Fraunhofer IAO Flight Taxis in Reality Check

Is the air taxi ready to take off yet? The Fraunhofer IAO did the reality check in a study and examined various factors of 3D mobility.

The study deals both with general goals of urban mobility and with concrete technological issues related to 3 D mobility, with organizational aspects such as the development of an adequate infrastructure and the stakeholders that need to be brought together for the implementation of air taxis.

With regard to the maturity level of the technologies for 3 D mobility, the study concludes that some of them are still in development, but that individual technologies already show a very advanced and application-oriented maturity level.

The suitability of different drive technologies based purely on batteries, hydrogen or conventional fuels for different applications was also examined. With regard to the take-off and landing process, the study authors consider both vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) and concepts that require a runway (STOL).

Whether and in what form air taxis can be used at all, the research team has gone through various application scenarios in the course of the study and, in doing so, has used "customer journeys" to make it possible to experience in a practical way what everyday life with an air taxi could look like from booking to disembarking.

The use cases "urban air taxi", the air taxi as an "air rescue service", "ferry replacement", and "airport shuttle" as well as the individual flight car were outlined. In the scenarios, the relevance of each solution is examined, the target groups are defined, and the suitability of the various technologies is evaluated. In order to make the application even more tangible, the scientists have analysed routes and traffic flows in the Stuttgart Metropolitan Region.

"Some technologies are still in the development phase", study author Daniel Duwe comments on the status quo of flight taxis. He has been researching the topic of "3 D mobility" for several years and has also recently submitted his doctorate on the subject.

For him, legal requirements, the control of air traffic as well as the construction of urban infrastructure, especially so-called vertiports for take-off and landing, are the biggest hurdles in the implementation of the product technology. So it may still take several years before air taxis take off.

"In progressive regions of the world where laws and infrastructure can be quickly adapted, however, air taxis may be able to take off in just a few years," estimates Duwe.