Nairobi has been identified as one of the launch cities for an ambitious flying cars plan. The McFly.aero blockchain project is starting the set up of infrastructure for air taxis service in 23 cities in 13 countries, including Nairobi.
It is a two-part business incubator, the first spanning a technological consortium of 12 companies that is developing the elements of the city air taxis, across the flying cars with Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOLs), energy and traffic management infrastructure.
The second part involves building local communities called McFly Chapters, aiming at community engagement that gets people to share information on the project, getting industry experts to share research and entrepreneurs to establish local connections with manufacturers, with real estate partners for landing pads, and even with government bodies for registration.
It is expected the project will open new business for entrepreneurs, engineering and drone experts, and manufacturers of hardware and software for the blockchain-powered IOT for the urban air taxi infrastructure.
McFly’s lead community manager Nikolay Bezhko said that VTOLs will be driven by auto-pilot to improve safety.
“The VTOL autonomy will be implemented over time as users and regulators become more comfortable with the technology and see statistical proof that autonomy provides greater levels of safety than human pilots,” he said.
The idea is that passengers will be picked up at the nearest helipad or heliport to their pick-up point and dropped at the nearest pad to their destination, and will take a 5-10-minute walk at either end.
Unlike helicopters, the cars will be efficient in fuel use, noise and safety, said Bezhko.
He said the initial production cost will be $120,000 (Sh12m) per vehicle, but will come down to $30,000 (Sh3m) to $40,000 (Sh4m) once they go into mass production.
As far as fares go, the rides have an indicative price of $8 (Sh800) per minute, but pricing will be based on the grid’s load, and transactions will be made in McFly tokens on the blockchain.
The use of blockchain comes as the ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru has set up an 11-member taskforce headed by former Information principal secretary Bitange Ndemo to explore the use of distributed ledger technology and artificial intelligence for development in Kenya.
Other countries that have been targeted for the McFly launches are the US (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Pittsburgh), France (Paris), Ukraine (Kiev, Dnepr, Znamenovka), Belarus (Minsk, Vitebsk), Russia (Moscow, Tarusa), India (Srikakulam, Surat), Australia, Japan, Nigeria, Panama, Spain, Mexico, Indonesia, and Nepal.
For traffic control, one of the consortium members is working on a traffic management system that will use city airspaces for up to 1,000 metres above ground, which is the maximum flying height for the VTOLs.
Before any VTOL operates, they will need to meet all the registration requirements for the relevant authorities in each city of operation.
Two- of four-seaters, the vehicles will either be on autopilot or have the passenger pointing directions, Bezhko said, adding, so far, there are two designs: Bartini, flying at 300km/h and Hepard, which flies at 150 km/h. Both designs have a flight time of 30 minutes, he said.
The market for air taxi services is projected to reach $1.2 trillion per annum in the next few years, with more than 20 companies, including Daimler Ventures, Boeing, Geely/Volvo, Tencent and Atomico Ventures, now working on VTOLs.
They will be electric or hydrogen powered and manufacturers will have the first test flights between March and May 2018.
- African Laughter