A Cadillac passenger drone? It could happen
So, let’s take some stock on passenger drones.
We have the VoloCopter and the EHang as the most prominent autonomous ait taxi models actively trying to bring their products onto the mainstream transport industry today.
And soon we might have the Cadillac.
Imagine that. Flying in a Cadillac air taxi, instead of driving in the Cadillac car.
But that is as real as it gets. Do not be fooled into thinking that the picture above is a futuristic coffee maker on propellers. That coffee maker could be flying you around the city in a few years’ time.
During its keynote address at the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) yesterday, the car maker announced that it was working on a design concept for a passenger Vertical Take-Off and Landing drone that would help with its motto for achieving the three zeros – Zero Emissions, Zero Crashes and Zero Congestion.
Running on four propellers powered by a 90kilo-volt motor, the flying taxi will operate autonomously, with air-to-air and air-to ground communication taking care of things so the passenger concentrates on seating back and relaxing.
“The Vertical Taking Off and landing Drone of VTOL, is GM’s first foray into aerial mobility,” said the company’s Vice President of Global Design, Michael Simcoe. “We are preparing for a world where advances in electric and autonomous technology make personal air travel possible.”
GM imagines a world where their drone operates in a transport ecosystem that air and road transport, with Simcoe citing a scenario where an employee has to leave his office for a meeting. He will head to the vertiport on roof of the office building, hop onto an air taxi that will fly him directly to a destination vertiport, preferably on the roof where the meeting will be taking place. If not, then the passenger drone will fly him to a landing pad nearest to his destination, whereupon he will complete his journey using an autonomous car.
Zero crashes. Zero emissions. Zero congestion.
We do understand the Cadillac drone is still an idea on the General Motors computers right now, but it is great to see that the big players are seeing a future in autonomous air mobility. Hyundai were working on an air taxi with Uber’s Elevate, before the latter sold that part of the business; and Airbus are still hoping to launch their own CityAirbus sometime soon.
But – having acquired licences to begin flight tests in Europe and Asia – EHang and VoloCopter seem ahead of the curve; and kudos to them for that.
Actually, EHang yesterday announced that they will be taking the commercial passenger drone business to the next level in their home country, China, where the drone maker has joined hands with two other strategic partners to embark on operations for aerial sightseeing and other air mobility services in Hengqin New Area in Zhuhai, China.
“EHang has announced strategic partnerships with Zhuhai Da Heng Qin Pan-Tourism Development, Zhuhai Huafa Sports Operations Management and Flying World (Zhuhai) Technology. to jointly initiate Urban Air Mobility (UAM) operations for aerial sightseeing and other air mobility services in the Hengqin New Area, the largest island and a Free Trade Zone in southeast Zhuhai in Guangdong Province of China,” the company said in a statement. By establishing autonomous aerial vehicle experience centres and a suite of supporting service systems, EHang AAVs will be integrated into the daily life of the local population.”
The company even had its fleet of EH216s fly 36 tourists around Tiangin Park in Hengqin New Area at the signing ceremony on January 8 this year.