Human efforts to achieve flight date back to the ancient world, says Rani Plaut, CEO and Co-Founder of AIR. Clearly the Wright brothers’ 1903 triumph hardly marked the end of this millennia-long quest for elevated mobility, but are we about to experience a paradigm shift in personal aviation?
Less than a generation after the Wright brothers’ success at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Glenn Curtiss introduced the first “flying car,” dubbed the Autoplane, at the 1917 Pan-American Aeronautic Exposition. From The Jetsons to Blade Runner: 2049, popular culture is filled with futuristic visions of worlds where people move from A to B in flying vehicles.
Of course, such vehicles have yet to hit the skies. There was even a popular Internet meme about how the realities (and absurdities) of 21-Century life fail to match up with long-ago predictions that we’d all be whizzing around in a flying-car utopia by now.
But recent technological advances have fuelled a burgeoning Electric Vehicle Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) scene, with investors pumping billion into innovative startups in the hopes of seeing Curtiss’s century-old dream take flight.
With forecasters predicting that the eVTOL market will ascend to $14.7 billion by 2041, the coming decades will give rise to a new mobility ecosystem that truly reflects humans’ longstanding ambition to touch the skies – not only on the occasional business trip or a family vacation but in their everyday lives.
Halted Mobility in the Era of COVID-19
As recently as one year ago, the wide-open skies seemed to have closed in. The nascent COVID-19 pandemic ground air travel to a virtual halt in the late winter and early spring, with international air travel plunging 60% over the course of 2020. Predictions that flights wouldn’t return to pre-pandemic levels until mid-decade seemed far from unreasonable. Few would have expected that US flights leading into the Independence Day 2021 holiday weekend would actually exceed those levels – but they did, underscoring the resilience of the human desire to hit the skies and see the world.
At the same time, the pandemic – which has significantly diminished but is not yet over – has spurred a new look at more personal, social distancing-friendly forms of travel, which helps explain why personal auto sales have surged of late. This development is where our abiding desire to move around and seek out new forms of adventure dovetails with the resurgent interest in private forms of mobility.
A Mobility Renaissance
From expanding drone delivery programs to increasing demand for cleaner, greener forms of transportation amid global climate change, the eVTOL market is poised to benefit from larger commercial and economic trends that have reshaped how people think about air transportation and fostered greater interest in alternatives to traditional vehicles.
As with any new form of transportation, public acceptance will be a key barrier for the eVTOL market to overcome.
Developing a robust urban air infrastructure and a viable set of regulatory standards will not only accelerate the industry’s growth but will also help soothe public fears about this newfangled technology. Deloitte projects that following a wave of successful pilot programs and growing public acceptance, autonomous passenger eVTOLs will see greater adoption beginning in 2030, with production costs plunging as manufacturers achieve economies of scale and battery costs decrease.
That means that the next decade will be critical in formulating the regulatory policies and developing the technologies necessary to make flying cars an everyday reality for consumers across the globe.
What starts as an impossible dream often becomes humdrum within a remarkably short span of time. And while flying cars have existed in the popular imagination for well over a century, they’re closer than ever to going from the stuff of science fiction and Internet memes to conveying passengers on their daily commutes. After a year when the skies seemed harder to reach than at any time in recent history, we’re on the cusp of reaching unprecedented heights of innovation and human achievement.
Rani Plaut is CEO & Co-Founder of AIR
About AIR – promising a paradigm shift in personal aviation
Israeli eVTOL start-up AIR is promising a “paradigm shift in personal aviation” based on what it calls “airEVs for the consumer market”. The company’s vision is for a “private electric aircraft parked by your house”. It says it combines sustainable aerospace innovation with automotive know-how to create airEVs that offer intuitive ‘fly by intent’ handling and a one-of-a-kind user-centric experience for the everyday flier.
While the vast majority of the sector is focused on building commercially piloted or autonomous air taxis for cities, AIR offers an alternative for those who want “to enjoy the ultimate freedom of flying on their own terms”. Thanks to its vertical take-off and landing capabilities and cutting-edge flight control system, the company’s vehicles, it says, offer a completely new and sustainable way to get to any destination.
“Everybody wants to fly, and with AIR, they finally can. We’re creating a fun and functional personal airEVs that will blaze a path towards a new era of air mobility accessible to everyone,” said AIR CEO and Co-Founder, Rani Plaut. “Our company is building airEVs for the reality we live in and the future of our dreams, putting usability, safety and thrill at the forefront of every product decision so we can put the power of flight in every person’s hands.”
AIR is promising a product reveal in the Autumn.