Would you dare hopping on a robotic plane? Why yes? And why not? The debate about autonomous planes is still on going. However, start ups announce, they will be approaching this future no matter what.
Due to the increasing shortage of pilots, autonomous air taxi seems a reliable sub. Besides saving a couple of bucks, innovation on aircrafts may help reduce the cost of managing flight crews.
Thus, a couple of start ups are proposing on creating tiny, autonomous planes. They plan on making 'air taxis' powered by electricity, which use different propellers or ducted fans, and could travel for a few kilometers.
Among these startups include, Vahana, a tilt-wing, self-driving air taxi that has been created via Airbus' Silicon Valley outfit, A3, which announced that would begin the testing early this year.
Joining them is e-Volo, a German company, who said they are now preparing to make their own autonomous plane.
Also, Zee Aero, which is allegedly supported by Google cofounder Larry Page.
Not to forget, Terrafugia, a veteran in the aircraft industry, has also mentioned its plan on turning their models autonomous.
But not everyone is excited about this news. Such as Patrick Smith, author of the Ask the Pilot column.
He said, “I fly airplanes for a living, and my jaw drops when I hear people say that flying is already mostly automated. Even the most ‘automated’ flight is still subject to so much human input and subjective decisions.”
Smith said that these startups are pushing for an automated planes because of novelty, and not because of profit. “It’d be a novelty, not necessarily meant even for profit, but as a way to prove and build the technology,” Smith suggests.
“People want a pilot in the cockpit, to know there’s someone in charge who shares their fate,” says Missy Cummings, a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot, now a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Duke University.
While some individuals do not particularly agree with the idea of self-driving air taxis, no one can stop these innovators of what they want to happen. They want to see autonomous flying cars in the sky.
Such as, a Chinese company, Ehang in Guangzhou. They are pursuing their first flight test this March. Reports say they have tried to carry a passenger on their robotic plane.
Which means, only a few weeks from now, we'll see how it goes for air taxis this year.