Electric flying taxis could be operational for 2032 Olympics

Rendered concept image of an electric flying taxi
Rendered concept image of an electric flying taxi (Image: University of the Sunshine Coast)

Commuters could be catching electric flying taxis from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane by 2030 if a new student project goes to plan.

Experts, industry leaders, high school and university students have joined forces at the University of the Sunshine Coast to take their ideas for an electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle (eVTOL) sky high.

Aeronautical engineer and UniSC Special Projects Lead Tim Kelly said similar concepts were already being developed around the world, but this design featured a new approach to vertical take-off and landing.

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“The concept leverages some well-understood existing platforms, and in simplified terms can be thought of as a combination between a very large quadcopter drone and a canard configuration general aviation aircraft,” Kelly said.

“What sets it apart from other vehicles is that it doesn’t involve either tilt wings or rotors, nor does it carry redundant propulsion systems to transition from vertical to horizontal flight.

“Instead, the passenger is safely secured in a type of reclining chair so that they’re sitting normally through their entire flight.

“You would summon a ride to your nearest VTOL port and it would fly you to your destination at around 250km/h. That’s quick enough to get from Maroochydore CBD to Brisbane CBD in under 30 minutes,” he said.

While the vehicle will initially be remotely piloted, the plan is to make it completely autonomous, with smaller models offering potential for surveillance, freight or firefighting.

Kelly says autopilot systems for aircraft are simpler, more mature, and technologically established than they are for cars, which are complicated by human interaction, pedestrians and intersections.

“Ironically the technical aspects aren’t as difficult as the regulatory and social acceptance aspects because we’re all used to the standard aircraft configuration for personal transport,” he said.

UniSC Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation Professor Ross Young said collaborative projects like this offered a way for universities to engage students with industry on viable projects with the potential to transform the transport sector.

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“This project may seem like a flight of fancy, but major companies are already advancing this technology,” Professor Young said.

“As a country, we already have enormous potential in innovation through research, but we still have a lot of work to do in teaching high-volume manufacturing and effective commercialisation strategies.

“By building on these partnerships, we can provide valuable industry insights from end-to-end, so that students gain a rich perspective on how to innovate and develop a product like this, and harness the capacity and capability of some of the 1400 manufacturers we have on the Sunshine Coast.”


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