Is the world’s first flying taxi airport being overhyped?

Small Urban Air Port Coventry – Copyright Urban Air Port 2

Image: Urban Air Port

Rohit Gupta, Head of Products and Resources from Cognizant

In the past couple of years, we have seen several announcements from technology companies around their involvement in the future of transport.

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For example, Uber announced a partnership with NASA to design an urban-air traffic control system and the British firm Skyport unveiled the world’s first hub for electric aircrafts in Singapore.

More recently, we have seen the announcement that the world’s first airport for flying taxis is being built in Coventry. Certainly an eye-catching headline, but perhaps not one that should be surprising.

In an effort to prepare for our growing city populations, we have already seen a number of developments that could significantly advance the reality of flying taxis and cars, with a dedicated airport merely the latest preparation being undertaken. However, there are a number of factors that currently stand in the way of making an airborne highway a reality.

Getting the infrastructure right

For any technology to fully realise its potential, it needs to have the right infrastructure in place. A transport system is traditionally made up of a number of components – humans, infrastructure, businesses, government, policy and different modes of transport. For flying taxis, all of these need to be considered before we start taking to the skies in large numbers.

Our systems are currently not ready to deal with the complexities of high-density traffic in the air and number of developments in key technology areas will be needed to support the required infrastructure, including but not limited to:

  • IoT enablement for relevant flying signals and ‘lanes’.
  • A robust 5G network for real-time, high volume data sharing (V2V, V2I).
  • Cloud-based mobility-as-a-service platforms that capture, collate, and share data with wider transport ecosystems.
  • AI-driven automated traffic management and decision support to support in predicting congestions and saturations, hazard detections and diversion.

Unless businesses and governments work together to scale to the demand, we will face a new kind of congestion – digital congestion. Further to this, the energy ecosystem for flying taxis needs attention. The changing landscape of propulsion technologies from fossil fuel based to an electrically charged battery powered environment needs greater development to enable flying taxis.

To overcome these problems and risks, we need to adopt a consortium-based approach, where entrepreneurs, organisations and governments work collaboratively to introduce flying vehicles one step at a time.

The future of flying cars

A dedicated airport is a key part of the infrastructure and preparation we need, but news like the announcement of the first flying car airport is somewhat overinflated. While the prospect of personal flying vehicles is very exciting and will more than likely become a reality in the future, this new airport is unlikely to be in any kind of regular use for many years.

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Joe Peskett

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