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Rising through the ranks

January 29, 2019 |

It’s a doodle to summon ride, share a journey or hire various modes of mobility by the hour with just a couple of taps on a smartphone – so much so that GenYs and Zs are already showing increasing propensity for access over ownership of cars, to the dismay of automotive manufacturers. Allied to that trend there’s always been a need for clusters of publicly available transport options anchored around the key civic focal points. And, as we head in the next decade towards the introduction of flying taxis (or eVTOLs – electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing aircraft). Infrastructure will be needed to make them as accessible as hire-bicycles docks or railway stations are today. Hence ‘Elevate’ (an Uber initiative to nurture a flying taxi ecosystem) recently challenged the world’s design gurus and architects to come up with concepts for how this might work – taxi ranks for tomorrow’s more aerially engaged cities, if you like, thought the evolving industry prefers to call them skyports.

More than 120 design and architecture practices proposed an array if ingenious designs, and six finalists presented concepts at the Uber Elevate Summit in Los Angeles in May.

One of those finalists, Dallas-based Humphreys & Partner Architects, generated a buzz with its beehive- inspired ‘mega-skyport’, intended to “sit on top of Highway 105 in Los Angeles”. The design occupies a three-acre site with capacity to handle a throughput of 180 flying taxi movements (landings and / or takeoffs) per hour, and its cylindrical structure would be built from bio-concrete, which helps with acoustics and pollution absorption.

Further ecological credentials include vegetative green walls that purify the air and assist with sound dispersal. Up on the roof, solar cells provide zero-emission energy generation for the eVOTLs, which recharge during a four-and-a-half-minute turnaround whilst passengers disembark and the next load of commuters hop on board.

“We’ve running out of space and traffic congestion is creating longer commutes. To combat this and get back the countless hours wasted in slow-moving urban traffic, the world must begin to utilise the third dimension: airspace,” says Walter Hughes, VP of design at Humphreys & Partners. “The global need for on-demand aviation opens up many exciting architectural opportunities, such as designing a unique structure that fits into land-scare urban environments and allows eVTOLs to operate, and our mega-skyport design that synchs up with other forms of transportation.” And that’s where skyports – these elevated taxi ranks of the future – could really complement air travel in the 2020s. For outbound executives en route to cut a deal, or for inbound suburbanites heading home after a hectic day of meetings, it’s those last remaining few miles beyond the airport where flying taxi could be a zippy alternative to their street-based counterparts. Hughes concludes: “Ideally, skyposts will be built in proximity to major air hubs, so a passenger can land at an international airport and then easily transfer to eVOTLs for the speedy last leg of their journey.

Rising Through The Ranks

Paul Sillers is an aviation journalist specialising in passenger experience and future air travel tech.

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