Passenger drones (or drone taxis) have been creating hype for years now, specifically since 2017 when Dubai tested a passenger drone for its flying taxi service: a two-seater, 18-rotor drone by Volocopter, a German drone-maker. Since then, multiple companies and countries have done testing trials and invested billions to launch commercial drone taxi services.
Last year, Volocopter revealed a concept craft to transport up to four passengers within a 64-mile distance. It infact decided to book reservations for its first commercial 15-minute ride priced at 300 Euros with an upfront 10% deposit.
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This year, Volkswagen China launched its flying passenger drone eVTOL model that will transport up to four passengers within a 124-mile distance, and the company plans to go for advanced testing in late 2023 with a vision to materialize the new mobility market for China. India last month launched its first drone taxi, pilotless, which could transport a payload up to 130kgs within 15.5 miles.
Experts are positive about the future stating that drone taxis could transform the industry with affordable and sustainable travel options, and substitute traditional taxis. The taxis are envisioned to easily maneuver across cities within a 100 or 150-mile distance with a fully integrated mobile app system for bookings.
These are specifically expected to ease journeys to and fro the airports, and even be systematically integrated into the last mile commute. Additionally, as they are designed to be fully electric, the travel is going to be green and sustainable. They are safer options too with less air traffic to deal with. The timeline of 8-10 years is seemingly viable as predicted by the market experts.
The actual absorption of the drone taxis depends on multiple factors encompassing regulations, investments, customer acceptance, service cost compared to conventional transportation, and city infrastructure to accommodate the drone taxi mobility.
These factors together need to move in a positive direction to decide quick and greater adoption of drone taxis. For instance, regulations should be eased at a national level to allow for drone taxis, and at the same time, the infrastructure to incorporate drone mobility into the transportation system should be impeccable for smooth travel.
Similarly, while investments are required to build the industry, it is almost futile if there is no public acceptance. Fully or partially autonomous, public confidence in drone flights is the most significant factor driving the success of the industry. The prices of commercial drone travel and the convenience to board the taxi will also decide if the public finds it worth it.
There is no debate that passenger drones are a promising alternative to conventional taxis given they
are emission-free, fast, and safe but the stakes are high. A lot needs to fall in place to meet the hype and make it a reality. And it’s not impossible.
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