To quote a great scientist (not from Politecnico, unfortunately), “Where we're going, we don't need roads”. We do need vertiports, however, which are the facilities necessary for the take-off and landing of flying taxis - for the time being, we are talking about small aircraft, suitable for transporting a maximum of two people and one piece of luggage, but in the near future they will be real flying buses, with vertical take-off and landing.
In Milan, plans are already ongoing to build two vertiports within the city, at Citylife and Porta Romana, and two more at the major airports, namely Linate and Malpensa. Work to build them will start in 2024 and the first flights are expected in 2026, by the time of the Winter Olympics. On behalf of SEA, the major newco shareholder responsible for the design, construction and management of vertiports, Politecnico di Milano conducted a feasibility study to analyse the areas in Lombardy that are suitable for accommodating them. 9 urban areas and 6 more areas across the region have been identified, giving priority to provincial capitals.
In 2026 reaching the centre of Milan by air from Malpensa could cost around 120 euros per person. Afterwards, the price should settle around 80 euros, which sounds competitive with a car rental with driver. We are moving towards a consolidation of the service within the next 10-20 years: according to the Politecnico researchers' estimation, 2,000 passengers per day will be travelling in flying taxis by 2030.
With regard to proper vehicles, however, this is it, explains Alex Zanotti, a researcher from the Department of Aerospace Science and Technology:
'From a technological point of view I don’t see any particular difficulties, because we start from a well known knowledge base in the aeronautic field. These machines (known as eVTOL, acronym for electric vertical take-off and landing, ed.) will fly soon. Efforts are being made towards the goal of the Paris 2024 Olympics and the Cortina and Milan 2026 Winter Olympics to create air taxis connecting airport hubs to the places where sports competitions will be held, such as stadiums'.
Today, researchers focus on the issues of the satellite activities around this new reality, on the software part (some of the aircraft will be controlled automatically, Zanotti explains), on certifications, on city air traffic regulatory plans and on the psychological aspect, that should never be underestimated, especially in the context of autonomous driving. Applications range from tourism to supply chain up to social purposes, for instance flying ambulance city services.
Credits header: Corriere della Sera