A New Startup Thinks Huge Drones That Fly Humans Can Solve America’s Traffic Problem

Texas-based Lift wants to give users cheap affordable flights in ultralight aircraft across short distances.

This video was created with GEICO.

Traffic sucks and it’s getting worse. Workers in the US often commute to work and some of them spend upwards of three hours a day in their car. Automobiles are a leading source carbon emissions. Traffic fatalities are on the rise. Spending long periods of time stuck in traffic negatively impacts mental health. So what if we could fly above it all?

That’s the goal of Lift Aircraft, a Texas-based startup that wants to change the way people travel. On a small airfield northwest of Austin, Lift Aircraft is testing ultralight aircraft for personal travel at short distances. It’s a vertical take-off and landing system that uses 18 propellers powered by 18 electric motors to move a person across the sky. “We’re not trying to solve the problem of flying long distances,” Matt Chasen, CEO of Lift Aircraft, told Motherboard. “We’re focused on short hop flights in dense urban areas.”

The ultralight classification means that users won’t need a pilot's license to get in the air. Chassen’s goal is to use an app, Uber style, to allow users to hop in and out of the aircraft at predetermined locations at a cost of around $20 a flight. On its face, it seems silly. But world changing technologies, like the automobile, often do at first. “When cars first came out, cars were seen as threats, they were seen as toxic, they were seen as dangerous, and then cars took over America,” transportation journalist John Surico told Motherboard.