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Flying taxis are almost ready for takeoff, but cities are completely unprepared

Flying taxis, drones that can transport people, may soon be a common sight in the skies above our cities. Major players in the aerospace and automobile industries, including Boeing, Hyundai, Airbus, and Toyota, are developing fleets of these innovative vehicles.

These companies are ready to launch a new era of urban mobility. Both Europe and the US are laying down the groundwork for this. They have drafted new regulations for the operation of air taxis. Australia is also gearing up to follow suit.

While this paints an exciting picture of the future, there are crucial scientific and safety challenges to overcome. One of these challenges is a phenomenon known as wind gusts that can destabilize aircrafts.

Flying taxis must be able to withstand wind gusts

Dr Abdulghani Mohamed, an experienced aerospace engineer, and his team at RMIT University in Australia have dedicated more than a decade to studying these dynamics, recently publishing their findings.

“Low-flying aircraft are at risk from wind gusts because they land and take off at low speed,” explained Mohamed.

According to their research, sudden wind gusts forming around city buildings can pose significant safety challenges for air taxis and drones. These can occur in under a second.

This implies that air taxis and drones operating in cities will need more power during take-off and landing as compared to operations in open spaces or airports.

“These aircraft need powerful motors that can rapidly change the thrust generated by the propellers to rapidly force the vehicle back on-course, a process which requires more energy,” Mohamed clarified.

Developing weather frameworks to accommodate flying taxis

Mohamed and his team believe that as countries around the globe create regulations for these Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) aircraft, they need to consider weather frameworks to ensure safety and reliability.

This includes specifically addressing the issue of safely traversing building flow fields. Mohamed is urging for site-specific wind simulations and measurements to identify hazardous regions.

“We need to identify hazardous regions to avoid as we decide on the location of vertiports – where these vehicles will land and take off. This would not only increase safety but also reduce fleet interruptions due to wind conditions,” he stated.

Australia is still in the process of determining whether the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) or the Bureau of Meteorology will handle these safety and weather considerations.

But one thing is clear. Flying taxis will require weather information of much higher resolution and faster rates than currently available for flight planning.

Modifications to existing buildings may be necessary

Mohamed also emphasized the necessity for purpose-built vertiports. Modifying existing buildings to serve as such is the simplest solution

“Purpose-built vertiports mean we could integrate geometric design features to reduce hazardous flow conditions from occurring, and we are exploring this in our current research,” he shared.

Their team is not only studying the wind gusts around buildings and the sensitivity of vehicles to gusts and turbulence. They are also looking at different building shapes that could minimize the adverse effects and developing flight-stability technologies.

With a vision of the future in mind, they are continuously working on their wind sensing drones. These drones are instrumented with wind anemometers. This allows for precise mapping around large infrastructures.

The University of Maryland and Lehigh University collaborated on this study, with funding from the US Airforce Office for Scientific Research and DSI Group. Their research could have a major impact on shaping the regulation of vertiports, flight paths, and flying taxi requirements across the globe.

More about flying taxis, or air taxis

Air taxis, also known as flying cars or flying taxis, are a type of passenger drone or aircraft designed to transport people from one place to another. They are made for travel within or between urban areas.

These vehicles are now at the end of the development phase. Several companies, including major players in the aviation and technology sectors, are close to releasing functional flying taxis into public airspace.

Here are some key points to understand about air taxis:

Design and Technology

Designers build many air taxis, which can come in different forms, with a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability. This means they can ascend, descend, and hover much like a helicopter, but they may also have the ability to fly like a traditional airplane once they’re at a certain altitude.

This dual capability can make air taxis more versatile in urban settings. Designers create some air taxis to be fully electric (eVTOL), potentially making them more environmentally friendly than traditional, fuel-powered vehicles.


The long-term vision for many companies in this field is to create fully autonomous air taxis that can navigate and operate without a human pilot. As of my last update in 2021, autonomous flight technology is still developing and has not been widely adopted due to regulatory and safety challenges.

Regulation and Infrastructure

One of the biggest challenges for the air taxi industry is regulation. In order to operate, these vehicles will need to comply with aviation safety regulations, which can vary by country and even by state or region within countries. Infrastructure will also need to be developed to accommodate air taxis, including ‘vertiports’ where the vehicles can take off, land, and potentially recharge.

Use Cases

The envisioned use cases for air taxis include urban transportation (to alleviate road traffic), airport shuttles, and emergency services. They could also serve in hard-to-reach locations or during disasters when traditional transportation methods are not viable.

Companies Involved

A number of companies are working on flying taxi technology. These include aviation companies like Boeing and Airbus, technology companies like Uber (which sold its air taxi division to Joby Aviation in 2020), startups like Volocopter and Ehang, and automakers like Hyundai and Toyota.


Predictions for when air taxis will become mainstream vary, but some companies have suggested they could begin operating in some form as early as the mid-2020s.

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