British start-up Autonomous Flight is working on a drone capable of carrying commuters from central London to Heathrow airport in 12 min. The Y6S VTOL is set to take-off this year and the company is not alone in its ambition to take the last virgin airspace left.
Once launched, the electric mini aircraft could help ease congestion in cities across the UK. At least in the vision of entrepreneur Martin Warner, who founded Autonomous Flight.
He will unveil a prototype of the two-seater model in London in March and plans the first manned test flight at the end of the year.
The Y6S is an electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle (VTOL) and built by engineers in Oxfordshire. It will fly at about 500 metres at 100 kph (70mph) within an 80-mile range of its controller.
Although pilotless flight is highly regulated through the Civil Aviation Authority, Autonomous Flight says that its public shuttle could take commuters across London in less than 15 minutes for 25 pounds, that’s cheaper than a cab ride. The drone itself is expected to sell for 20,000 pounds.
Founder Warner told the Times that “to tackle cities with deep congestion we needn’t look any further on the ground, where there is no space. Instead, there is this virgin airspace between 300 and 1,500ft above sea-level that has very little traffic.” Yet.
More and more global companies are working on VTOL concepts, or electric flying cabs to get inside that exact “virgin” air layer. We reported on AirSpaceX only yesterday for example and it is not only start-ups but established players too looking to get their share. Both Airbus and Boeing are working on such concept “cars” or flying electric mini shuttles, not to mention UberElevate that wants to set up a whole heli hail service. They work with Nasa to create an air traffic control system to manage low-flying, possibly autonomous aircraft.
With the outlook of such crowded skies – if regulation ever catches up with the inventors – Australian Alauda’s call for entries for an electric VTOL race above the Outback appears almost sensible.
For those looking to get a better overview of this emerging market, Switzerland will host the inaugural World Flying Electric Vehicle Summit on February, 7 in Geneva this year.