Ask the CEO of a flying cab company: It’s 2023, is the industry ready?

In an exclusive interview with Gary Gysin, CEO of Wisk Aero, a flying cab company backed by aerospace giant Boeing, we put to him all the questions that people have today about this new form of transportation that seems to be here to stay but doesn’t know when. How do we prove to consumers that it’s safe enough? What if the landing is too noisy? How do you avoid the threat detection challenges faced by driverless cars on the ground? …… and, most critically, when exactly will it be ready for takeoff?

Even though there’s no real flying cab as a mode of transportation overhead yet, there’s no stopping the discussion about it. Investors are racing to pour large sums of money into startups developing new electric vehicles – vehicles that can take off and land vertically like helicopters as well as fly horizontally like airplanes. Big airlines are investing in some of them, betting that one day these companies will get passengers between airports and city centers faster than cars or public transportation. These startups, on the other hand, currently face multiple obstacles. One major hurdle is that they need enough space for these vehicles to take off and land. Another challenge is how to integrate them into existing air traffic control systems.
Gary Gysin, CEO of Wisk Aero, says flying cabs will become commonplace in the future. The Bay Area-based company, which has received funding from aerospace giant Boeing, is developing an unmanned flying cab that can accommodate up to four passengers. David Calhoun, Boeing’s chief executive, said the company hopes that regulatory approval of Wisk’s automated technology will help pave the way for its widespread use in commercial aviation.
Gary Gysin, 63, was at the helm of Liquid Robotics, which developed solar- and wave-powered marine robots. Boeing took Liquid Robotics under its wing in 2016.
Here’s the conversation with Gary Gysin:
1. are these flying cabs really all that? When can we expect to see them in American cities more often?
Gary Gysin: Yes, they are a real thing. Large regulators are being proactive in bringing these services to market.
There are a lot of new entrants in this space, and a lot of people are talking about bringing products like this to market. To me, it’s like the early days of the automobile industry. It’s just not likely that 200 companies will survive, and it’s unlikely that so many will build full-size flying cabs and be licensed to fly in the U.S. or Europe.
There are plenty of serious real-world, credible market players, and that market will absolutely emerge. Maybe by 2025, you’ll see pilot versions of flying cabs enter the market for the first time. But 2025 is exactly when the industry will be ten years old and you’ll start to see this product in person.
2. whenever a helicopter flies over your house, you always get a little freaked out – is it because the police are after you? Or is it because I’m on the news? Do people hear flying cabs in their homes?
Gary Gysin: They are much quieter than helicopters. Turning the blades a little slower makes them even quieter. So everybody is drilling down on technology to make sure that the rotors and blades are big enough so that you can spin them slower and still get the lift and propulsion that you need to keep the sound super low.
Takeoff and landing are the loudest. The stage with the least sound is when you are flying like an airplane.
3. How are you going to convince the public that it’s safe to fly in this type of vehicle?
Gary Gysin: This type of flight will be safer than any existing form of aviation. But that’s easier said than done. What we need to do is prove it with data.
4. Do you think it would be difficult to calm nervous passengers on an airplane without a pilot?
Gary Gysin: Every seat has a screen that shows you your flight path, estimated time of arrival, how long you have left on the trip, etc. You can press a button at any time to check the status of your flight. You can push a button at any time to communicate with someone on the ground. Like you said, it’s all about getting passengers reassured in a timely manner. There’s also a help button in the cabin, so if you need help, again, push the button and someone will immediately offer help.
We also have human involvement, we also have pilots – they’re on the ground. They’ll be in contact with air traffic control, and they’ll also be in contact with the passengers in the cabin.
We will fly on a preset route, but if for some reason the pilots need to intervene, they can do so immediately.
5. Over the years, there have been news reports of problems with ground-based threat detection in self-driving cars. How can this be avoided in the air? Given that there are no pedestrians or other obstacles in the air, isn’t it going to be easier?
Gary Gysin: That’s a much simpler technical question. Technically, I don’t want to say that building self-driving cars is a nightmare, but it’s really difficult.
Think about pedestrians, bicyclists, balls rolling down the street, etc., and the lines on the road may not be very clear. The technology to automate the airspace is already in place and in use.
6. How does a flying cab ride compare to a ride-sharing cab or UberX? For example, from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to downtown Chicago, is it the same price, but faster?
Gary Gysin: Yes, it’s orders of magnitude faster. 7.
7. Can flying cab owners and operators make money by offering that kind of price?
Gary Gysin: We think it’s the only way to really scale the market.
Think about it, there are no pilots and we don’t have to incur the usual pilot training costs. The product is purely electric, so there are fewer parts and fewer things to maintain. So operating costs are low.
8. What infrastructure is needed to create a network of flying cabs? What is needed for vertical take-off and landing airports in cities, where these flying cabs will land? Do the buildings need reinforced roofs?
Gary Gysin: No, because flying cabs tend to be lighter than helicopters.
You have to have the communications infrastructure in place to be able to talk to the flying cabs. As far as where you’re going to land, the good news is we don’t need an airport, we don’t need a runway. What we need is a tarmac.
What exactly do we need? Purely electric airplanes need charging facilities. Also, sensors need to be installed around the vertical take-off and landing airports to automate landings.
The idea is to make full use of the existing general aviation airports as well as the existing helipads. In many of the videos, you’ll see a shiny new vertical landing strip on top of the building. That’s great. But there are also unused helipads that have been built on top of buildings, and these could certainly be fitted with the facilities needed for flying cabs.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top