Could air taxis be a thing?
Evaluating the future of airborne urban transport
Vertical mobility is a hot topic among automotive and transport forecasters, and a recent study by Porsche Consulting has shone new light on the potential for what might soon be referred to as the ‘air taxi.’
Investment in the billions is already flowing into the vertical mobility sector, invited by huge advances in electric drive and the technology to enable vertical take-off and landing, or VTOL.
Porsche Consulting’s latest assessment is that VTOL vehicles have the potential to become a real means of transportation in as little as the next 15 years, with large parts of the population using them as we currently use a normal taxi. But the study also points out that air taxis are not, as yet, the silver bullet for our urban traffic and transport woes because of the sizeable technical and commercial obstacles that still exist.
Nevertheless, with their ability to serve a growing network of point-to-point connections, passenger drones, which is essentially what air taxis would be, could be a cornerstone of easing congestion in the future and the market for vertical mobility is predicted to reach around 32 billion US dollars by 2035. But to achieve that sort of growth would require at least half a million passengers a day to use air taxis, demanding between 1,000 to 2,500 take-off and landing spots in as many as 60 suitable cities worldwide. In other words, there’s a lot of work to do. And a lot of investment needed.
“Vertical mobility can develop into a lucrative niche area,” says Gregor Grandl, Senior Partner at Porsche Consulting and author of the study. “But if air taxis are to become a reality for everyone, courageous pioneers with persistence, deep pockets, and a sense of responsibility will be needed. Safety and social acceptance will also play huge roles.”
Gregor Grandl, Senior Partner at Porsche Consulting and author of the study
In a nutshell, vertical mobility will only become commercially viable when large numbers of people use it. But this will only happen when trips are convenient, safe, reliable and attractively priced. And when a useful network of routes is established.
“The need for mobility is as old as the dream of flying,” says Federico Magno, Executive Director Mobility at Porsche Consulting. "Mobility will become increasingly customer-centred, individualised, fast, and integrated. Air taxis will only be successful if they meet all these criteria and are incorporated into existing transportation networks. But even so we estimate their market share in 2035 to be less than 0.3 per cent. Mobility of the future will therefore need even more ideas and strategies."