We're on the verge of the flying taxi revolution, with prominent eVTOL startups such as Lilium and Volocopter envisioning a future of small 2-7 seater aircraft taking us safely and quickly to our destination.
An outlier in the pack of new startups, New York-based Kelekona, is aiming to build a much larger 40-passenger aircraft for long city-to-city trips, a report by New Atlas reads.
Kelekona's new design is a piloted eVTOL aircraft that carries 40 passengers, or 10,000 lb (4,540 kg) of cargo. The company states on its website that its new design will be able to make the 330-mile (531 km) trip between LA and San Francisco in only an hour and that the firm's "approach is mass transit."
The aircraft has an unusual teardrop-shaped airframe — rather than having a wide wingspan, like Volocopter's VoloConnect aircraft, for example, which is aimed at connecting suburbs and cities, the Kelekona craft has a curved wide body, with wing flaps at the back, designed to generate lift. Essentially, the aircraft's entire body doubles up as a wing.
Otherwise, the flying taxi lifts off the ground in the now-typical drone-like fashion of eVTOL concepts, using eight thrust vectoring fans. Once at the right altitude, these fans adjust accordingly for forward flight.
One of the only eVTOL high-passenger capacity concepts
As the Kelekona craft will no doubt need a pretty hefty battery pack to complete its city-to-city trips, it uses swappable batteries, meaning the turnaround time should be as quick as swapping a battery, getting new passengers or payload aboard, and checking flight systems are healthy.
On its website, Kelekona explains that "a combination of stereo cameras and radar give Kelekona 100 miles of added environmental awareness for detection and avoidance from unknown aircraft, birdstrike, weather anomalies, and uncharted physical infrastructure."
Perhaps the two best-known flying taxi startups worldwide, Volocopter and Lilium, both have their sites set on smaller aircraft. Volocopter, which aims to start its air taxi service "within two years," has developed 2-5 seater aircraft. Lilium, meanwhile, recently unveiled a new 7-seater eVTOL design.
The closest concept to Kelekona's is the Skybus aircraft developed by GKN Aerospace, which has a proposed capacity of 30-50 passengers for intracity commutes. Unlike Kelekona's design, the Skybus aircraft sports two massive wings — arguably making it harder to find a spot to land within the city.
Stay posted for more on Kelekona's unusual aircraft, which is sure to account for a barrage of false UFO sightings if and when it takes to the skies. Have a look at the company's promotional video below.