Along with self-driving cars, the next pie-in-the-sky technology that is perennially poised on the cusp of reality is the personal electric aeroplane. There are still a fair few hurdles to overcome, not least the need to bake-in safety systems that cover every conceivable eventuality, as well as ensure that concepts like ‘range anxiety’ have absolutely no place when you’re cruising at several thousand feet. There’s also the small matter of re-writing the reams of legislation governing civil flight in all its forms.
Let’s assume that the futurists behind the Israeli aviation start-up AIR have all these complexities in hand, in addition to putting the finishing touches to their first flying machine. AIR describe their new ONE as an ‘ultra-sleek luxury sports car for the sky.’ It certainly has the performance to live up to this claim with a top speed of 155 mph, around about the same as a Eurocopter EC135, and a practical cruising speed of 100 mph.
An important metric for anything that flies is range, and the ONE is said to be good for a maximum of 110 miles. Even more essential is the maximum flight time; you have about an hour before the two-seater runs out of juice.
AIR has spent five years developing this eVTOL craft and hopes to receive certification next year. The first manned flights are due later this year, with first deliveries in 2024. AIR suggest this is a ‘mobility revolution’ that’ll change the way we perceive personal transportation, and it’s true that companies like Uber were exploring this space at the turn of the decade.
But with Uber selling off its Uber Elevate division to Joby Aviation, the idea of electrical point to point aviation for all has metamorphosed into a form of upscale ride-sharing, designed to replace expensive helicopters for short, highly lucrative airport-to-downtown hops. The stats above seem specifically targeted at a very particular market; those who want to save time in any way possible.
So what can the prospective AIR customer expect? AIR is sticking with its emphasis on personal use and ownership, with an interior that evokes supercar design, complete with sports seats, personal information screens, a huge opening canopy, and simplified joystick operation.
The ONE has four stalk-like nacelles, each with twin props, and a retractable undercarriage. With sky-high ambitions to bring easy access to aviation to the masses, time will tell whether AIR’s flight model manages to get off the ground.
This article is part of The T3 Edit (opens in new tab), a collaboration between T3 and Wallpaper* which explores the very best blends of design, craft, and technology. Wallpaper* magazine is the world’s leading authority on contemporary design and The T3 Edit is your essential guide to what’s new and what’s next.