The flying car is getting closer to reality –

We see it in movies, video games or comics. But reality catches up with fiction. From now on, the Swedish brand Jetson will offer its airplane to the general public.

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

On its technical sheet, the device can bring you up to 400 meters above sea level for a speed of 100 km / h. The electric motors allow a flight of about twenty minutes. Object price: just under 90,000 francs. The company has sold three in Switzerland. They will be delivered in 2023.

>> Jetson One presentation video:

Do we have to take off in Switzerland with this plane? Requires a permit? What are the rules during the flight? Is it safe? The questions multiply as the object is still unusual. For this machine does not fall into any category.

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

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

No certified device in Europe

At present, no vehicle of this type is certified in Europe. However, the work is progressing. It is made by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). A number of rules on the operation of drones have just been announced, and a proposal for a regulation on the operation of “air taxis” will be put to public consultation in the coming weeks.

Central to these approaches is the concept 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 (on board or remotely) or safe integration of these aircraft in the current airspace.

But the administrative machine has been launched. So we could have some kind of flying cars in our sky. And faster than you think. The European Agency believes that this urban air mobility should become a reality per capita 3 to 5 years. Japan or South Korea are preparing for the arrival of flying taxis by 2025.

A fleet of drones

But do not 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 in it and projects are multiplying. In March, one of the market leaders, the German start-up Volocopter, traveled 170 millions of dollars. Now all the big manufacturers are going into it. Airbus, Hyundai, Suzuki, Boeing, Rolls-Royce. The future market will be in the billions.

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

Now all eyes are on Singapore. Volocopter is expected to open the first commercial line to transport passengers in 2024, one 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 envisages the installation of four to six vertical gates by 2030.

In Paris for the Olympics?

A system that would eventually be found in several large cities. In Europe, in Paris, the race to hold a demonstration on the occasion of the 2024 Olympics is launched. The region wants to use the media coverage to present its competence center around Paris Airport (ADP) and RATP.

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

In March, a prototype of Volocopter 2X completed test flights at Pontoise Airport. The electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft had a pilot, but was also remotely controlled.

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

Technology made to hold in the French capital. “We see that there are use cases that can be quickly put in place, especially for the transfer of organs, blood bags or perhaps even patients between hospitals in Île-de-France,” says Romain Erny, mobility expert for the Select Paris region, a economic promotion association.

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

We are still far from competition for metro, train or bus. At the heart of the process, the developers of these projects are asking themselves a question: how to make this new technology acceptable to the population?

Dealing with nuisances

For the genes are many. First of all: security. In areas of high density, no one wants to take the risk of an accident that would destroy confidence. Reliability is therefore required, or at least equivalent to the current air traffic.

Another problem is the noise from the plane when flying at an altitude of between 100 and 300 meters above the city. The electric motors are huge fans that would make three to four times less noise than a helicopter. Measures are currently being taken to define a maximum certification threshold.

We must not create jealousy in society. We can already hear motorists trapped in traffic jams against these devices whirling like the wind. Privacy also gets a hit. These new air corridors will offer new views of buildings or gardens. Not to mention some visual pollution.

The technology is still under development. Once the laws have been passed, the people and politicians convinced, it becomes a matter of adopting a new pill: autonomous transport. As with cars, the industry dreams of a system powered solely by artificial intelligence.

Pascal Wassmer

Leave a Comment