Explained: What is an air taxi, what is the market like?

Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia believes that with the new drone policy, air taxis could be seen in India soon
Last Updated 27 August 2021, 10:31 IST

After the government notified the new rules for drones on Thursday, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said that with help from the new policy, we may soon see air taxis traverse India’s airspace.

“Air taxis are being researched and invented globally and many startups are coming up,” Scindia said.

Here’s a look at air taxis and their market worldwide

What is an air taxi?

With urban centres facing rising traffic issues, transportation system malfunctions, delays and the consequent pollution, air taxis have become an attractive option for local commute and link suburbs to urban centres.

An air taxi, literally a flying car, is a small commercial aircraft or a helicopter for short flights on demand. It is considered as an alternative for travel in urban centres with congested roads and is also called an urban air mobility (UAM) vehicle.

The concept has not always been associated with local travel. It started with a wider scope of distance, like travel to islands, graduating to large distances on the mainland, and finally came into the same league as an Uber or Ola.

Are air taxis coming to the world soon?

All major automobile companies and promising startups have already delved into the urban air mobility market, with Toyota, Hyundai, Uber, Airbus and Boeing working on their models.

Electric-powered air taxis are also a growing prospect of this industry for companies.

German flying taxi startup Volocopter hopes to have a two-seater air taxi in service by the 2024 Paris Olympics begin. Hyundai said it plans to have functional electric air taxis by 2025.

Airbus’s Project Vahana is a step further in the thought and is testing its self-piloted electric aircraft.

In early 2020, Toyota invested nearly $400 million in electric air taxi company Joby Aviation, one of the many rising startups for the next generation of mobility.

Luxury car company Porsche and Boeing have come together to explore opportunities in the flying taxis market., as has Aston Martin, when it announced its Volante Vision, a three-seater air taxi.

India’s first Air Taxi service, the UDAN Scheme Air Taxi service, was launched in January this year, when Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar flagged off the three-seater plane from Chandigarh airport, under the Regional Connectivity Scheme RCS-UDAN.

Many other startups in India are working on UAM vehicles.

How is the market supposed to grow?

According to a Morgan Stanley Research, the autonomous aircraft market could be worth nearly $1.5 trillion by 2040. Another study sees air taxis already in operation in Dubai as early as 2022.

(Published 27 August 2021, 09:39 IST)

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