Almost everyone knows the pain of seeing precious minutes sitting in traffic. Just as bad as looking for insanity for a parking spot is a safe place to get out of the back seat of an Uber into the dense, buzzing city streets. For emergency medical providers, these headaches literally mean life or death.
Who among us has not looked up at the sky behind the sea of red taillights, wishing that we could climb over the gridlock and go to any part of the city at some point in time? The truth is, flying cars are a reality. Early-stage regulatory reviews are underway in both the U.S. House and Senate to bring aircraft technology into existence and bring EVTOL-electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles to market.
What they don’t have is a place to land them. The promise of urban aviation is the promise of ultra-convenient amenities a trip to the airport that can be reached within 10 minutes of arriving at home on a regular basis for 90 minutes. Line Think of a five-minute walk (or a one-minute elevator ride) from your office. And sure enough, we’ve seen office buildings and hospitals build their rooftop heliports on the outskirts of the city.
But the truth is, the helicopter’s external rotors make them very noisy and very dangerous for landing in tough places. Heliports need to be located on the outskirts of the city – they need extra space for safety (and noise) concerns. I have more than 25 years of experience as a helicopter pilot. I know urban air travel is nothing new. However, noise ordinances, space restrictions, and security measures have limited their use to make commercial helicopter flights effective.
Existing VTOLs are much better designed for repeated commercial use, but they still do not resolve for noise. Most importantly, they do not eliminate the risks associated with external moving mechanical components and large wingspan. These VTOLs also require a lot more space for takeoff and landing – meaning intercity travel would not be possible without huge infrastructural investments, according to a number of urban aviation analysts and even NASA people. For this to work, cities will have to turn a huge percentage of their roofs into mini-ports, which will require a few years of restraint.