The personal luxury vehicle of the future may not be a roadster, but a passenger drone. Tech magazine Engadget reports that luxury car-maker Porsche has begun design work on an unmanned air vehicle.
It’s no surprise. “Urban Air Mobility” is the latest buzz in the drone industry, as technology companies try to solve one of the most irritating problems of the age: traffic.
While the vision of flying cars brings back memories of “The Jetsons” (and you may remember that George’s commute was just as challenging as any in modern day L.A.) passenger drones are more than just science fiction. The first drone taxi service was implemented in Dubai last year. While still something of a tourist attraction, the drones prove the concept from a safety standpoint: and Dubai, arguably the most forward-thinking city in the world, says that they hope that 25% of passenger transport will be unmanned by 2030.
The drone taxis in question are produced by Volocopter – a company which received a $30 million investment from luxury vehicle company and Porsche competitor Daimler last year. Chinese car manufacturer Geely – who owns luxury car company Volvo – purchased “flying car” company Terrafugia last year. And drone company Ehang – the ones who first demonstrated the passenger drone at CES a few years ago – are reportedly still hanging around, so to speak.
While passenger drone technology already exists, widespread use – urban air mobility – is still years away in most places. The implementation of a robust UTM system is needed to integrate drones fully into an active airspace. Safety regulations must be developed. Licensing systems put in place. The systems that work for cars can’t be transferred directly to the air, and systems that work for passenger planes don’t translate well when every family owns one.
But in the meantime, vehicle companies around the world are busy developing their branded air vehicles – so that when the daily commute takes place at 400 feet or so, you’ll be able to ride in style.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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