Yvonne Winter
Yvonne Winter, COO and co-founder of Flynow, beside the prototype of a mini helicopter made by the Austria-based company, displayed at the Science and Technology Hub of COP28 UAE in Dubai on December 9, 2023. Image Credit: Shyam A. Krishna/Gulf News

Flying taxis are the future of urban transport. A future where modern realities of gridlocks and traffic congestion cease to exist. That’s imperative in a deadline-driven world, where urban transport systems haven’t kept up with the turbocharged growth in road traffic.

Here’s where flying taxis come in. The idea has gained ground quickly, with several startups and major aviation companies jostling for a share of the electric air taxi pie. The models are in various stages of production, but none has taken off yet.

The first flying taxis will wing into Paris for the Olympic Games next year if the German company Volocopter’s plans remain on schedule. Two years later, Dubai skies will be buzzing with these battery-powered flying machines. And soon, these small helicopters will revolutionise air travel and the travel industry.

Helicopter without a pilot

Austrian company Flynow has joined the race for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for urban mobility. One of their prototypes has been drawing enthusiasts outside the Science and Technology Hub at the COP28 UAE in Dubai.

What’s unusual is the absence of a pilot. It’s not uncommon in Dubai where the Metro trains run without drivers. Flying taxis are basically drones which fly from one point to another.

Echoes of Mars Ingenuity helicopter

Flynow has received regulatory approval with certification from the European Agency for Space Aviation. In 28 months, the Salzburg-based company expects to roll out the cargo version, said Yvonne Winter, the chief operating officer and co-founder of Flynow.

“We start with the cargo version, which can carry 200kg payload. It will be the most efficient, most silent, most affordable configuration for transporting goods from A to B,” Winter told Gulf News.

read more

The Flynow aircraft, similar to NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity with two rotor blades, has a range of 50km and fly at a speed of 130km/h with the sound of a washing machine and no carbon dioxide. It will operate at an altitude of 100 and 300 metres, depending on the country’s regulations.

“After the cargo version, we start producing the passenger version, the single and the twin-seater. It’s a purely automatic approach. We have three of those testing currently,” Winter said.

The air taxi market is getting crowded. A Morgan Stanley Research study says the autonomous urban aircraft market will be worth $1.5 trillion by 2040. Frost & Sullivan’s urban air mobility (UAM) study sees air taxis beginning in 2022 in Dubai and expanding to more than 430,000 units in operation by 2040.