The venerable carmaker announces its plans for air taxis within a decade
The idea of flying vehicles still feels like science fiction, but the reality is quickly approaching us. Every potential manufacturer, from Boeing to Airbus, entrepreneurs including Larry Page at Google and Jeff Bezos at Amazon, and startups including Uber, Volocopter and Chinese firm eHang are all attempting to take a leading role in the personal air mobility space of tomorrow. Entire cities are at it, too; Dubai staged its first air-taxi trial last year in a bid to become a center of innovation for robotics and drones.
The latest contender to toss its name into the ring — or, more accurately, the air — is Rolls-Royce PLC, the arm of the prestigious automaker that also deals with sectors like nuclear power, jet engine technology and aeronautics.
The engine-maker says it has designed a propulsion system for a flying taxi, or what it calls an “electric vertical takeoff and landing” vehicle, that could carry four to five passengers a distance of around 805 kilometers while traveling at potential speeds of 402 km/h. (By comparison, Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk flying air-taxi project is projected to travel at up to 180 km/h). The vehicle would use gas turbine technology to generate enough electricity to power six electric propulsion units; there would also be an onboard battery to provide additional climb power. Rolls-Royce has also equipped the craft with wings that rotate 90 degrees, meaning the vehicle could take off and land vertically.
“We believe that given the work we are doing today to develop hybrid electric propulsion capabilities, this model could be available by the early to mid-2020s, provided that a viable commercial model for its introduction can be created,” the company says. Whatever the upshot, electrification is the inescapable route that industrial technology markets are taking — and far from being science fiction, today’s propulsion revolution is as real as a Rolls.
A “electric vertical takeoff and landing” vehicle, designed by RollsRoyce.