The ‘Uber of Air Travel’ Could Be Coming Soon
In less than a decade, the “gig-economy” (made famous by rideshare companies like Uber) could include pilots. For two weeks NASA partnered with Joby Aviation, an electric aviation company based in Northern California, to test a futuristic “air taxi” with the purpose of moving cargo and passengers in and between cities.
The small, five-seater all-electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL) with its six rotors and rounded shape was designed from day one to have a low noise profile and blend into the environment of busy city life.
The eVTOL is not exactly the look imagined in the future of “flying cars.” However, it is the inevitable next step in design considering that campaigns like NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) National Campaign began pushing in earnest for low environmental impact travel solutions during the breakneck speed of the digital start-up age.
It’s no secret that human population increases over the past few decades have developed into a transportation problem. Traffic jams, once only an issue in the most congested areas during peak travel seasons, are now a common occurrence. And, while public transportation remains an underfunded option, a growing need to lower emissions makes increasing metro lines only a temporary solution. The eVTOL, on one charge, was able to complete a 150 mile flight, equivalent to the distance of San Diego to Los Angeles or Seattle to Vancouver. That is an incredible step towards lower emissions as these are common distances covered multiple times a day by heavily polluting regional airlines.
But it’s not all clear skies for the electric air taxi. There are still some questions left answered such as where these take-off and landing pads would be built in spaces that are already incredibly congested with people. There’s also the issue of noise and safety regulations, particularly when third-party companies inevitably jump in to compete. And, frankly, it could create more sky clutter.
Humans have not been great about controlling their manipulation of the natural environment and, if the space trash of dead satellites and other tech orbiting around the planet is any indication, humans are going to treat the skies like one big, blue garbage dump.
Regardless, Joby Aviation acquired Uber’s Elevate air taxi program last year and is backed by Toyota. They are now hoping to receive certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration as soon as 2023 and begin commercial passenger service by 2024. If that comes to pass, it won’t be long before you’re hitting up “Steve” on your “UberAir” app. Yes, this could be disastrous in the long-term, but, hey, getting to Las Vegas may get a little easier.
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