Rolls-Royce's flying taxi will begin test flights 'by next year': Firm reveals new details on its 250mph prototype plane at Farnborough Airshow
Rolls-Royce has revealed more details around its plans to launch a five-seater flying taxi, and confirmed that a prototype vehicle will take to the skies next year.
The timeline for the launch was announced during a keynote presentation at the Farnborough Airshow, in Hampshire, earlier today.
Rolls-Royce expects the taxi to be operational within the next three to five years.
The aerospace company has purportedly ploughed millions into the development of the vehicle, which has cost Rolls-Royce in the 'single-digit millions of pounds', according to Phys.org.
The hybrid-electric vehicle will be capable of both vertical take-off and landing, bypassing the need for a runway.
Rolls-Royce says its plane will transport five passengers at speeds of up to 250mph (402 km/h) with a maximum range of 500 miles (800 km).
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Aerospace giant Rolls-Royce has unveiled its plans for a flying taxi, and a prototype will take to the skies next year
The advanced timeline from the firm comes after a presentation at the Farnborough Airshow, and the world-leader says it will be commercially viable by the early 2020s. Purportedly, the company has already invested several millions into the project
The Rolls-Royce presentation allowed the world-leading engineering company to divulge more details on its flying taxi concept, which it teased ahead of the keynote.
Rolls-Royce believes flying taxis will revolutionise the way people travel.
Speaking during the keynote, head of Rolls-Royce's electrical team, Rob Watson said: 'In this market, you will see something like this flying within three to five years, and we will demonstrate the system in two years.
'At the end of next year we will be flight ready,' he told AFP.
The prototype Rolls-Royce flying vehicle uses its own M250 gas turbine technology to deliver around 500kW to power six electric propulsors specially designed to have a low noise profile.
The wings rotate 90-degrees to enable a vertical take-off and landing and since it uses a hybrid design, the vehicle will not need to be recharged.
'There is an emerging market for all-electric planes but we believe that you need a level of requirement that an all electric system cannot really provide today,' Mr Watson said.
'So, all-electric is the way to hop around within a city, but if you want to travel 200 or 300 miles, if you want to run London to Paris, then you are going to want to run something that will give you that range.
'So we think you will see hybrid propulsion systems starting to make this market.
'Think of it like the car industry. Historically everybody had an internal combustion engine.
'Over time you add more electric capability to it and then you start to see electric cars. In the same way, we are introducing a hybrid propulsion system into this market because we think it gives you that range and capability.'
The Rolls-Royce presentation allowed the world-leading engineering company to showcase its aeronautical prowess. It claims flying taxis will revolutionise the way people travel
The concept Rolls-Royce flying vehicle uses its own M250 gas turbine technology to deliver around 500kW to power six electric propulsors specially designed to have a low noise profile
Once it has reaches the right altitude, the propellers on the wing can be folded away, reducing drag and cabin noise, with the craft relying upon the two rear propellers for thrust, Rolls-Royce claims.
Rolls-Royce says its flying taxi will be able to make use of pre-existing infrastructure, such as heliports on-top of buildings and airports.
Mr Watson added: 'Electrification is an exciting and inescapable trend across industrial technology markets and, while the move to more electric propulsion will be gradual for us, it will ultimately be a revolution.
'Building on our existing expertise in electric technologies and aviation, Rolls-Royce is actively exploring a range of possible markets and applications for electric and hybrid electric flight. Rolls-Royce has a strong track record as pioneers in aviation.
'From developing the first turbo-prop and jet engines, to creating the world's most efficient large civil aero-engine and vertical take-off and landing solutions, we have a very strong pedigree.
'As the third generation of aviation begins to dawn, it's time to be pioneers yet again.'
The firm is now focusing on electronic and hybrid power for the flying taxi, which will use electric vertical take-off and landing (EVTOL)
The Derby-based aerospace experts already build engines for aeroplanes, helicopters, and ships and it claims that as well as a flying taxi, the vehicle could also be deployed for personal, cargo and military use
As well as a flying taxi, the vehicle could also be deployed for personal, cargo and military use, Rolls-Royce has revealed.
