LE BOURGET, France (AP) — Just a dot in sight at first, the insect-like, surprisingly quiet electric-powered rover soars above traffic-busting Paris, treating its undeniably awe-inspiring occupant to iconic vistas of the Eiffel Tower and skyscraper-roofed rooftops. The city’s signature zingy gray before landing him or her with a gentle downward hover. Thus, if everything goes as planned, can a new page in the history of aviation be written.
After years Dreamy and not always reliable talk of a flying, unpolluted sky Electric taxis, the aviation industry is poised to deliver a future it says is now just around the corner.
Capitalizing on its moment in the global spotlight, the Paris region is planning a small fleet of electric flying taxis to operate on multiple routes when it hosts the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. next summer. Unless the aviation regulators in China Beating Paris by green-lighting a two-passenger drone taxi under development there, the French capital’s prospective operator — Volocopter of Germany — could be the first to fly taxis commercially if European regulators win their approval.
Volocopter CEO Dirk Hoke, a former senior executive at aviation giant Airbus, has a VVIP as his first hopeful Parisian traveler — none other than French President Emmanuel Macron.
“That would be pretty cool,” said Hook, speaking this week at the Paris Air Show, as he and other developers of electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft — or eVTOLs for short — vied with industry heavyweights for attention.
“He believes in innovating urban air mobility,” Hook said of Macron. “It would be a strong sign for Europe to see the president fly.”
But with Macron on board or not, those first flights will still be just baby steps for the nascent industry that is taking giant leaps ahead of taxiing rivals on the ground.
Energy Battery Technology Limited It restricts the range and number of passengers they can carry, so eVTOL hops are likely to be short and not cheap at first.
And while the sight of vanquishing urban traffic simply by making it bigger is tempting, it also depends on advances in airspace management. In the next decade, manufacturers of eVTOLs aim to launch fleets in cities and on more specialized routes for luxury passengers, including the French Riviera. But they need technical leaps and bounds so that flying taxis don’t collide with each other and all the other things that already crowd the skies or are expected to take them on in very large numbers — including millions of drones.
Billy Nolen of Archer Aviation Inc. said: , starting with existing helicopter trajectories, “we will continue to expand the use of artificial intelligence, using machine learning to make sure our airspace can handle it.” Newark’s Liberty Airport in 2025. That’s typically a one-hour train or old-fashioned taxi ride that Archer says its sleek four-passenger electric prototype could cover in less than 10 minutes.
Nolen was previously acting chief of the Federal Aviation Administration, the US regulator that during his tenure at the agency was already working with NASA on technology to safely separate flying taxis. Nolen said the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics just as Paris is using the Olympics to test flying taxis It offers yet another goal for the industry to aim for and demonstrate its ability to carry increasing numbers of passengers safely, cleanly and affordably.
“We will have hundreds, if not thousands, of eVTOLs by the time you get to 2028,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press at the Paris show.
The “very small” experience hoped for with Volocopter for the Paris Games is “cool stuff. Hats off to them.” “But by the time we get to 2028 and beyond… you will see widespread spread across major cities all over the world.”
However, even on the cusp of what the industry portrays as a revolutionary new era unleashed in the city that gave birth to the French Revolution in 1789, some aviation analysts disagree with visions that eVTOLs are becoming affordable, ubiquitous, and comfortable alternatives to the ride-hailing in the not-too-distant future.
Even among eVTOL developers who spoke optimistically about their industry’s prospects at the Paris show, some predicted that competitors would dry up on funding before they brought prototypes to market.
Morgan Stanley analysts estimate that the industry could be worth $1 trillion by 2040 and $9 trillion by 2050 with advances in battery and payment technology. Almost all of that will come after 2035, analysts say, because of the difficulty in getting new aircraft certified by US and European regulators.
“The idea of urban mass transit is still a magical fantasy of the 1950s,” said Richard Aboulafia of AeroDynamic Consulting, an aviation consulting firm.
“The real problem still is that mere mortals like you and I don’t routinely or exclusively get $4 million worth of cars. You and I can take air taxis now. It’s called a helicopter.”
However, electric taxis that take to the skies over Paris as the Olympians march faster could have the potential to surprise — fun, Volocopter hopes.
One of the five planned Olympic tracks will land in the heart of the city on a floating platform on the spreading Seine River.. Developers point out that ride-hailing apps and e-scooters also used to strike many customers as weird. As with these technologies, some are betting that early adopters of flying taxis will prompt others to try them, too.
“It’s going to be a whole new experience for people,” said Hook, CEO of Volocopter. “But twenty years later, someone looks back at what has changed based on that, and then they call it a revolution. And I think we are on the brink of the next revolution.”
AP Airline writer David Koenig contributed from Dallas.
More AP coverage of the Paris Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games And https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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