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More and more traditional aircraft makers have been developing unmanned or pilot-optional versions of their designs for on-demand air transportation. One of them is Bell, that has been moving people over urban obstacles for decades with traditional rotorcraft. Now they are expanding the scope of air travel and aviation technology with the new on-demand Urban Air Taxi concept.

One of the advantages is full connectivity: Passengers will enjoy technologies such as video calling, wifi, artificial intelligence and wireless charging, and will have the option to fully maximize their airtime – already a fraction of their ground-bound commute, according to the company website.

Other companies which have been adapting manned aircraft for unmanned operation, thus making pilots optional, include Lockheed Martin, which purchased Sikorsky in 2015, and has been testing and demonstrating unmanned versions of manned helicopters since 2010. The company showcased mature versions that are now in military service overseas.

Aurora Flight Sciences, which has been integrating remote-controls into traditional manned aircraft like the Diamond DA42 for several years, became a Boeing subsidiary. Boeing engineers unveiled their new heavy-lift cargo drone design Jan. 10.  See article about their cargo drone.

Ridesharing giant Uber has forged partnerships with or stimulated efforts by Bell, Boeing (via Aurora), Pipistrel, Embraer, Airbus, and others, hoping to create a distributed network of small aircraft that can whisk people across cities, landing on rooftops and small fields, according to aupa.org.