A flying car that anticipates the future of urban transport | Technology

In video, the test of Pop Up Next, the prototype of Auidi, Airbus and Italdesign shown at the Amsterdam Drone Week. AP | Video: Audi

A woman looks out of the window with her back to the viewer in an advertising video of the Airbus company. It's in a big city, and in front of it they fly drones of various sizes and formats. Purely, they circulate, because these unmanned aerial vehicles not only configure a new phase of aviation. The so-called third sector of transport is the sky, where it will be necessary to trace safe routes for the management of urban traffic. Filming was broadcast this Tuesday during the International Drone Week, held in Amsterdam. It was advertising, but it also provided information on a market valued at 112,000 million euros, still unregulated, and about to explode in the mobility ecosystem. That is, in the transfer of cargo and travelers.

Audi has presented for the first time a prototype (scale 1: 4) of Pop.Up Next, its electric air taxi, in the Drone Week in Amsterdam, and also made the first test flight before the public.

Pop.Up Next (developed by the German company together with Airbus and Italdesign) is a vehicle with two seats, 100% electric, autonomous and able to travel both by road and overfly the cities. For this it has a VTOL design (vertical take-off and landing) and has a modular structure that allows it to be divided into three totally independent parts.

To see how such an on-demand service could be, Audi is testing in South America in cooperation with Voom, a subsidiary of Airbus. Customers book flights by helicopter in Mexico City or Sao Paulo, while an Audi is ready for the transfer to or from the landing site.

Inside the drone Pop Up Nex.
Inside the drone Pop Up Nex. AP

"Services like this help us to better understand the needs of our customers, because in the future, flying taxis will attract a wide range of people in the city, with Pop.Up Next, we are simultaneously exploring the limits of what is technically possible, the next step is for a full-size prototype to fly and drive, "said Audi Supply Manager and president of Italdesign, Bernd Martens.

The brand of the four rings has also launched the Urban Air Mobility project in the German city of Ingolstadt, through which an air taxi service will begin to operate in test mode, in collaboration with different partners and public administrations of the city. country.

Integration and security

"These vehicles will have to be integrated into urban environments and traditional airports to operate with the security of air traffic control. 85% of the aerodromes of large cities are about 35 kilometers from the center, and electrical technology will allow drone operation because they will have greater autonomy and propulsion systems in the future. It will be a market of billions, with certified vehicles that will begin to enter the cities within about five years. Between 2125 and 2030, an industry will mature with clear challenges: safety, but also noise, visual pollution and the preservation of privacy. For all this, in Airbus which has 1,500 aircraft in the world and we operate more than 7,500 helicopters, we know that the entry of these new services has to be gradual ", says the Spanish industrial engineer Eduardo Domínguez Puerta, director of the Urban Air Mobility Unit of the construction company of civil aircraft.

Scale model of Pop Up Next
Scale model of Pop Up Next AP

No need to ask, security and privacy are the two terms repeated by experts, politicians and industry at the Dutch meeting, and the Slovenian Violeta Bulc, European Commissioner for Transport has quantified them harshly. "In 2017, 25,300 people in the EU died in traffic accidents. Some 135,000 citizens were injured of varying severity, and their care and rehabilitation costs millions of euros. Taking into account that the development of drones is unstoppable, it is best to move all together: researchers, companies and politicians. Innovation is the key word, but if it is not accompanied by security, the social acceptance of the drone in the urban environment will not be achieved, "he said. Shortly after, he made his maiden flight, covered, the scale model of Pop.Up Next, orNo flying taxi, of which Uber It has a prototype that resembles a cross between a small plane and a helicopter. Airbus calculates that it will be a decade before seeing them in the air. Uber would like to have them by 2023.

While drones mark the pace of future urban mobility, they still lack regulation at European level. That is why EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) and the European Commission have prepared a series of fundamental standards that they hope to adopt in 2019. "Regulation should create a common European market for the 28 countries, which respects the user's privacy and contributes to your safety, "according to the Agency. To strengthen the regulatory effort, both partners, together with national authorities and industry representatives, will adopt the Amsterdam Declaration on Wednesday. Among the sections to be evaluated, there is "the obligation to implant a chip to drones without a pilot, used by the general public, to avoid flying in prohibited areas". "Nor can they fly more than 120 meters high."

In the Netherlands, where it is necessary to monitor and control bridges or dams, a drone can go much further than an inspector. "We will see more with the drones. It is an innovative vehicle and also a market full of opportunities, "assured Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management. Or as Patrick Kay says. Executive director of EASA, "it's an expanding industry and you have to be prepared." Get ahead, which is the other key verb of the drone universe.


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