Flying taxis planned for 2024 Paris Olympics

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A two-seater electric aircraft is unveiled to the media on Nov. 25 at an airfield outside Paris.

PARIS — Flying into Paris to attend the 2024 Summer Olympics might just start with an uplifting experience.

A project has been underway to operate flying taxis to transport passengers arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport to the heart of the French capital.

Developers plan to introduce electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft that are expected to reduce travel time from the airport to 15 minutes compared to the usual 40-50 minutes by car. The aim is for these flying taxis to serve several routes on a regular basis from 2030.

Airport operator Groupe ADP, Paris metro and mass transit operator RATP Group and the Ile-de-France region centered on Paris are among the entities leading the project, hoping to make it a sustainable means of urban transportation. Dozens of private companies, including an Airbus subsidiary, are also participating in the project.

On Nov. 25, a test center opened at an airfield northwest of Paris. There, a two-seater eVTOL aircraft was unveiled to the media. Many small propellers are set on a frame projecting from the top of the aircraft. Developers plan to build a new airframe based on this aircraft and conduct safety and noise tests, with the aircraft body completed sometime next year.

For the Paris Olympics, the aim of the flying taxi is to carry several passengers at a time from Charles de Gaulle to the center of Paris, about 23 kilometers away. The flying taxi is expected to carry up to six passengers, charging €100 (about ¥13,000) per passenger.

The eVTOL aircraft avoids traffic jams and is eco-friendly. Specific flight routes will be discussed in the future.

“It will function as a concrete experiment to explore the field of possibilities of a decarbonized and innovative aviation, and to develop the low altitude aviation market [below 300 meters], which has been largely unexplored until now,” Groupe ADP Chairman and CEO Augustin de Romanet said while attending the opening ceremony of the test center.

Developers hope the aircraft will be flown on several routes when full-fledged services start after the Paris Olympics.

Not just in France

Flying taxis are being developed in various countries.

Leading U.S. helicopter maker Bell Textron Inc. revealed at a commercial electronics show in January 2020 a prototype of a flying car.

South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co., Germany’s Audi AG and Britain’s Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd. also have similar schemes.

In Japan, Tokyo-based start-up SkyDrive Inc. conducted a demonstration in October in the hopes of commercializing its flying cars as a taxi service.

A French government official says the nation aims to start the flying taxi service in line with the Paris Olympics to show its technological prowess to the world.