Towards a revolution of the Parisian transports. This Monday January 18, 2021, the RATP (the Autonomous Operator of Parisian Transports), Aéroports de Paris (ADP) and Choose Paris Region, entrusted with the promoting of the Île-de-France region unveil the name of 31 players selected to "develop an urban air mobility channel focusing on vertical take-off vehicle". Industrial manufacturers and aeronautic players answered the call for expression of interest launched by partners.
Even though the three players already announced in late September 2020 they wanted to give birth to the first drone taxis, from this point forward, there is no longer doubt. Airbus, Safran, Chinese company Ehang, another Slovenian company called Pipistrel, and German group Volocopter: as many big and small players that will create "one of the global areas the channel will be created", ADP CEO Edward Arkwright told the press briefing.
Furthermore, partners behind the call for expression of interest have designated the Pontoise airport as the new administrative center of the VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) channel. New machines based on electricity, and even hydrogen: tomorrow's helicopters will be "clean", that is to say "carbon-free". In the race to develop flying machines, German company Volocopter seems to have found the most mature solution to take part in the project, according to partners, with their Volocity - a machine that looks like a mini helicopter.
And what does it do in concrete words? It’s a system of “flying taxi” as simple as that, a mix between a bus, a helicopter and a drone. “Autonomous flights are no longer part of science fiction” Airbus executive chair Guillaume Faury explains. He continues “Today, we have the technological bricks, but we have to harmonize them in order to include them into the users’ daily lives, without challenge our top priority, safety”.
Speaking of accessibility, the RATP targets the general public, planning a study by the end of the year. The idea is to declutter the roads for tourists coming to Paris from the Charles de Gaulle airport for the Olympics 2024. Shuttles are thought to come to the market within five years and could house “four to six seats” for €1 to €2 per kilometer, as the RATP has announced. And a first line to cover the Roissy airport-capital journey...
But are we ready to get on board? A recent study conducted by Carvea Consulting and Opinea* says that 43% of the French surveyed are ready to board these drone taxis. And the coronavirus epidemic did not get the better of this crazy project. In September 2020, Aéroports de Paris, Région Île-de-France and RATP have announced together that tests for this system will take place at the Cormeilles-en-Vexin (Val d'Oise) airdrome. By June 2021, this city will see the first experimental flights.
*Study conducted by CARVEA Consulting and OPINEA in the 2nd quarter of 2020. It is based on online interviews and a 1,011-people sample aged 15 to 75 representing the French population (gender, age, region and SPC) following the quota method.