Rolls up

The ven­er­a­ble car­maker an­nounces its plans for air taxis within a decade

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TECHNOLOGY -

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.

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