What Happens When Air Taxis Fall?
No technology is ever 100% reliable, and I’m no scientist, but it seems like planes don’t want to be in the sky in the first place. Aviation is fraught with high profile mistakes, and it’s only a matter of time before air taxis join in the fun. As someone who loves the thought of owning my own personal eVTOL vehicle, a few specific issues are bugging me about the next few years of the industry.
An Embrace of Death
If you do a little reading, you’ll find that most of these proposed vehicles wobbling out of design renders plan to carry ballistic parachutes. Regular parachutes can tangle if a descent isn’t stable, so these use a small explosion to shoot the parachute out and expand it. Even if an air taxi is off kilter from a damaged wing, it will right itself.
The open-prop variety of air taxis scare me a little. Birds, mechanical failure, or a variety of accidents could send a big drone sideways. I’d like to see what’s the worst they can take, and my guess is others will too. Automakers around the world have to send their vehicles careening into brick walls. Should Boeing, Airbus, and Volocopter will have to throw fake birds at their concepts? Or launch them into brick walls? We all know safety isn’t always at the forefront no matter what the marketing team puts on the website.
If one of these vehicles ends up sideways even a ballistic parachute might have trouble deploying properly. If it gets tangled in a prop it could go down faster than Santa on some cookies. It’s something I’m dubbing, “The Embrace of Death.”
In a perfect world, these companies will perform tests with full-scale prototypes or sized-down versions. All I have right now is throwing fake birds into the props and seeing what happens, but I’m sure they could get creative and come up with more scenarios.
It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! Oh shit, it’s coming straight toward us…
Alright, time to be less negative.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has announced that it will not allow non-steerable parachutes on any air taxi — which is good. That means that air taxi manufacturers find a way to get their taxis back on the ground in tact — no matter what. It’s a higher standard, but it’s necessary to keep the public safe and happy.
Hopefully by 2030 we won’t be afraid to walk outside for fear of a giant drone falling on our head. The projected market revenues of $6.63 billion in 2030 give some security that at least they’ll have the money to cover damages.
You get an air taxi! And you get an air taxi! And even you get an air taxi!!
In a world where Juicero raised $120 million in capital, we should be a little concerned of tech entrepreneurs’ mental stability.
Boeing already experienced a crash of their prototype air taxi in July, 2020… at 20 feet. Uber says it plans to have passengers whisk away in its Elevate program by 2023. Guess who one of their air taxi suppliers will be… Boeing.
Go ahead. Read the YouTube comments on a flight test. Brace yourself for some scathing disbelief. One of my favorites was “Wow A big drone” in a Lilium test flight video. I’m still trying to decide whether or not it was subterfuge…
Now of course I’m excited like most others to see flying cars finally take to the skies. It’ll be like the Jetsons but without the otherworldly 50’s cartoon dialogue. I still can’t shake the feeling that it will be much, much longer before we drop our kids off at Skyports to go to school.
I’d like to ask for a little more authenticity from the industry. Please don’t show us any more mid-quality renders of unrealistic planes flying around New York. The worst are ports with futuristic solar canopies. We all know those solar panels are only powering the kiosks, vending machines and automatic toilets in-center. God-forbid the main proponent of air taxis says there will be mass commercial flights in 3 years. I hope they will be ready if that really is the case.
I love the concept, but I’m scared of what I’ve seen of the execution. I’m afraid that the answer to our traffic issues will keep us stuck bumper to bumper for even longer. Imagine if on the 1000th flight in 2024 a vehicle hits a flock of pigeons, careens into someone’s house and injures a child. That would be an avoidable tragedy, and a huge black eye in the face of progress.
Good public perception rides on clarity and authenticity.