We’ve written a lot about driverless cars and how they might change the way we travel and commute. Now we consider another revolutionary form of travel and that is passenger drones.
A British entrepreneur, Martin Warner, is developing a battery powered autonomous passenger drone (APD), that will be tested with people on board before the end of the year.
Martin Warner’s company, Autonomous Flight, has already been testing the Y6S in Kent/Surrey borders, without passengers on board. Martin believes these APDs or vertical take-off and landing aircraft (VTOL), will become available for use in major cities within the next five years.
This will mean that a journey from London Heathrow Airport to Charing Cross train station, which can take an hour or longer by car depending on traffic, will take less than 12 minutes.
Martin’s company is not the only one experimenting with drone travel. A chinese company, Ehang, were the first to test a passenger drone with their Ehang 184 AAV last year in Dubai. The abbreviation AAV stands for, Autonomous Aerial Vehicle. This vehicle has eight propellers and can carry a maximum of one passenger.
According to Wikipedia, a drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). That is an aircraft without a human passenger on board. They were originally designed for military applications and form part of an unmanned aircraft system( UAS). However, civilian UAVs now outnumber military UAVs, including many commercial applications such as parcel delivery, surveillance, aerial photography and even smuggling!
The first military use of an UAV is thought to have been by Austria in 1849 when they sent unmanned balloons filled with bombs on an attack of Venice. The UK and US military have both used military drones in Afghanistan targeting individuals they may not have been able to get close to otherwise.
Meanwhile, civilian applications, especially those involving passengers face strict regulatory hurdles to overcome before their use becomes widespread. There are similar concerns with driverless cars, namely what happens if they software or hardware malfunctions?
Martin Warner is confident that his drone will be able land or fly you to where you need to be if it gets into trouble. He says, the Y6S will only be flying short distances so its not the same as flying over an ocean. That remains to be seen. As with driverless cars it will be the public who decide whether or not this new technology is adopted.