Our Amazing Aerial Future — How, When, and Why Air Taxis and Air Deliveries Will Change Our World
Here is a great question to ask any futurist or foresighter: What have you changed your mind about in recent years? In 2014, I didn’t think drones for commuting and cargo deliveries were going to arrive anywhere in the world within ten years, or by 2025. The challenges seemed too daunting, and the investments and competition in the space just too small to make a difference. Since then, I’ve come to realize I was wrong. If I’d been paying closer attention to the enabling technology trends, I would have changed my mind. The US, China, Dubai, and Israel are all experimenting with these today, and all of these and many other places are likely to allow commercial operations by 2025. China is moving first in air deliveries, and Dubai is moving first in air taxis, with a maiden air taxi test flight with Volocopter in Sept 2017 and a planned first commercial service launch with eHang this Summer.
Note: Robin Lineberger et al. at Deloitte wrote a great Passenger Drone/Air Taxi industry study, Elevating the Future of Mobility, a month before this piece. I recommend it, and my article below, for all who want a serious look at the future of these incredibly valuable new mobility platforms.
Mar 13 Update: Kitty Hawk (Sebastian Thrun and Larry Page), is now seeking to offer Uber-style air taxis in New Zealand within 3 years.
Jun 25 Update: The Economist reports that Chinese e-Commerce giant JD.com has been begun same-day delivery of online orders to 100 rural villages in China, using 40 teleoperated drones. After the setup costs, these are 70% cheaper and much faster than the “man-in-a-van” alternative. Serving rural areas is a smart drone air delivery rollout strategy, as approval for drone delivery over China’s congested cities will likely require drone-based AI (not here yet). Meanwhile, JD, Alibaba’s biggest competitor, can serve China’s 600M rural residents. Online ordering in rural China grew 39% last year.
So let me ask you: what big future events have you changed your mind about in recent years? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.