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.

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