Every cool piece of drone tech was nothing more than a concept at one stage. That’s why we still get a little bit excited when futuristic new blueprints are unveiled that could be genuinely transformative. Even more so when the company behind the concept happens to be one of the world’s largest aviation specialists. This week, Airbus revealed a passenger drone project it’s been working on with Italdesign. Take a look at this – it’s called Pop.Up.
Impressive, right? Pop.Up is a modular solution for the near future, for when urban areas are even more crowded and getting into work requires nothing less than a combination of road and air transport.
The idea is that the pod can separate from both the wheels and the drone, with the props being part of an on-demand service for whenever you need them – sort of like an aerial Uber.
But it’s not just the hardware that Airbus and Italdesign have put forward in this transport proposal. For Pop.Up to ever become a reality, there would need to be a total infrastructure overhaul, from docking bases in high-rise buildings to an air traffic control system to guide these autonomous drones safely through the skies.
These aren’t problems that are new to companies developing flying passenger drones, or even the commercial drone industry in general. Indeed, many of the same infrastructure issues can be compared with those related to drone delivery systems.
Mathias Thomsen, general manager for Urban Air Mobility at Airbus, speaking at the unveiling at a motor show in Geneva, said: “Successfully designing and implementing solutions that will work both in the air and on the ground requires a joint reflection on the part of both aerospace and automotive sectors, alongside collaboration with local government bodies for infrastructure and regulatory frameworks.”
“Adding the third dimension to seamless multi-modal transportation networks will without a doubt improve the way we live and how we get from A to B.”
Italdesign CEO Jörg Astalosch, said: “Today, automobiles are part of a much wider ecosystem: if you want to design the urban vehicle of the future, the traditional car cannot alone be the solution for megacities, you also have to think about sustainable and intelligent infrastructure, apps, integration, power systems, urban planning, social aspects, and so on.”
“In the next years ground transportation will move to the next level and from being shared, connected and autonomous it will also go multimodal and moving into the third dimension”.
The “third dimension” Astalosch and Thomsen describe is the key here. Whether regulatory bodies, safety concerns and public opinion will allow for ambitious projects such as this to become a reality remains to be seen.
Companies in the drone industry, most notably EHANG, have been working on similar solutions. EHANG’s 184 has even been involved in successful testing in Dubai. It’s likely that this trend will continue, and that countries with less strict drone regulations will be where pioneers choose to develop their concepts.