The Derby-based aerospace experts already build engines for aeroplanes, helicopters, and ships.
The firm built the iconic Merlin engine, which was a mainstay in Spitfires and Hurricane fighter jets during World War Two.
After manufacturing nearly 150,000 of the engines, the firm is now focusing on electronic and hybrid power for the flying taxi, which will use electric vertical take-off and landing (EVTOL) instead of an internal combustion engine.
Rolls-Royce is entering a crowded market with its flying taxi, with dozens of other firms already working on autonomous flying vehicles.
Aerospace giant Rolls-Royce has confirmed it is working on a flying taxi, and it could be ready by the early 2020s. The hybrid vehicle could transport five passengers at speeds of 250mph for up to 500 miles without being recharged
The concept uses gas turbine technology to power an electric battery and the wings are able to rotate 90 degree. Once it has reaches the right altitude, the propellers on the wing can be folded away, reducing drag and cabin noise
WHAT TYPE OF FLYING TAXIS COULD WE EXPECT TO SEE IN THE FUTURE?
Advances in electric motors, battery technology and autonomous software has triggered an explosion in the field of electric air taxis.
Larry Page, CEO of Google parent company Alphabet , has poured millions into aviation start-ups Zee Aero and Kitty Hawk, which are both striving to create all-electric flying cabs.
Kitty Hawk is believed to be developing a flying car and has already filed more than a dozen different aircraft registrations with the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA.
Page, who co-founded Google with Sergey Brin back in 1998, has personally invested $100 million (£70 million) into the two companies, which have yet to publicly acknowledge or demonstrate their technology.
Secretive start-up Joby Aviation has come a step closer to making its flying taxi a reality.
The California-based company, which is building an all-electric flying taxi capable of vertical take-off, has received $100 million (£70 million) in funding from a group of investors led by Toyota and Intel.
The money will be used to develop the firm’s 'megadrone' which can reach speeds of 200mph (321kph) powered by lithium nickel cobalt manganese oxide batteries.
The Joby S2 prototype has 16 electric propellers, 12 of which are designed for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), which means no runway is needed.
AirSpaceX unveiled its latest prototype, Mobi-One, at the North American International Auto Show in early 2018. Like its closest rivals, the electric aircraft is designed to carry two to four passengers and is capable of vertical take-off and landing
The aircraft takes off vertically, like a helicopter, before folding away 12 of its propellers so it can glide like a plane once it is airborne.
Airbus is also hard at work on a similar idea, with its latest Project Vahana prototype, branded Alpha One, successfully completing its maiden test flight in February 2018.
The self-piloted helicopter reached a height of 16 feet (five metres) before successfully returning to the ground. In total, the test flight lasted 53 seconds.
Airbus previously shared a well-produced concept video, showcasing its vision for Project Vahana.
The footage reveals a sleek self-flying aircraft that seats one passenger under a canopy that retracts in similar way to a motorcycle helmet visor.
Airbus Project Vahana prototype, branded Alpha One, successfully completed its maiden test flight in February 2018. The self-piloted helicopter reached a height of 16 feet (five metres) before successfully returning to the ground. In total, the test flight lasted 53 seconds
Like Joby Aviation, Project Vahana is designed to be all-electric and take-off and land vertically.
AirSpaceX is another company with ambitions to take commuters to the skies.
The Detroit-based start-up has promised to deploy 2,500 aircrafts in the 50 largest cities in the United States by 2026.
AirSpaceX unveiled its latest prototype, Mobi-One, at the North American International Auto Show in early 2018.
Like its closest rivals, the electric aircraft is designed to carry two to four passengers and is capable of vertical take-off and landing.
AirSpaceX has even included broadband connectivity for high speed internet access so you can check your Facebook News Feed as you fly to work.
Aside from passenger and cargo services, AirSpaceX says the craft can also be used for medical and casualty evacuation, as well as tactical Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR).
Even Uber is working on making its ride-hailing service airborne.
Dubbed Uber Elevate, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tentatively discussed the company’s plans during a technology conference in January 2018.
‘I think it’s going to happen within the next 10 years,’ he said.
