Aircraft will take off and land vertically, and carry a single passenger between transport hubs, says the capital’s airports operator. Yes, there are problems getting around Paris at the best of times, but this seems unbelievable. The first test centre has been opened in the suburbs, so it appears we may actually see them next year. Senay Boztas discusses latest developments in an article on The Guardian website.
Electric air taxis being developed for Paris Olympics in 2024
Athletes are getting in shape for the Paris Olympic Games in 2024, and so is the world’s first electric air taxi network.
“We are going to make it happen,” Solène Le Bris of Paris airports operator Groupe ADP told an industry audience at Amsterdam Drone Week. “We are trying to launch the first e-VTOL [vertical takeoff and landing] pre-commercial service in the world: that’s our ambition.”
In a packed talk on Tuesday, the first outlines were revealed of what has been dubbed the “Tesla of the skies”.
Senior civil engineer Le Bris explained that there will be five vertiports where passengers can board the vehicles, the first of which at Cergy-Pontoise opened in November and is functioning as a test centre.
Using the existing helicopter route network, the vehicles – known as VoloCity air taxis – will fly with one passenger and one pilot along two routes, taking short rides from Charles de Gaulle airport to Le Bourget then to a new landing pad at Austerlitz Paris, and another route from Paris to Sans-Cyr.
Thierry Allain, head of innovation at the Direction General de l’Aviation Civile (DGAC) regulator, said a safety-first approach using existing networks was key. “For the regulation issues, the challenges we have are not that big,” he said. “Of course, the burden of regulation applies to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency – they have to certify the VoloCity and the operator with regulation that is being built right now.”
Romain Erny, head of aerospace and mobility at Choose Paris Region, said the public response would determine the air taxis’ future. “The second step is the Olympics and Paralympics,” he said. “The main lesson is to see how the people react to these new type of services. For most of the citizens in Paris, [they] are still science fiction! They need to touch it, to be inside the vehicle, and we need their feedback. The Olympics are the start.”
The “passenger experience” in the ports is aimed to be as streamlined as possible: some cities want it to be like a metro, others want more security, said Ankit Dass, chief technology officer at Skyports, the British wing of the project.
Currently, the team of experts is thrashing out whether they need extra landing pads in case of problems, and whether wind turbulence by helicopters could have a negative effect, even though the taxis will fly lower.
Le Brin said it hasn’t been decided how tickets will be allocated but there are likely to be a limited number.
“We are also looking at the use of e-VTOL for medical purposes, with Paris hospitals,” she added. “Emergency doctors say if you reach the site one minute earlier in a heart attack you increase the chances of survival by 10%.”