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Today I studied a bit about amphibious ultralight aircraft. I think I want to buy the Airtime Aircraft Cygnet Amphib ultralight. It is a really cool craft that I think would work well for me. It looks like a jet ski with wheels and wings. I have a place less than a mile from a boat ramp into the Mississippi river. This section of the river, in northwest Illinois, is a beautiful place to see from atop a high bluff. I can imagine it will be a lot of fun to fly over it. A lot of waterfowl migrate here in spring and fall. I’d like to join them some day. Maybe I will, in one of these unique and amazing aircraft. It has wheels and pontoons. Maybe I could drive it down our quiet rural street, cross the railroad track, and drive it into the water at the boat ramp. Then, the sky is the limit. I have a background as an instructor pilot, fighter pilot, and airline pilot, so I might want to start giving instruction in this aircraft. It was difficult to find a price for it so, I think you need to talk to the company to get an accurate price. There seems to be a waiting list so, maybe I’ll put down a deposit. I am thinking of getting an instructor license. It looks like a lot of fun to give introductory flights to people. If someone is serious, I could rent an apartment in our equestrian center so they could stay here for some immersion training. How does this relate to the air taxi industry? Well, it looks like fun, and it is an aircraft. I will write more about the air taxi industry as time goes on. For this, my first blog, I am signing out. – Roger

Study about Taxicopters – A Framework to Develop Urban Aerial Networks by Using a Digital Twin Approach

This study addresses the issues involved in creating an infrastructure for taxicopters in urban areas. As new aircraft are designed and produced to accommodate passengers and freight between urban destinations those destinations need to be developed. This study talks about issues surrounding the infrastructure needs of urban vertiports and suggests ways to address the challenges of creating that infrastructure. They suggest use of a “digital twin” to accomplish the analysis.

“A digital twin can be defined as the digital model of a physical system that is regularly updated by the exchange of information between virtual and physical systems.” This just means that the authors recommend using the newest software to analyze the need for service and the availability and best locations for vertiports in those areas. That is a good idea.

In the study the authors use the following acronyms to describe what I call “Taxicopters:” Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, Aerial Cooperative Vehicles (ACVs), Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs). The public will not refer to each of these different acronyms. They will need to refer to their chosen form of transportation in a way that makes sense to them. They won’t care that the aircraft are cooperating with other aircraft as they are whisked from point A to B. They will want to know that 1) they are safe stepping into this machine and 2) they are getting a good value. They will call all of these types of aircraft the same thing. They will call them the same thing Aldous Huxley called them in his book “Brave New World.” Passengers will call them “Taxicopters.” My definition of a Taxicopter is an pilotless aerial vehicle that takes off and lands vertically and carries passengers for hire. My definition of a “Taxijet” is a pilotless aerial vehicle that takes off and lands conventionally and carries passengers for hire. The distinction is important because a Taxicopter can takeoff and land at a Vertiport while a Taxijet must operate out of an airfield with a runway.

Thanks to  Urban Air Mobility (UAM)) for sharing this study.

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New Study about Taxicopters – Wind Gusts Pose a Hazard

The new generation of air taxi is taking shape. As we can imagine there will be challenges to successful implementation of this new form of travel. A new study raises a warning flag which will need to be addressed by regulation and structure in order to bring about this new form of travel. VTOL Taxicopters will need to deal with variable wind gusts when landing in and among large buildings if they are to provide air taxi services as envisioned, according to a special issue by “Urban Air Mobility (UAM)”

I won’t go into the details of the report but will give my two cents. First, it is of no surprise to any pilot that wind gusts are something to consider when landing or taking off. Second, it is not surprising that wind gusts will be variable, and perhaps unpredictable, around buildings. Third, it is not surprising that more power equates to increased safety on takeoff and landing. One advantage that gas powered aircraft have over electric aircraft is that on landing the gas has been mostly burned off and the aircraft weight is less while power is the same as at takeoff. In a battery powered aircraft the weight on landing will be the same as it was on takeoff but the battery power available is somewhat less because the battery has been depleted somewhat.

When I flew the Harrier we would always check our fuel weight to determine whether we would be able to land vertically. If we were too heavy to land vertically we would land conventionally, or perform a short landing (hybrid conventional flight and vectored thrust flight). When performing a vertical landing we had the flexibility to turn our nose directly into the wind no matter which direction the runway was oriented. This was accomplished by keeping the weather vane on the nose of the aircraft centered. Keeping the aircraft pointed into the wind. This was a touchy phase of flight.

Taxicopters face the same wind forces and these forces must be accounted for. I don’t view this report as an indication that Taxicopters will be impractical. Instead, I consider the fact that a legitimate entity put together a legitimate study of the issue as a sign that there are forces moving us toward implementation of this form of travel. The study highlights issues that must be resolved. We will need rules designed to keep passengers and onlookers safe. We may need to re-structure existing buildings to make their rooftops more aerodynamically friendly for landing aircraft. This will require taxes on Taxicopters to pay for these modifications. We won’t be able to land everywhere. Maybe your back yard just won’t work. So, maybe you will need to take an uber to a vertiport near you. This will add cost. On the other hand, maybe your nearest vertiport will be within walking distance. If urban areas can identify a safe landing site within every square mile of a city passengers should not need to walk more than a mile to be picked up. While taking an uber would add to the time and expense of the trip taking a stroll will not add time or expense. Consider the walk to be part of your exercise regimen.

As we build out the infrastructure for Taxicopters we should look for ways to 1) make it safe, and 2) keep costs low. We can accomplish this by taking a hard look at all of the possible problems before they bite us in the backside. City planners and Taxicopter operators need to be aware of wind gusts in their early planning phase. Thanks to  Urban Air Mobility (UAM)) for sharing this study.