Israeli startup AIR develops a flying commercial vehicle that will be used to commute people for short trips. It can carry two people including an operator and a passenger. The vehicle can go as far as 100 miles on a single charge.
AIR, and many competitors around the world, are betting this kind of travel will eventually become commonplace. The test-phase voyage may not look out of the ordinary at first given the huge progress made in drone technology. Another propellered aircraft rose vertically off the ground and then thrust forward high in the sky. It is designed to fly commuters on short trips far above streets overcrowded with cars and has made its maiden unmanned flight, a milestone the developer says will help it reach the market in the next two years.
“This is a major milestone,” said CEO and co-founder Rani Plaut. “We have transitioned today to forward flight, bringing (closer) our dream of mass production of the AIR ONE.” There are still many significant obstacles to pass before people can expect to fly themselves across cities in small vehicles like this – including creating regulations and commercializing the technology. AIR’s next test phase is with someone onboard, Plaut said.
He hopes their electric vertical takeoff and landing, or eVTOL, aircraft will hit the market at the end of 2024 at a base price of $150,000. Average day-to-day speed will be about 100 mph (160 kph) at an altitude of 1,200 feet (366 m), Plaut said. The startup said in a statement that it “combines sustainable aerospace innovation with automotive know-how” and is tapping into a nascent eVTOL market estimated to reach $12 billion by 2030.
“AIR is looking to make a true difference by making the freedom of flight truly accessible to people,” Plaut, who serves as AIR’s CEO, told according to Times of Israel. “At the moment, flying for most of us involves getting into a huge metal tube and being transported in that way. You don’t really feel as if you are flying. We want to bring aviation to the masses and combine the range, simplicity, and ease-of-use of fly-by-wire [computerized flight systems] with the DNA of cars — usability, low cost of maintenance, and so on. And it’s electric so there’s a green element,” said Plaut.
“Aircraft can be easy to handle if you have good tech,” he said. To that end, AIR developed what it called “fly by intent” software, which will allow ordinary people to operate and navigate the vehicle, not just trained pilots. The aircraft is also equipped with an AI-enabled monitoring system for frequent inspections to “ensure paramount safety, even for riders with minimal training,” the company said.