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Airbus Details Plan To Build Flying Taxis ( 70

CityAirbus is a new program from Airbus that aims to put commuters in the air to combat overcrowded cities. It sounds a lot like an airborne Uber, writes Brandon Turkus from Autoblog: "Passengers can use an app to book passage, head to their local helipad, climb aboard with a number of other passengers, and in the words of Airbus are 'whisked away to their destination.' Each ride would cost 'nearly the equivalent of a normal taxi ride for each passenger.' Beyond the advantages of avoiding traffic, Airbus claims its new conveyance will be faster, more sustainable, and, obviously, more exciting. Initially, the program would rely on a human pilot, but as with nearly every mode of modern transport, there would eventually be an autonomous version." The company has no timeline for when CityAirbuses will be ready for flight. They did note that the autonomous functionality will be the biggest challenge. "No country in the world today allows drones without remote pilots to fly over cities -- with or without passengers," writes Bruno Trabel from Airbus Helicopters. He leads the Skyways project, "which aims to help evolve current regulatory constraints." Project Vahana, a similar project that consists of an electric-powered, autonomous helicopter used for personal and cargo flights, will be tested in late 2017.
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Airbus Details Plan To Build Flying Taxis

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Fly United!

  • Uh-huh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 18, 2016 @06:25PM (#52728991)

    They did note that the autonomous functionality will be the biggest challenge.

    Funny, that seems like the least challenging part of providing random individuals air transport for the same cost and as sustainably as ground transport, especially since we are talking about cities where walking and cycling are typically realistic options.

    • Re:Uh-huh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Thursday August 18, 2016 @06:53PM (#52729193)
      Copter style air transport requires much more energy than rolling transport, even with the inefficiencies of heavy traffic. Do we want to increase our energy usage for transportation at at time when we are telling people to be more energy aware reduce consumption?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        The key is the "number of passengers" thing. It's just about within the realms of plausibility that putting a dozen people in one helicopter could be more efficient than putting them in a dozen separate taxis.

        • If you can somehow force everyone to want to go to the same place, you can just put them on a bus. The problem is that people all want to go to different places.

          • I guess it can work if scaled up. Take them from multiple places (one vehicle per source) to a central point, mix them up, and then fly from the hub to the multiple places.

            While that sounds like it would add substantially to journey time, given these vehicles can travel line-of-sight, without stopping, in most cases the overall journey time should be shorter than by taxi.

            It'd be a like mass transit with worse energy costs but with way cheaper infrastructure costs. I'd rather do mass transit, but in the

        • Re:Uh-huh (Score:4, Informative)

          by bruce_the_loon ( 856617 ) on Friday August 19, 2016 @03:57AM (#52730955) Homepage

          Bell 206 BIII chopper, pilot plus 4 passengers with a Rolls Royce Allison turbine engine. According to the specs, it can take 4 passengers 100 miles in 50 minutes at a fuel usage of around 40 gallons.

          Compare that to a VW Bluemotion with a claimed efficiency of 60 mpg, and a probable real world traffic efficiency of 45 mpg. So real world 100 mile journey would be say 2.2 gallons and a 110 minute journey. If each passenger in the chopper did the journey seperately, then you're still only looking at 10 gallons of fuel compared to the 40 gallons for the Bell.

          And that doesn't take into account the capital cost of a $400000 chopper versus a $40000 car.

      • There is no problem with energy consumption so long as it is done sustainably, such as with nuclear power. Airbus claims that these helicopters will be electric, something I find improbable. Electric storage is much larger, heavier, and potentially more fragile than an internal combustion engine. Hydrocarbon fuels synthesized from nuclear power is feasible and as much a "carbon free" energy source as wind and solar.

        People have pointed out that nuclear power plants require so much concrete, steel, etc. th

      • More energy , more noise, more regulation, more cost. There's no way it works better than a subway and footpaths. We already have the solution, why don't we just make it cleaner/safer/cheaper and be done with it?
    • There's also the problem that (even if you somehow have a helicopter with operating costs closer to those of a taxi, which would be quite a departure from current models) you can't exactly just land it on any street corner; which means that you'll be limited to relatively patchy coverage around the locations where you can land. Just as with airports, the travel time to and from the landing pads will then make the overall trip time uncompetitive except for longer flights.
    • same cost and as sustainably as ground transport

      A taxi from San Jose to San Francisco can cost $100+, and take 90 minutes or more during rush hour. Put eight of those people in a helicopter, which can do the trip in 15 minutes straight across the Bay, and that is $3000/hour of flight time. Seems like a no-brainer to me. I might occasionally use a service like that, on a busy day with especially bad traffic.

      we are talking about cities where walking and cycling are typically realistic options.

      Are you an American? Have you ever been to San Jose? Or Los Angeles?

    • Funny, that seems like the least challenging part of providing random individuals air transport for the same cost and as sustainably as ground transport, especially since we are talking about cities where walking and cycling are typically realistic options.


  • Let's see - small personal size helicopter.. sounds a lot like [] doesn't it? Only with a remove pilot, which .. I dunno, I will enjoy flying myself.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    is here!!!
  • by gavron ( 1300111 ) on Thursday August 18, 2016 @06:50PM (#52729169)

    The FAA has already said no to ridesharing. []

    The FAA has already said no to "Uber in the sky". []
    And []
    And []

    The reason for it is that the FAA has different rules for carrying yourself as a private pilot, carrying others for commercial gain, fare-sharing, etc. The regulations for fare-sharing mean you actually ALL have to be going TO GO DO the same thing, not just going to the same place. []

    The FAA has a higher requirement of pilots, equipment, and maintenance when used to carry passengers (other than private pilots who are NOT getting reimbursed).

