The future of urban air mobility is often represented in utopian images. A wealth of fanciful renderings show flying vehicles taking off and landing vertically from glittering vertiports. The people represented in these portrayals live in fantastical futures of high-tech cities, maneuvering experiences that we only know from science fiction films. This is the shiny vision. But what about the everyday reality of how we’ll really interact with these all-new vehicles and their supporting infrastructure?
Based on our design explorations, we believe that the first flying taxis entering service in the next three to five years will feature some surprising moments for first-time passengers. The first of these aerial vehicles will operate on short, intracity routes with about ten minutes of flight time, taking passengers between one place and another via the shortest possible route. This means flying, but this new form of mobility will be very different from what we’ve grown accustomed to with airliners, which is our existing reference point for flying. These differences will include unique pre-flight requirements, gestural interactions with machines, and opportunities to choose how we get between A and B based on our personal values.
Here are five of the most unexpected moments, along with some of the design solutions we’ll need to make them ordinary realities.