Intel showcases ‘air taxi’ drone at CES tech show

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The near future could see an Uber-style service picking workers up to take them on a commute through the air, with tech giant Intel showcasing an autonomous drone-like vehicle you can sit in.

The company hopes the new machine will be used in cities the world over, not only as a way of getting passengers from point A to point B but also as a way to help avoid increasingly congested city road traffic while doing so.

The announcement was a bright spot amid a troubling time for Intel, with Microsoft revealing that its Windows 10 fix for the recently made public “Spectre” and “Meltdown” CPU flaws — found in Intel and other computer chip maker’s processors — would cause “significant slowdowns” on systems from 2015 and before.

The fully electric Volocopter 2X, made by German company Volocopter in partnership with Intel, can carry two passengers (up to a weight of 180 kilograms) and was shown at Intel’s press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

It takes 120 minutes to charge (with a 40-minute fast charge option) and has a flight time of 30 minutes at present, although its creators hope to expand this to 1 hour in the near future.

The Volocopter 2X is designed for short taxi trips rather than private ownership.

The Volocopter 2X is designed for short taxi trips rather than private ownership.

It has 18 rotors (so if some fail, it can still land), can fly up to 100km/h, and has nine independent battery systems. It weighs in at 290 kilograms, is 2.15 meters high and 7.35 metres in diameter.

Emergency parachutes come built-in.

“Fifty-five years ago the TV show The Jetsons first aired and showed us a future where flying cars were a part of everyday life,” Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich said.

The vehicle's manufacturer hopes it will eventually be able to fly for one hour without needing to charge.

The vehicle’s manufacturer hopes it will eventually be able to fly for one hour without needing to charge.

“We’re on the cusp of making that a reality. Imagine pulling out your phone, opening up a transportation app and summoning your own personalised ride by air taxi.

“That sci-fi vision of the future is actually much closer than you may think.”

Florian Reuter, Volocopter chief executive, said the company conducted the first-ever manned flight outdoors with a version of the vehicle in 2016, participating in German airspace based on an official permit to fly from aviation authorities. The company hit another milestone just four months ago, conducting the first flight of an autonomous air taxi in the city of Dubai.

“The Volocopter is an entirely novel type of vertical take-off and landing aircraft,” Reuter said.

“Soon we will offer autonomous air taxi flights as a service across cities across the world, revolutionising the way we all experience urban mobility today.

“And the best about it? It has the potential to be affordable for all of us.”

To prove the Volocopter was real, it briefly flew on stage at the Park Theater, the massive concert hall at the Monte Carlo Park Theater on the Las Vegas strip, behind a protective barrier.

 

In September, SpaceX founder and billionaire Elon Musk revealed that people could be transported around the world on most long-distance trips in under one hour using a new spacecraft. His vision, however, seems a long way from reality.

The author travelled to CES as a guest of Hisense.

 – Sydney Morning Herald

 

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