Once a far-fetched sci-fi dream, now the near future of transportation. Technology advancements and huge capital investments are moving drone taxis into a reality, to make our journeys across cities faster, easier, and cleaner.
The Drone Taxi Market is Taking Off
The global market for drone taxis is expected to grow from $74m in 2025 to $860m by 2030 – a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 63%. A funding package of £273m has been unveiled by the UK Government for the UK's aerospace sector to invest in technology such as solar-powered aircraft, flying taxis and drones to carry medical treatment. The plan will see the UK build a 164-mile automated drone superhighway within the next two years, connecting towns and cities.
The Future is En-Route
Drone taxis will be landing even sooner than we might expect. Several companies like Boeing, Airbus, Hyundai and Joby are currently developing eVTOL vehicles (electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles). eVTOLs are quiet, comfortable, and carbon-free and are the future of easing urban transport issues, whilst getting passengers to their destinations in record time.
Many developers believe drone taxis will be safety certified and clear to take off by or even before 2025. Vertical claims they have the highest number of conditional pre-orders for their VA-X4 vehicle as of yet. The VA-X4 carries four passengers and a pilot. In the rear of the drone taxi, passengers will sit facing each other, like you would in a London black cab. The VA-X4 flies by using quiet electric rotors that produce less carbon than a Tesla would driving the same distance on the road below.
Joby’s JAS4-1 is a four-passenger drone taxi that is designed to lift off like a helicopter but fly horizontally like a plane. However, multiple hurdles like governments and the FAA creating new regulations remain in place before Joby can begin transporting passengers.
French officials are looking to test drone taxis in the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris. The program is set to shuttle spectators via two air routes during the Games. In 2021 trials had already begun at the Pontoise airfield, where they are evaluating components, such as boarding and disembarking procedures, noise and vibration levels, battery charging and how to integrate the drone taxis with conventional air traffic.
Fit to Fly
Electric propulsion, lightweight composites and super-efficient batteries are the future of quieter, cleaner and more sustainable aviation. But are NDT testing requirements ready for this new innovation?
Recently Boeing has urged regulators to give drone taxis the same strict safety standards as commercial jets, even though drone taxis carry far fewer passengers, they still fly above crowded urban areas. Commercial jets are required to have redundancies on a critical system that would lead to a catastrophic failure if they could not function.
Since 2009, Joby has been designing and flight-testing a prototype aircraft that’s capable of serving in a network of drone taxis. NDT will be required to push onward with certifying the drone taxis with the Federal Aviation Administration, high-rate production and preparing for commercialisation with their launch target in 2024.
NASA has been testing one of Joby’s drone taxis, where they have a rigorous test plan to perform, which includes collecting data on noise, movement, and communications from the various forms of flight.
As companies aim to provide this safe, affordable and fully electric air transportation that’s accessible to everyone, they will require non-destructive testing (NDT) to see it through certification and high-rate production. If you’re developing new and innovative products and need managing your NDT data, get in touch.