US News Will we travel to work in drones in the future?

19:46  05 january  2018
19:46  05 january  2018 Source:   news.sky.com

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This article first appeared in issue 285 of BBC Focus magazine - for more future technology subscribe here. Space drones . NASA has challenged designers to develop a conventional drone to work inside a space station, navigating with no ‘up’ or ‘down’.

What's Working . Christmas. Travel . Extraordinary Journeys. Fast Food Delivery: Big companies such as Domino's Pizza will be looking to invest in drones for pizza delivery in the future .

The Y6S - a battery-powered pilotless flying vehicle © Other The Y6S - a battery-powered pilotless flying vehicle A British entrepreneur developing the UK's first autonomous passenger drone says he'll begin test flights with people on board as early as this year. 

Martin Warner's start-up, Autonomous Flight, has been building the Y6S - a battery-powered pilotless flying vehicle - to give our busiest cities a major transport upgrade.

"One day, absolutely, there's going to be an air shuttle system and people using autonomous passenger drones or indeed piloted drones as another form of getting to work," he told me.

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But in the near future , they could become as important to the way we live and work as smartphones have become. What’s missing right now is a developer community making apps that transform drones into new tools that their manufacturers haven’t even imagined.

Drones have tactical limitations, and will not likely completely replace, in the foreseeable future at least, other more conventional forms of weapons. While they have been successful in destabilizing Al Qaeda activities, leading Bin Laden, if we believe reports of his final weeks, to be afraid to traveling

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The Y6S is designed to cover a distance of Heathrow Airport to Charing Cross train station in 12 minutes, a journey that could take around an hour by car.

I asked how he would manage commuters' safety concerns about flying in a vehicle without a pilot.

"There are multiple flight redundancies which is multiple uses of technology to ensure that if there is a single point of failure the aircraft will either land or fly you to where you need to be," he said.

What about the risk of cyberattacks?

Chinese UAV-maker Ehang became the first to test-fly a passenger drone taxi with its single-seater Ehang 184 in Dubai last year © Other Chinese UAV-maker Ehang became the first to test-fly a passenger drone taxi with its single-seater Ehang 184 in Dubai last year He continued: "These are serialised, they're tracked, we're not flying over oceans, they're flying short distances.

"You have to assume that you are one step ahead in terms of encryption and constantly reviewing that."

Early test flights, without passengers, have already been taking place around the Kent/Surrey border, according to Mr Warner, who believes these electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, or VTOLs, will be the next goldrush in transportation and not as costly as you might think.

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"The ability to put what we call the Y6S - a two-seater aircraft - in the air for someone to purchase is probably going to be more like a medium price of around $25,000 or £20,000," he said.

There are currently several companies around the world working on pilotless passenger drones but Autonomous Flight is the only firm from the UK.

Chinese UAV-maker Ehang became the first to test-fly a passenger drone taxi with its single-seater Ehang 184 in Dubai last year.

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<p> German startup Volocopter <a href=recently secured €25 million ($30 million) investment in a funding round led by Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz.

Volocopter has designed an electric, flying taxi that will start shuttling passengers around Dubai as part of a five-year testing period with Dubai's Road and Transport Authority. The tests will begin by the end of the year.

Here's what you need to know about the Daimler-backed startup:

" src="/upload/images/real/2018/01/05/p-german-startup-volocopter-a-href-https-press-volocopter-com-index-php-flying-air-taxis-from-german_105640_.jpg?content=1" /> Mercedes' parent company is making a big investment in a flying taxi startup — here's what we know

While Uber's deal with NASA to work on its flying taxi project should see testing begin in 2020.

As long as regulatory requirements can be met, Martin says we’ll see passenger drones above UK cities within as little as five years.

He told me he will definitely be on board his Y6S when it takes off for its debut passenger flight this year.

:: See more of Martin Warner’s interview in Sky’s weekly technology show, Swipe.

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