Electric, pilotless air taxis are ready to take off

Air taxis, electric and pilotless, they are ready to take off in a maximum of 10 years; So said Marc Piette, founder of Xwing, a company specializing in autonomous technologies for aviation.

According to Piette’s statements, the urban landscape that we will see within a decade includes small electric planes piloted by artificial intelligence that cross over the cities to take their passengers from a “vertiport” (vertical airport).

“We are going to see this network of air, electric, regional or long-distance taxis appear. The landscape is going to change a lot.

Marc Piette, founder of Xwing

Air taxis, electric and pilotlessthe solution to traffic and pollution

Several Californian companies are actively preparing this future of mobility, which they hope can be a remedy for traffic and pollution.

In a hangar in Concord, on the San Francisco Bay, Xwing focuses on the most surprising factor in the equation: that any aircraft or airplane can take off and land vertically (VTOL), and that with a gasoline or electric engine, it can roll, take off, fly and land on your own.

  • As if this were not enough, these devices could talk to passengers.

Autopilot system ondeclares a woman’s voice as Ryan Olson sits at the front of the ship, on a journey where he won’t be touching the dash or the joystick, like an instructor with a trainee.

The plane is a good student, unlike humans who behave differently every time“, says the pilot.

Aircraft in which some companies already work

Equipped with cameras, servers, radar and other instruments, the Cessna Caravan is already autonomous in good weather, and Xwing is working to make it capable of dealing with bad weather as well.

In February, a Joby electric VTOL (eVTOL) crashed during a remotely operated flight while the company was testing speeds beyond its limits.

“It is bad for the entire industry when there is an accident (…) But that is what the tests are for”

Louise Bristow, Vice President of Archer

  • Archer and Joby’s eVTOLs look like helicopters, but with one wing and multiple propellers.

They hope to launch the first air taxi services by the end of 2024, with pilots. Wisk Aero, the Boeing company and Larry Page (the co-founder of Google) are working on an autonomous eVTOL.

  • Archer received a pre-order from United Airlines for 200 vehicles, and plans to start in Los Angeles and Miami.

“We built a system of private taxis from the sky”

Louise Bristow, Vice President of Archer

10 years, necessary for people to get used to

Estimate in 10 years the time necessary for there to be enough electric air taxis cone without pylorus in service, that people get used to moving in this way, and that the difference is felt in the cities.

According to Scotte Drennan, New Air Mobility Consultant, these seemingly dreamlike visions are taking shape through the convergence of three technologies:

  1. The electric energy
  2. computing capabilities
  3. autonomy systems

But if the technique goes down the right path, companies face two major challenges:

  1. The certification
  2. infrastructure

The authorities are not reticent, but obtaining their agreement “is going to take longer than you think,” the expert highlights. It will also be necessary to build “vertiports” and “a digital interface to manage air traffic and communication between vehicles.

  • For these reasons, Xwing decided to start with autonomy.

“We took an existing device, very well known. We made the minimal modifications necessary to make it stand-alone and have it certified, and then we can explore other applications.”

Marc Piette, founder of Xwing

Bypassing the pilots should allow us to reduce costs and respond to orders in regions with little access, which do not lack airports or planes, but rather manpower.

The company first plans to equip the devices responsible for distributing goods to be able to carry out commercial operations in two years, before carrying passengers.

  • His boss knows that he will face resistance, but he is sure that these flights will be safer.

“The vast majority of air accidents are caused by human error,” he notes before recalling that thanks to automatic piloting, “people fly alone to a large extent.”

He also explains that autonomy is “simpler” in the air, where the environment is always under control, unlike what happens on the roads.

What if the electric air taxis are they hacked?

According to the founder of Xwing, the technology of his devices pilotless it is designed so that the plane refuses to obey dangerous commands.

  • When elevators were invented, people were afraid to use them without an operator, he recalls with a laugh.

“Today we pushed the button without asking ourselves questions. It will be the same for aviation.”

Marc Piette, founder of Xwing.



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