation Administration is prepared to issue certifications and licenses for this new type of aircraft, which under current estimates could handle as many as 2,000 flight hours per year; the costs of operation could be as low as $1.32 per hour thanks to the electrical power systems. Uber would also offer mobile broadband connections and video conferencing aboard these flights.
Uber has been racing to make its air taxi plans a reality be the end of 2020. The company recently hired one of the chief engineers at Tesla, the American electric car manufacturer, to help with development of charging stations and batteries. Recent troubles at Uber have made it one of the most controversial tech startups in history; for this reason, the company is seeking to diversify its operations beyond the traditional ground transportation model that has upset established taxi companies around the world.
Other Tech Startups Involved in Air Taxi Projects
Aside from Uber, the CEO of Intel took a VTOL ride at an airfield in Germany before his keynote speech at CES; he took the opportunity to show attendants and tech journalists a video of his experience, which was provided by European aviation startup Volocopter. The Intel CEO flew safely around an enclosed hangar while a pilot operated the aircraft from the ground. One more air taxi startup, SureFly, attempted to take advantage of the CES 2018 momentum this week, but its test flight had to be postponed due to adverse weather conditions.