As Uber forges ahead with plans for a flying taxi service in 2023, other startups are unveiling futuristic air mobility vehicles, suggesting that a “Jetsons”-like transportation system may be closer than you think.
Massachusetts-based Alaka’i Technologies showed an electric human-carrying drone last month that it claims can carry five passengers, and the American-Israeli startup NFT – short for Next Future Transportation – hopes its new folding-wing vehicle will halve travel times by both driving on the street and flying through the air during commutes.
This comes as Uber sets its sights on phase one of Uber Air, releasing a fleet of Uber Copters in NYC over the summer.
In the world of ambitious concepts, flying cars are nothing new. As far back as the early 1990s, people have tried to make cars take off into the skies. However, companies today say their vehicles are almost ready to launch, with test-flights planned for as early as next year.
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To create an air taxi, Alaka’i Technologies hired executives and engineering teams from a pool of aerospace experts, top-level builders and veteran pilots, some of whom worked for NASA and the Department of Defense.
The project was co-designed by BMW-owned global creative consultancy Designworks.
Alaka’i claims that its hovering transporter has about 400 miles of range (or four hours of run time) with a carrying capacity of 1,000 pounds. Top speed is 118 mph, and refueling takes less than 10 minutes, the company says.
Skai will have six rotors powered by three hydrogen fuel cells, the company says. However, it has yet to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Still, the company’s president and co-founder expressed confidence that its team of experts can swerve past any legislative hurdles.
“This remarkably impressive team have come together to build on our collective experience to finally realize our singular, critical vision to launch Skai and transform transportation,” Brian Morrison, chief technology officer of Alaka’i Technologies, said in a statement.
“Skai offers practical, real-life solutions to everything from relieving traffic congestion to delivering supplies during natural disasters. Skai is set to offer affordable, realistic applications in the commercial, private, freight and personal air mobility markets.”
Alaka’i Technologies has initiated a test flight program and is awaiting FAA certification, the company said in a press release.
Next Future Transportation designed ASKA to be driven like a road-legal car until it’s time to fly.
The dual-purpose vehicle was unveiled recently at an Israeli conference, and the company plans to start selling the hybrid in 2025, according to CNET. It’s said to have a maximum flight range of 350 miles with a single passenger.
NFT says it has developed artificial intelligence for collision avoidance in the air.
Prices for the 20-foot-long vehicle will start around $200,000, with costs dropping over time to around $50,000, according to NFT, and test flights will begin early next year.
ASKA will most often be used on a subscription basis, according to NFT, as owners will be encouraged to create a revenue stream by putting the vehicle into a fleet for the mass market.
In a similar concept on the ground, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in April that Tesla owners could make $30,000 a year by adding their autonomous driving-capable vehicles to a Tesla ride-sharing app.
If these companies are successful, they will face competition from other startups like Terrafugia and Kitty Hawk, created by Google co-founder Larry Page. Last year, Rolls-Royce entered the fray with a vehicle it says could be airborne by early 2020.
Follow Dalvin Brown on Twitter: @Dalvin_Brown.