Very soon, people in Japan could cut their commute time by skipping city traffic and riding a taxi that will fly them to their destination. On Tuesday, German company Volocopter announced that it has partnered with Japan Airlines to commercially launch air taxis within the next three years.
These flying taxis could transport goods or up to two passengers over distances of up to 35 kilometers (21 miles) and at speeds of up to 110 km/h (68 mph).
Volocopter’s Volocopter 2X aircraft has 18 rotors that were designed to operate quietly and efficiently. According to the company, a Volocopter 2X within a 75-meter distance is as quiet as the smallest helicopter within a 500-meter distance. It is battery-powered, so it could also be cheaper and more environmentally sustainable as compared to other vehicles.
This could be a game-changer amid rapid urbanisation around the world. According to the United Nations, by 2030, more than 60 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. With this comes increased traffic, a complex network of streets, and random disruptions such as road accidents.
When it comes to traffic, Tokyo, Japan is the ninth most congested city in Asia. Its roads are 42 percent congested, which means that a 30-minute trip will take 42 percent more time than it would during Japan’s baseline uncongested conditions, according to the Tom Tom Traffic Index.
Before its partnership with Japan Airlines, Volocopter conducted fully autonomous test flights in Dubai, Helsinki, and Germany. Its first public manned flight happened in October 2019, wherein it flew over Singapore’s Marina Bay for a good 2 minutes.
Volocopter and Japan Airlines plan to approach Japanese cities and prefectures before launching the air taxis to see if there is a demand for the service. Apart from flying passengers to destinations, the partnership also plans to use the aircraft to deliver medical care in remote areas.
Many companies in Japan are actively pursuing the possibility of flying vehicles. In August, SkyDrive Inc. successfully conducted a public test flight for its new SD-03 flying car model — billed as the first demonstration of its kind in Japan. In August 2019, NEC Corporation Japan also tested out their own version of a flying car, dubbed the “quadcopter” which is a battery-powered autonomous drone.