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Honeywell and DENSO have produced an air taxi prototype with an electric propulsion system
June 13, 2022
Air taxis could be a common sight in the skies in as little as 10 years thanks to a significant breakthrough in propulsion design.
The pioneering electric propulsion system is the result of a collaboration between DENSO, a mobility technology supplier based in Kariya, Japan that is strongly associated with the automotive sector, and Honeywell.
The pair have produced an air taxi prototype that looks more like a private jet than some of the futuristic flying cars that are many people’s idea of what will dominate the skies in years to come.
But despite its relatively conventional looks, it would offer the expected convenience of an air taxi, with the ability to land and take off in confined spaces – such as back gardens – and provide direct transport to a specific destination at any time. The electric propulsion would also ensure future aircraft are cleaner, quieter, more fuel-efficient and easier to maintain than at present.
The prototype uses DENSO’s Elexcore range of motor generators, battery management units and inverters and has been built by Honeywell, which has extensive experience in aerospace design. Its electric motor is a lightweight, high-output density unit that uses a proprietary magnetic circuit design to provide more than double the output-power density of an automotive engine, reducing weight and enabling more passengers and cargo to be carried.
While the prototype is intended to show what’s possible, a spokesperson for DENSO explained that the pair is focused on building “concepts and technology demonstrations for the design and development of hybrid-electric and all-electric propulsion systems for aerospace applications” and had been in “advanced discussions with current and prospective customers.”
The spokesperson added: “In 10 years’ time, the idea is to enable access to anywhere within a 200-kilometer radius in just an hour. This will herald mass production of such vehicles.”
The progression toward air taxis roaming the skies, not having to follow rigid routes, is gathering pace in Europe. Earlier this year, a Concept of Operations, or CONOPS, was developed by the UK Air Mobility Consortium in association with the country’s Civil Aviation Authority Innovation Hub to look at how airspace integration for Urban Air Mobility, with demand for drones and air taxis set to grow massively, might be achieved.
And in April, Air-One, the world’s first airport for flying taxis –in Coventry in the English Midlands – opened its doors to give the public a taste of what the future holds.
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