At the Detroit Motor Show, AirSpaceX demonstrated a scale model of the Mobi-One, an autonomous flying taxi that can take off and land vertically (VTOL) and reach a speed of 400 km/h.
The Mobi-One is equipped with four electric motors fixed to the wings. To take off, the wing rotates to its vertical position, but once in the air, is turns horizontal so it can fly at speed. It would be suitable for transporting four passengers with 100 kg of cargo and has a range of 115 km.
Nothing is yet known about the technical details of the craft, so whether it uses batteries or fuel cells is anyone's guess. And that goes for the electric motors used, too. After all, an aircraft has to combine sufficient thrust with a lightweight structure, and that doesn’t happen by accident.
AirSpaceX wants to use existing technology for autonomous flying, with the craft also having a warning system that ensures a safe mutual distance is maintained. The idea is that they will fly at a height of between 150 and 300 m.
According to Jon Rimanelli, founder of AirSpaceX, the new type of aircraft is possible thanks to recent advancements in the field of lightweight materials, electric propulsion and automation. ‘We want to take these craft into mass production, using techniques from the world of cars to keep it affordable’, he states in the AirSpaceX press release.
The following step for the company is to construct a full-blown prototype and run through the approval procedures of the aviation authorities. It is not known when the first craft will take to the skies.
Finding the optimum design
AirSpaceX is not the only US company occupied with air taxis, by the way. There is also the Vahana, which is not dissimilar to the Mobi-One, but has the addition of a front-mounted wing with motors for stability The company is planning for it to make its maiden flight this year.
Then there is Aurora Flight Sciences, partner of taxi company Uber, that made a test flight this year with a trial model.
What is striking about the three companies is that they jump a lot from design to design: apparently the ideal shape for the lightweight electrical VTOL unit has not yet been discovered.
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Opening photo: impression of the flying taxi. Image: AirSpaceX.
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