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Airbus and Italdesign Unveil Futuristic Aerial Transportation System

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【Summary】Pop.Up is a comprehensive, end-to-end transportation program with virtually “unlimited” deployment points. The network consists of both self-driving cars and monstrous drones that carry people to their destination.

Michael Cheng    Mar 11, 2017 10:55 AM PT
Airbus and Italdesign Unveil Futuristic Aerial Transportation System

From last-mile deliveries to scooters, autonomous vehicular technology is in a position to disrupt a plethora of different industries – including aerial transportation. There has been a handful of global brands, such as Uber and Airbus, that are quietly developing driverless, flying taxis for smart cities. The deployment of these units could help curtail congestion in cities by making use of an aerial network that isn't affected by road construction, pedestrians or sidewalks.

Out of all the businesses developing this type of technology, Airbus seems to be leading the group. The company announced the possibility of pilot programs by the end of 2017 for its prototype fleet under Project Vahana. Recently, the business, along with design and engineering company Italdesign, made headlines for revealing a cutting-edge transportation system that utilizes its flying pods at the Geneva Motor Show. Called Pop.Up, the network consists of both self-driving cars and monstrous drones that carry people to their destination.

Complete Transportation Network

Pop.Up is a comprehensive, end-to-end transportation program with virtually "unlimited" deployment points. Like ridesharing, the system lets people summon a driverless car anywhere, such as residential homes, in the middle of a golf course or commercial offices. This service isn't powered by humans (at least on the front lines), so individuals will be interacting with a digital interface during the entire trip. Self-driving vehicles will usher people to nearby loading and take-off stations, where a drone will literally scoop up the pod (that doubles as a carrier for the car) and leave the wheels behind.

The unit that picks up the pod will contain aerial components that allow it to fly in the air (large propellers and a mounting system to secure the unit during operation). When arriving at one's destination, the passenger could walk around the city or the pod could turn into a self-driving car again. During this transition, the aerial components detach from the pod, as it attaches on a four-wheel platform, and drives away from the station.

"With the eight-rotor drone attached to the rooftop, though, the Pop.Up can fly up to 62 miles. Eight individual electric motors produce a combined 182 horsepower, and, as on the ground, it tops out at 62 mph," explained Greg Fink from Car and Driver.

Catering to Smart Cities

This technology may seem like more of a luxury than a necessity at this time. But according to urban planning firms, cities should be preparing for waves of people attempting to live in such popular locations worldwide. According to a revised United Nations report that was published in 2014 (World Urbanization Prospects by UN DESA's Population Division), roughly 60 percent of the world's population will reside in large cities. Today, that figure is sitting at 50 percent.

"Managing urban areas has become one of the most important development challenges of the 21st century. Our success or failure in building sustainable cities will be a major factor in the success of the post-2015 UN development agenda," said John Wilmoth, Director of UN DESA's Population Division.

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