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Uber and Hyundai have recently announced the establishment of a new partnership designed for the development of flying taxis. The move follows the efforts of the large industries, such as Airbus and Boeing, and NASA, that are already competing with ambitious startups on the creation of the electric aircraft as an urban means of transportation.
The potential is well understood also in Israel. At the Unmanned Systems and Robotics Conference organized by iHLS, Guy Zach, IAI’s unmanned aerial operations manager, said: “After we pass through the barrier of supplies transportation by unmanned aerial systems, transporting people is only a matter of time”. “We will go from the current state in which the pilot is physically present onboard to the situation where he flies the aircraft from the ground control station.”
Many think that the unmanned flying taxi industry is the industry of the future. Uasvision.com reports that this industry is expected to reach over $1.5 trillion until 2040. Leading investment companies evaluate that until 2035 there will be more than 23,000 flying taxis in over 240 cities.
But is this really the case? In spite of the optimist approach and the great belief in technology, the problem with the current market is regulation. Before speaking about flying taxis transporting passengers it is better to take a closer look at the drone industry which is now on hold, as industry sources say. According to bloomberg.com, the drone market has not reached its full potential due to regulatory restrictions all over the world.
The sources explain: “Jeff Bezos promised that drones would deliver goods to our homes by 2019, but this day is still far away.” They added that “moving from the current reality of heavy regulation to the reality of flying taxis there will be a transit period in which the technology that would allow this will be developed, including ground control without a pilot at the cockpit.
Joshua Margolin, the entrepreneur behind the startup SWYFT and a graduate of the iHLS Security Accelerator, has developed a technology that enables the control of the aircraft operator from the ground, thanks to a full vision adapted to the flight direction, simulating flying a drone from its cockpit. Margolin stresses the importance of the interim stage: “The pace of technological advancement is more accelerated than the pace of regulation. The large companies are moving swiftly into the autonomous realm but it will not be possible to skip the stage of aircraft control from the ground at any time in a way that is acceptable to the regulators.”
In addition, experts agree that another central stage would be the aerial traffic management at lower altitudes.
Arie Egozi, an aviation and security expert and iHLS’ Editor-in-Chief, said that one of the major tasks of the world’s most advanced industries in the aviation and other fields is the unmanned vehicle traffic management at the urban environment, so the vision of autonomous drones flying over the cities would eventually turn into reality. NASA, Amazon, Google, Boeing, and Airbus are all focused on this matter.