Flying taxis, once the stuff of science fiction and animated sitcoms like ‘The Jetsons’, now seems poised to take off in the next few years. Dubai has set its sight on introducing futuristic flying taxis in the desert metropolis.
Aircraft manufacturing giant Boeing’s recently-launched HorizonX venture capital fund and startup incubator is coming to the Middle East, particularly in the UAE. According to Steve Nordlund, Boeing’s vice-president for HorizonX, company representatives have already held discussions with Dubai’s Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) about Emirate’s vision for establishing an autonomous flying taxi service by 2020.
“We fully support their vision for innovation in transportation,” he said. However, Boeing’s specific role in fulfilling that vision has been finalized yet.
Lagging behind aerospace giant Airbus which is ready to test its Vahana flying taxi any day now, Boeing has not yet launched or invested in a start-up with an autonomous, vertical take-off and landing air taxi. However, the company has invested in several companies which can provide all of the pieces necessary to develop such a vehicle.
Their recent acquisition of US-based Aurora Flight Sciences adds a specialist to autonomous aircraft controls and rapid prototyping. On top of that, HorizonX has made investments in seven technology start-ups, including autonomous navigation provider Near Earth Autonomy and artificial intelligence guru SparkCognition.
Nordlund says that Boeing does not feel the pressure to be the first in the market of autonomous VTOL air taxi field.
“This has to happen at the right pace from a safety standpoint,” he said in a statement.
Nordlund likened Boeing’s position to the period when Apple’s iPod was introduced. Despite several music storage devices already being available at the time the iPod was unveiled, the company’s innovative approach and technology soon made it a market leader.
Earlier this year, Dubai carried out a test flight for a flying taxi developed by German drone firm Volocopter. The airborne vehicle looks like a small version of two seater helicopter cabin and has a maximum flight duration of 30 minutes.