The flying car is getting closer to reality –

We see it in movies, video games or comics. But reality is approaching fiction very well. As of now, the Swedish brand Jetson is offering its flying machine to the general public.

You may have dreamed of sitting in a drone walk between the mountains or avoid traffic jams. With its sky buggy, the Swedish company Jetson allows you to live this experience.

In its datasheet, the device can take you up to 400 meters above sea level for a ground speed of 100 km/h. The electric motors allow a flight of about twenty minutes. Price of the object: just under 90,000 francs. The company sold three in Switzerland. They will be delivered in 2023.

>>Jetson One intro video:

Can we take off in Switzerland with this aircraft? Is an authorization required? What are the flight rules? It’s safe? The questions multiply, because the object is still unusual. Because this machine does not fit into any category.

The decision is without appeal. “This device is not certified and cannot be used in Switzerland,” announces Antonello Laveglia, spokesman for the Federal Department of Civil Aviation (FOCA). And buyers can’t change that. The manufacturer must have its system certified innovative.

Problem. The legal basis to certify it does not exist, according to OFAC. “The work required for certification would be very important because it would also be necessary to define the applicable legal requirements. In addition, requirements for pilots (training/license) as well as procedures would also have to be established.”, explains Antonello Laveglia.

No devices certified in Europe

At the moment, no vehicle of this type is certified in Europe. However, work is progressing. It is done by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). A series of rules regarding the operation of drones have just been published and a proposal for a regulation for the operation of “air taxis” should be put up for public consultation in the coming weeks.

Central to these approaches is the concept of urban air mobilityunderstand the transport of passengers or goods in complex environments such as cities.

And the challenges are many for EASA. Navigation standards, pilot training (onboard or remotely), or the safe integration of these aircraft into current airspace.

But the administrative machine starts. So that we could have some kind of flying car in our sky. And faster than you think. The European agency believes that this urban air mobility must become a reality 3 to 5 years. Japan or South Korea are preparing the arrival of flying taxis for 2025.

A fleet of drones

But don’t imagine “back to the future” cars or “Fifth Element” taxis. Today, the devices are mostly electric and look more like drones or small helicopters.

Investors believe this and projects multiply. In March, one of the market leaders, the German start-up Volocopter, raised 170 million dollars. Now all the big manufacturers are getting into it. Airbus, Hyundai, Suzuki, Boeing, Rolls-Royce. The futures market will be in the billions.

And Switzerland is no exception. Dufour Aerospace Zurich is working with Rega to create the air ambulance of the future. The company has just established itself in Canada, Montrealthe second largest helicopter market in the world.

Now all eyes are on Singapore. Volocopter is expected to open the first commercial line to carry passengers in 2024, a year behind the original schedule.

>>Volocopter test flight in Singapore

Initially, it will be tourist flights over Marina Bay, then cross-border flights to Indonesia and Malaysia. The project foresees the installation of four to six vertiports by 2030.

In Paris for the Olympics?

A system that should eventually be found in several major cities. In Europe, in Paris, the race to make a demonstration on the occasion of the 2024 Olympics is launched. The region wants to take advantage of the media coverage to present its Competence Center around Paris airport (ADP) and the RATP.

The goal is to be able to travel around thirty kilometers in the city of Paris in just fifteen minutes. The price? Between one and two euros per kilometer, according to the RATP’s wishes in 2020.

In March, a prototype of the volocopter 2X performed test flights at Pontoise airfield. The electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft carried a pilot, but was also remotely piloted.

>>Volocopter at Pontoise airfield (F) for acoustic tests

Technology made to last in the French capital. “We see that there are use cases that can be implemented quickly, in particular for the transfer of organs, blood bags or perhaps even patients between hospitals in Île-de-France”, believes Romain Erny, mobility specialist at the Choose Paris Region, an economic promotion association.

In large congested cities, drones can also provide services for transporting goods in an emergency. “Secondly, let’s think about passenger transport”, analyzes Romain Erny. “We also believe that the capacity of these aircraft must be increased. They must be able to carry more than one pilot and his passenger.”

We are still a long way from competition by subway, train or bus. At the heart of the process, the developers of these projects ask themselves: how to make this new technology acceptable to the population?

manage annoyances

Because the inconveniences are numerous. First: security. In high-density areas, no one wants to risk an accident that ruins confidence. Reliability is therefore necessary, or at least equivalent to current air traffic.

Another issue is the noise produced by the aircraft when flying at an altitude between 100 and 300 meters above the city. Electric motors are large fans that would make three to four times less noise than a helicopter. Measures are currently being taken to set a ceiling for certification.

We must not create jealousy in society. We can already hear the drivers stuck in the traffic jam against these devices that spin like the wind. Privacy is also affected. These new aerial corridors will offer new views of buildings or gardens. Not to mention the visual pollution.

The technology is still under development. Once the laws are voted on, the population and politicians convinced, it will be a matter of approving a new pill: autonomous transport. As with cars, the industry dreams of a system entirely powered by artificial intelligence.

Pascal Wassmer

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