For years, flying taxis have represented an exciting but distant dream, partly due to the hype of the industry. They are now planning their deployment and have set a target arrival date of 2028.
In a document released Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration outlines steps the FAA and other agencies should take to lead a competitive air taxi market in at least one location five years from now. said. The vehicle looks like a small plane or helicopter, and because it can take off and land vertically, it can operate from the heart of a city, transporting people to airports and vacation destinations such as Hamptons, New York and Cape Cod, Massachusetts. can carry.
What’s notable about the FAA’s plan is that it reflects confidence that the technology is only a few years away from becoming a reality, as well as the approval from authorities overseeing aircraft certifications and the rules that pilots and businesses must follow. Because it is a thing.
“These things are going to be on the scene, and our job is to try and stay ahead of the curve,” said Paul Fontaine, the FAA’s assistant administrator who oversees the modernization of the air transportation system. . The plan is intended to serve as a guide to deploying the aircraft in a predictable and routine manner, officials said.
Getting air taxis flying over more than one city by 2028 is no easy task and aircraft manufacturers will need help from the FAA and many other federal, state and local governments. would be
Air taxis are likely to face resistance from local authorities and residents who fear they pose a safety hazard or nuisance. A fierce battle could erupt with laws and lawsuits trying to block its use in cities and neighborhoods.
But before that, the aircraft must be certified. Many are designed to run entirely on electricity, but some can be powered by hydrogen or a combination of jet fuel and batteries. The aircraft is still under development by various companies and can only carry a few passengers. They also include a range of new technologies and systems, many of which must be individually certified to meet FAA standards.
“A lot of new aircraft technology has created one very novel We will get over it,” he said. company. “With these vehicles, we are trying to move many things forward at once.”
Joby Aviation and Archer Aviation are among the most advanced U.S. air taxi companies in their certification process, both with certified aircraft in commercial production in 2025, ahead of the FAA’s 2028 target. I would like to start the service. Achieving the goal will require approval by federal and local authorities for specific services and routes.
But air taxi companies have been forced to postpone such plans in the past. In 2017, Uber announced it was working on an electric air taxi. Operate passenger flights by 2020. Instead, it was the year Uber sold its air taxi division to Joby. said at the time The service could start “as early as 2023.”
Even conventional airplanes made by manufacturers with decades of experience, such as Boeing and Airbus, often have long certification delays. FAA officials also said they would not sacrifice safety to meet the 2028 target.
Limited battery capacity means that the distance many air taxis can fly is limited. As a result, the aircraft will probably be used for the first time to transport people in cities to nearby airports. In cities like New York, some companies already offer helicopter services.
Air taxi companies must compete for scarce real estate, overcome city and state regulations, develop the infrastructure to charge or fuel aircraft, and gain public acceptance. We also need to hire and train pilots who are in high demand.
Still, the FAA’s plans underscore growing confidence among industry analysts and executives that the ingredients needed for air taxis to take off are coming together.
“People always ask me, ‘Why is this happening now?'” said Archer CEO Adam Goldstein. “Technology, regulation and funding have allowed us to get here.”
The FAA has been criticized for being too slow in certifying air taxis and other new aircraft. In the June report, Inspector General of the Department of Transportation It concluded that lack of internal and external communication could increase the “risk of delays in certification and operations.”
However, the authorities have made some progress, recently updating a technical roadmap for the deployment of air taxis in the city, and in June issued rules governing how air taxi pilots should be trained and certified. has published a proposal.
Air taxi manufacturers have also made technological advances, with some now regularly testing their aircraft.
Investors are watching. Several major air taxi companies have gone public in recent years, including Germany’s Joby, Archer and Lilium, and the UK’s Vertical Aerospace. This year, Archer, Joby, and Lilium each raised more than $150 million from investors.
Many companies are also deepening relationships with major airlines and automakers. Sterantis, the automaker that owns brands such as Jeep and Peugeot, is helping build a factory in Georgia for Archer, which has signed a tentative deal to sell hundreds of aircraft to United Airlines and Mesa Airlines. there is Joby has a close relationship with Toyota.
Boeing recently acquired Wisk, which is developing self-driving air taxis. And Embraer, a Brazilian company that makes small passenger planes, has created its own air taxi company, Eve Air Mobility.
All companies are vying for a market that could one day be worth tens of billions of dollars. This aircraft may replace some trips made with Uber and Lyft. For airlines, air taxis could help win the hearts and loyalties of wealthy passengers.
There are other opportunities. UPS is working with air taxi manufacturer Beta Technologies to test cargo air taxis in the United Arab Emirates. Beta and Joby have also worked with the US military.
Former FAA administrator Michael Huerta, now a board member of Delta Air Lines and Joby, said the key to winning over the public was making air taxis affordable enough for many people.
“Over time it will become more widely accepted, but cost will be important,” he says. “If you’re only looking at this as a service for the very wealthy and dealing with the implications, it might not be very well received.”