This Futuristic, Zero-Emission AirTaxi Could Hit the Market as Soon as 2020
Fulfilling the dreams of sci-fi fans everywhere, a Russian startup called Bartini unveiled a prototype of a flying taxi yesterday, alongside some shockingly early predictions about when these puppies will be able to take to the skies for actual commercial use.
Assembled last March at NUST MISIS KINETICA High Complexity Protoyping Center in Moscow, the vehicle features Back To the Future Gull-wing doors and drone-esque horizontal propellers that make it look as though it just warped in from the future. (The CTO of Bartini, Vladimir Salatov, even admitted he was inspired by the movie.) The startup, a member of McFly.aero’s air taxi incubator, expects to reach the commercial market by 2020. This puts them ahead of Uber, whose similarly audacious vision set a timeline closer to 2023.
The aircraft lifts off vertically like a helicopter, but flies horizontally. This agility comes from taking advantage of the unconventional Bartini effect, which, despite the name, is not a drink but an Italian-Soviet scientist, Robert Ludvigowith Bartini. First used for a USSR flying boat developed during the 1930s, Bartini discovered an aerodynamic phenomenon where thrust is increased and drag is reduced by placing propellers in tandem, with motors rotating in different directions. Encased in a metal ring, the cohesive system is known as an impeller.
When testing the prototype in an open space, the team found that the Bartini had good maneuverability and stability, which is necessary if Bartini is to populate the city skies with affordable flights.
The 60 kg protoype is 1:2 scale and can hit peak speeds of 200 km/hr (about 125 miles per hour). It also uses coaxial blades, which are basically two helicopter rotors stacked on top of each other, to prevent the aircraft from being too noisy. Bartini aims to expand quickly, first developing a two-seater before moving to a conventional 4-seater by 2020, and a fully developed air taxi service once the fleet is built. The full size will reach 300 km per hour with the ability to take 400 kg (about 880 lbs) of cargo.
“That will make Bartini cross almost any city in 15 minutes,” says Vladimir Salatov, CTO of Bartini, in a video released with the statement.
Currently powered by lithium batteries and made of silicone, the current model is also electric-powered, meaning that running it is emissions free. Bartini plans to eventually integrate hydrogen fuel-cells, which will expand the range of their taxis fourfold.
As air taxis and other passenger-toting drones creep toward being a plausible future for air travel, cities don’t have much time to determine what airspace regulation will look like. Currently, most regulations don’t allow aircraft to dip below 300 m (roughly 1,000 feet) above the highest point. One workaround would be to give air taxies or something like them their own flight corridors, which would keep them out of the way of commercial airplanes. Bartini markets their air taxi as the solution to incessant traffic jams and packed subway cars, but only time will tell whether we’ll one day get to complain about how our air-sedans are in air-jams.
In the meantime, Bartini is working toward building the hydrogen-fueled, emission free, full-scale air taxi that Marty McFly would die for.