Established rivals include Airbus, ride-hailing company Uber, and a range of new start-ups, including one backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, known as Kitty Hawk.
Kitty Hawk last month launched the first test flight of its 'Flyer' model.
The one-seater vehicle only requires a one-hour training course before users are able to take to the skies, the company claims.
'If it's less than an hour, it opens up flight to pretty much everyone,' Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun recently told CNN.
For safety reasons, the vehicle is only being tested over water at a facility in Las Vegas for now.
Kitty Hawk is regarded as one of the pioneers of flying taxi technology.
Last year, the start-up received a $2 million (£1.5 million) investment from the US military to help advance the technology for potential use by armed forces.
Rolls-Royce´s flying taxi concept is on display at the Farnborough International Airshow. The marquee event for Rolls-Royce will last for the entire week
Kitty Hawk launched the first test flight of its 'Flyer' model last month. Interested customers don't even need a pilot's license to take Flyer for a spin, as the company says it only requires a one-hour training course before users are able to take to the skies
But despite the involvement of the US military, there will be 'no weapons' added to any of the company's all-electric flying vehicles, it has confirmed.
As well as the piloted version of the flying vehicle, the Flyer, Kitty Hawk is also actively developing an experimental pilot-less air taxi, known as Cora.
On the website for Cora, the Larry Page-funded firm emphasis the aircraft's role in solving urban traffic problems.
'Cora is about the time you could save soaring over traffic,' it reads.
'Designing an air taxi for everyday life means bringing the airport to you. That's why Cora can take off and land like a helicopter, eliminating the need for runways.
Kitty Hawk has already started conducting tests for its Cora flying taxi (pictured) in New Zealand, where it has confirmed it will eventually launch its commercial air taxi service
Cora (pictured above) has a total range of around 62 miles (100 km) and will eventually be summoned to customers using a smartphone app, akin to Uber
'Cora has the potential to transform spaces like rooftops and parking lots into places to take off right from your neighborhood.'
Kitty Hawk has already started conducting tests for its Cora flying taxi in New Zealand, where it has confirmed it will eventually launch its commercial air taxi service.
The small two-seater craft is designed to use self-flying software, which controls its 12 fans to provide lift-off and forward thrust – without the need for a runway.
The self-piloting aircraft has a wing span of 36 feet (11 m) and is capable of ferrying 400lb (181kg) in passengers and cargo, the company claims
Kitty Hawk claims its Cora self-piloting aircraft 'has the potential to transform spaces like rooftops and parking lots into places to take off right from your neighborhood'. Pictured: Images of the prototype plane in the latest FAA application
Once airborne, a single rear propeller pushes Cora through the air at speeds of up to 110 mph (180 kph) at altitudes between 500 and 3,000 feet (150 and 910 metres).
Cora has a total range of around 62 miles (100 km) and will eventually be summoned to customers using a smartphone app, akin to Uber.
The craft has a wing span of 36 feet (11 m) and can carry 400lb (181kg) in passengers and cargo.
Cora has three flight computers that operate independently, meaning it can continue to navigate if one of them fails. There is also a parachute for emergency landings if disaster strikes.
MEET THE KITTY HAWK: GOOGLE X FOUNDER REVEALS HIS INCREDIBLE FLYING 'JET SKI'
Kitty Hawk is an electrical aircraft that resembles a flying jet ski, but it doesn't require a pilot's license to fly.
It includes 'Godfather of self-driving cars,' Sebastian Thrun as chief executive and co-owner, and Larry Page among its investors.
The vehicle weighs around 220lbs (100kg) and can hit speeds of up to 25 miles per hour (40kph).
According to the Kitty Hawk site, the machine is 'safe, tested and legal to operate in the US', as long as it is flown in 'uncongested areas.'
Users can learn to fly the strange vehicle in minutes, the company claims.
The prototype can only fly around 10 metres (33 feet) over water, and the video of the vehicle shows it gliding over a lake in California.
The company is offering a $2000 (£1560) discount to those willing to pay an early $100 (£78) deposit for a vehicle now, though it has not said how much the vehicles will cost.
This prepayment will grant the discount as well as some early test flights with the Kitty Hawk, according to The New York Times.