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Asia Minute: Taxi Takes Flight in Singapore

Marina Bay, Singapore

A piece of science fiction is one step closer to reality this morning. In the skies above a major city in Southeast Asia this week, residents and visitors were treated to the sight of a flying taxi.

A test flight was scheduled to last three minutes this week above Singapore’s Marina Bay — demonstrating the latest progress in the corporate race towards a flying taxi.

The flight only lasted about two minutes, but the German start-up company Volocopter called it a success. The time in the air was about twice as long as the Wright Brothers’ first aviation excursion, but this vehicle is a little different.

It’s designed as an electrically powered drone — although early models will have a pilot aboard just to add a layer of security.

The vehicle is similar to a helicopter, but with cleaner energy and less noise, according to those working on the project. This model is designed to go from city center to the airport — with room for two people and their luggage.

Singapore has been eager to market itself as a home for cutting edge technology, and it’s in a bit of a competition as a test area with Dubai.

A separate German start-up also had a flying taxi demonstration this week – as Lilium put its prototype in the air at its headquarters in Munich.

This is a competitive field with Daimler investing in the Lilium model and other projects being backed by companies including Boeing, Porsche, Uber and Google.

Citigroup has predicted that commercial air taxi service might be available in Singapore, Dubai and Shanghai by the year 2025.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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