Flying taxis may sound like a futuristic fantasy, but one company called Beta Technologies is attempting to show the public — and, more importantly, federal regulators — that they are actually going to become a viable reality.
In the latest step forward for the Vermont-based company, Beta has opened a new 200,000-square-foot plant at Vermont’s Burlington International Airport. The space is intended to be able to manufacture 300 electric helicopters, known more specifically as electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircrafts, per year.
Beta, along with competitors like Joby Aviation and Archer Aviation, must obtain approval for commercial passenger operations. According to a recent timeline laid out by the Federal Aviation Administration, these companies could begin serving customers by 2028.
In the meantime, all three companies are attempting to make money via contracting with the U.S. military, which does not carry the same burden of regulatory approval. Beta has also received orders from UPS and from Blade Urban Air Mobility, a short-hop company that flies customers from Manhattan to the Hamptons.
The other two competitors have gotten investments from Delta and United, signaling that regulatory approval may be something of a foregone conclusion.
While the initial upfront cost of these eVTOLs will likely make their services available only to the uber-wealthy, the companies envision a range of future services that their products will provide — notably, easier trips from metropolitan areas to airports.
And most importantly, since the flying taxis run on electricity, they produce no planet-overheating pollution while in operation, making them significantly less harmful to the planet than all currently approved forms of air travel — especially gas-powered helicopters, which likely cause more environmental damage per passenger than any form of transportation ever invented.
According to The New York Times, the Airbus AS350, one popular type of passenger helicopter, produces 950 pounds of CO2 per hour. A standard gas-powered passenger car, for comparison, produces 22 pounds per hour.
“People want electric aviation so bad that they’re willing to invest what I would consider R&D dollars at an operational level to deploy an experiment with these things,” Axios quoted Kyle Clark, the CEO of Beta Technologies, saying.
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