Flying taxis are passenger drones also known as urban air mobility (UAM) vehicles.
While a flying taxi could be a helicopter that picks you up on the roof of your downtown high-rise office building and whisks you away to the airport, that’s not what we mean when we use the term “flying taxi.”
Flying taxis are a new type of vehicle altogether. Flying taxis are passenger drones, or as those in the industry refer to them, urban air mobility (UAM) vehicles. Usually, when we see the letter “U” in the context of drones, it stands for “unmanned,” but, the first generation of flying taxis will have someone sitting in the pilot seat.
It may sound like a fantasy concept, but some of the most prominent players in transportation are actively developing prototype UAMs—Boeing, Airbus, and Uber, to name a few.
When can we expect to hail our first flying taxi? Uber says their taxis will be ready to fly passengers by 2023, and they have brought former NASA engineers onboard to help them achieve that goal.
In the near-term, a lot of testing is still needed. Uber hopes to run test flights in 2020, but Airbus’ Vahana taxi has already gotten off the ground. While the drone may be ready to launch, will governments be as willing to give them the green light? And if so, will people be willing to step inside the cabin and go sailing through the air 2000 feet off the ground without a trained pilot flying it?
Perhaps we must just wait to see how self-driving cars manage to get people and governments to accept them first before flying taxis can go mainstream. What will be interesting to see is which country will take the risk on this innovative new way of getting around?