Audi and Airbus took center stage this week at Amsterdam Drone Week, showing off their concept of modular drone taxis with live demos.
Amsterdam Drone Week has had a heavy focus on smart cities and smart mobility, exploring concepts of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and 3D transportation solutions (moving up, not out.) Between the discussions of Europe’s Urban Air Mobility Initiative and Uber’s development of a multimodal platform that will accommodate both air and ground transportation, it’s Airbus and Audi’s gleaming prototype that takes center stage in the exhibit hall.
In daily live demonstrations of the system inside the drone cage, the elegantly simple – not necessarily easy – concept becomes clear. Just like something out of an Inspector Gadget episode, the transportation module can be put on wheels to drive as a little car, or attached on the top to a drone capable of lifting it off of the ground. Here’s the idea: you might leave your house in the suburbs transported by the “Pop Up” on wheels, functioning as a car, driving to a nearby heliport. Then the wheels stay on the ground while a drone picks up the transportation module and flies it over the commuter traffic on the ground to the next heliport (think San Francisco to San Jose, Silicon Valley citizens: or Stamford to NYC.) Then the module is dropped onto another set of wheels for transport to the door of your destination.
It’s designed to be quiet, energy efficient, electric and environmentally sound. It could eliminate hours spent on freeways around the world. It could cure the modern disease of road rage. It’s an amazing concept – and with the technology already well on the way, we can’t wait to see the end of rush hour as we know it.