NASA just released a new photo of its ‘air taxi,’ offering an exciting glimpse at its vision of airborne transportation. While NASA is often associated exclusively with space-related projects, the organization also spends a great deal of time conducting experiments here on Earth. Whether it’s trying to learn more about our atmosphere or push boundaries forward for air travel, NASA always has something to keep itself busy.
Consumer travel is something a lot of companies have been trying to modernize. Uber and Lyft have both experimented with autonomous taxi services, The Boring Company is digging underground tunnels to improve transportation in densely populated areas, and the rise of self-driving car technology from Tesla, Ford, and others is improving at a rapid pace.
Another brand that’s dipping its toes in this space is none other than NASA. On September 16, 2021, the organization shared its latest picture of its experimental air taxi. The drone-like vehicle is currently parked at a facility near Big Sur, California, following flight testing between August 30 and September 10. During those dates, NASA flew its air taxi to collect data about “how the vehicle moved, how the vehicle sounded, and how the vehicle communicated with controllers.” As this photo reveals, the vehicle came back unscathed from those tests and looks ready to take to the air again.
Created in partnership with California-based Joby Aviation, NASA’s air taxi is technically referred to as an eVTOL aircraft — or an ‘all-electric vertical takeoff and landing’ aircraft. Compared to a helicopter, which is traditionally quite large and loud, NASA’s air taxi is designed to be as compact and quiet as possible. It’s powered by six rotors, runs entirely off electricity, and has the goal of being able to fly people back and forth to their destinations while making hardly any sound (allowing it to act as a taxi service without disrupting everyone below it).
This particular air taxi is part of NASA’s larger ‘Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign’ (also referred to as AAM). With AAM, NASA hopes to “promote public confidence and accelerate the realization of emerging aviation markets for passenger and cargo transportation in urban, suburban, rural, and regional environments.” In addition to creating modern aircraft for taxi/transportation services, NASA also wants to get folks comfortable with the idea of hopping into an air taxi instead of a cab or Uber.
While it will likely still be a while before air taxis are as common as ground ones, NASA’s determined to get to that point as quickly as possible. Starting in 2022, it’ll begin hosting various activities to “help make AAM a reality for the United States.” Whether that’s with this particular air taxi or another model NASA’s working on, definitely keep an eye on the organization’s progress over the next couple of years.
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