    OB DISC: I'm an FAA certificated commercial helicopter pilot

    • by Anonymous Coward

      (drops bag of money at FAA door)

      We announce that sky Uber is now legal!

      If that doesn't work...

      (drops bag of money at politicans door)

      The laws have changed, Sky Uber is legal!

      • and when Barney "Let's crash the copter into the White House and kill the President" Gumble happens it will get shut down so fast you hear the server disks crashing.

      • (taxi and airline lobbies drops even BIGGER bags of money)

        Sky Uber is still illegal!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Wait, the FAA is now saying airlines can't take passengers on their flights?!

      Or is the FAA simply saying that what those "ride sharing" services do amounts to commercial air transport, requiring appropriately licensed pilots amongst other things? Airbus is simply proposing to develop and build, well, an air bus. Presumably these things will not be used by ride or fare share services, but used by taxi companies with the right licenses and pilots with a CPL. FAA isn't going to say no to that (though the
      • by Anonymous Coward

        I think you answered your first question, but as to the latter... the original article on autoblog says they'll
        a. do it for the same price as a taxi
        b. one day no human pilot

        As for a. no Part 135 operation can possibly compete with Jack's Medallion Cab. The cost of a three-dimensional operation is exponentially higher than a road/land-based one. Economies of scale don't work where regulatory costs are the driving force. A helicopter doesn't cost $2M because that's the cost to manufacture it... it costs th

      • Wait, the FAA is now saying airlines can't take passengers on their flights?!

        No, the FAA is saying (like every other agency/dept. of the Federal government) that they choose which laws to enforce (or not), how they're enforced (or not), against whom they're enforced (or not), and when they're enforced (or not) based on what increases their and their crony's wealth, control, & power the most. The US has become no better than some corrupt 'banana republic' as far as Rule of Law goes. If you're extremely wealthy and connected in the US you're untouchable and likely to be elected PO

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Airbus is a European company. I'm pretty sure they'd be overjoyed to get a couple of cities in Europe to agree to let them try this out, without coming within 5000 miles of FAA airspace.

      If they could prove the concept in, say, Bonn or Paris or Prague, the FAA would change its tune soon enough.

    • Well, the FAA might want to change their rules, and make them more XXI century-ish.
    • FAA did not say no to any of these things. All it said was, "ridesharing is commercial aviation. Pilots must comply with certification, aircraft must be deemed airworthy by FAA standards". Once you meet these criteria, then FAA will not stop ride sharing.
    • I imagine a lot of private pilots do get reimbursed. Their friends/coworkers want to fly somewhere. The private pilot offers to take them but there's an understanding that they will reimburse him for flying expenses.
  • I sorta feel like these heli-pads would be a point of congestion ...? Kinda like every train station and parking lot in every city? I'm not seeing how this avoids congestion.

    And good luck getting your helipads built around a city like San Francisco. Gigabit internet now comes down from the power lines because people whined too much about a little metal box on every corner. Or even buried under the sidewalk on every corner. (here's an idea. replace all those useless mailboxes with last-mile fiber access poin

    • I sorta feel like these heli-pads would be a point of congestion ...? Kinda like every train station and parking lot in every city? I'm not seeing how this avoids congestion.

      It doesn't. The whole idea is stupid
      The biggest issue in urban transportation is congestion. Cars do not solve that. Automated cars so not solve it. Flying cars do not solve it.
      The only solution involves increase packet size from 1 person per vehicle to 100+. That means buses and trains and footpaths (the only options that scale)
      The pedestrian/train model has proven to work. It currently moves 80000 people/hour in some places. Until any other model comes close to this, it's not even worth entertaining as

  • With more and more people getting out of huts made of grass and mud and into houses made of brick and wood we are going to see these same people with the means to do more than hike, bike, or ride a horse to get somewhere. With economies of scale aircraft have been getting cheaper, aided by more automation, improved materials, etc. to bring costs down. I thought it nearly inevitable that at some date we'd see more point to point aircraft services to the point that nearly any grass strip is an airport.


    • The TSA is security theater. They do nothing to address the actual security risks and vulnerabilities, which are numerous and very dangerous.

      For example, the major airport near me is extremely vulnerable to things like vehicles getting on a runway. There is less protecting those runways than there is protecting my backyard. Oh there are cameras and crap but it's far too big to patrol. Security cannot stop someone who really wants to get out there, so imagine if some terrorists on the back of a truck got

  • Such initiative will not help curbing down greenhouse gas emissions...
  • If it is going to be an experience as appalling as flying currently is, I'll give it a big miss.
  • Where are these "local helipads" supposed to be? There are various private buildings with helipads on their roofs, and plenty of open parks and maybe some parking decks with room on their roofs, but nearly all of these are private properties not open to the public. Most of them show "PRIVATE!" when seen from the air.

    I can't think of a single spot in my city where you could do this kind of operation. Sure you could use a park once or twice, but try to make it routine and the cops will probably cite you

    • by b0bby ( 201198 )

      If (mighty big if) such a service ever came into being, I'm sure they could strike deals with the private buildings.

      I could see some use in an area like DC, where a trip to Dulles can vary unpredictably from 40 minutes to 1.5 hours. I bet a decent number of people would pay $100+ to make that in 15mins (plus the time spent getting to the helipad). There will be a Metro out there at some point, but for many people that will still be at least an hour, often crowded, and often unreliable.

  • You just need to have one pilot for many aircraft.
  • I know. They can rent out jetpacks to launch up to the helipads! It's about as likely of an idea as stupid flying taxis is.

Mediocrity finds safety in standardization. -- Frederick Crane