Have you ever wished you could step into an air taxi and fly above LA’s traffic gridlock?
Two local companies have partnered to make that dream a reality with a fleet of all-electric, vertical-takeoff taxis that will ferry passengers and cargo across the skies of Southern California.
Urban Movement Labs, a transportation-minded nonprofit started in 2019 by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Overair, an electric vertical takeoff-and-landing company based in Santa Ana, will be up and running in 2026 with vehicles. expects.
OverAir touts its “Butterfly” aircraft as an alternative transportation option in metropolitan areas. Each butterfly – equipped with four rotors – would be capable of carrying up to six people (five passengers and one pilot), or 1,100 pounds of cargo.
They would all be capable of traveling about 100 miles at speeds of up to 200 mph, all powered by electric propulsion. Company officials said the aircraft will be able to take off and land on existing pads that serve the helicopter. They have not yet disclosed what the dimensions of the butterfly will be.
“We’ve tested some small prototypes and a full-size propulsion system,” said John Kreijs, OverAir’s head of mobility operations for OverAir. “We are now in the process of building a full-size prototype.”
a cash infusion
OverAir recently secured $145 million in funding from Hanwha Systems and Hanwha Aerospace to continue development of its aircraft, bringing the company closer to its goal of flying an experimental prototype in 2023.
The company’s first step will be to get the vehicle certified for flight by the Federal Aviation Administration. Krijis said they would make “learning adjustments along the way” as needed.
“It’s a very involved process,” he said. “They will fly at altitudes of 1,000 to 3,000 feet.”
Urban Movement executive director Sam Morrissey said his organization wants to stay ahead of the curve.
“We wanted to see progress in air mobility before the technology came to implement it,” he said. “We have partnered with several companies that are working on this through the Urban Air Mobility Partnership.”
The partnership’s mission focuses on the partnership of community, government and industry to ensure a collaborative approach to urban air travel.
won’t be cheap
Morrissey said it was too early to determine what normal airfares would be on Butterfly. But he acknowledged that the service will not necessarily be cheap and will initially appeal to travelers with more pockets.
Still, the ease of getting from Point A to Point B amidst LA’s heavy traffic will inspire others to use it as well. He cited freeway toll lanes as an example.
“When toll rates are highest and you save maximum time to get somewhere, that’s when you see the highest number of low-income users,” he said. “People can use it if they need to bring a baby to the hospital, if they are late for an important meeting, or if they need to get to the airport early.”
Kreijs said the partnership is good.
“The urban movement sits at the junction between industry and community,” he said. “They’re really good at understanding how services will affect a community, and what kind of considerations need to be taken into account with respect to city regulations and setting up the right building codes.”
Noise is an important factor, but Kreijs said won’t be a problem.
“These vehicles are extremely safe, energy-efficient and” pretty quiet,” he said. “You can barely hear them when they fly up. We think noise reduction is the key to unlocking this technology in the city.”
The concept of air taxis is not new.
Joby Aviation, a publicly traded electric air vehicle company in Santa Cruz, recently announced that it has received its first Part 135 air carrier certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. The company still requires “type” and “production” certificates before legally carrying passengers.
Type certification means the aircraft meets the FAA’s design and safety standards, while production certification is approval to begin manufacturing the aircraft.
Joby said its planes have achieved the company’s goal for low noise levels during take-off and landing as well as overhead flight.
“There are a lot of other cities that private companies are looking at,” Morrissey said. “Miami Dade County and Orlando in Florida are actively interested, and New York City, Dallas, Ohio and North Carolina are also looking.”
Data from Krijis suggests that some consumers will initially be reluctant to board the Butterfly.
“Safety is the key aspect here and these are safer, if not safer, than riding on commercial airlines,” he said. “It can take time for people to get comfortable with this.”