Bristol-based startup Vertical Aerospace is planning to beat Uber to the flying taxi service industry. The startup plans to have intercity flying taxis operational in the UK by 2022.
The company’s electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft went for an unmanned flight in June after gaining permission from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The company is planning to provide inter-city flights to accommodate two passengers and one pilot, with plans to accommodate four passengers in the future.
Some of the company’s 28 employees have come over from Formula 1 with design ideas that seek to change the face of civil aviation.
“We’ve learned a lot from Formula 1, both in terms of technology and pace of development,” said Stephen Fitzpatrick, CEO of Vertical Aerospace, as reported by The Verge. “The lightweight materials, aerodynamics and electrical systems developed through F1 are highly applicable to aircraft, much more so than to road transport.”
Vertical’s first aircraft was granted flight permission by the CAA, and the company is already working with the European Aviation Safety Agency to gain certification for its next model.
While there is a surplus of flying taxis being tested today, not many are far enough along to feel comfortable testing with a human pilot in the cockpit.
Since its inception in 2016, the firm has hired several veteran aerospace and technical experts from Airbus, Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Martin Jetpack, and GE with extensive experience building certified commercial aircraft.
Other flying car aspirants are working toward launching autonomous aircraft early in the next decade. These competitors range from giant companies like Airbus and Uber, as well as well-funded startups like Volocopter, which is testing drone taxis that resemble a small helicopter powered by 18 rotors, and Kitty Hawk, which is one of three flying car firms founded by Alphabet chairman Larry Page.
The battery-powered vehicle has a range of 93 miles (150km) with a top speed of 186mph (300kmh), with a more powerful model set to carry people 500 miles (800 km), which means it could easily take passengers to Paris and back.
“If you consider that the busiest routes flying in and out of London are to Paris, Dublin and Edinburgh, being able to fly to those cities without the need of a runway would offset the need to expand Heathrow,” Fitzpatrick said. “Passengers will be taking off from locations very close to their homes or businesses and landing very close to the point of their destination rather than having to travel to an airport 40 to 50 miles outside the city.”
In the future, the company will seek to extend the aircraft’s range, introduce elements of autonomous flight and expand the number of chartered routes it can serve.