So far, most manufacturers of air taxis rely on heavy lithium-ion batteries as energy storage. The startup Alaka'i Technologies, however, is taking a different approach together with BMW: The two companies have developed a passenger drone with integrated fuel cell. This must be refueled with hydrogen. The big advantage: One pound of hydrogen provides around 200 times more energy than a comparable heavy battery. Accordingly, the airline taxis called Skai also remain much longer in the air than most competing models. According to the developers, the passengers should be able to cover distances of up to 644 kilometers. This roughly corresponds to the distance between Munich and Hamburg. The maximum duration of flight is around four hours.
A parachute should prevent an uncontrolled crash in an emergency
The range is also increased by the use of particularly lightweight carbon composite materials in the construction of the drone. Above all, BMW should have used its expertise here. The carmaker was one of the first to use carbon to produce light, yet extremely stable car parts. The owner family behind the group has also invested in companies from the carbon industry. Overall, the Skai drone has three fuel cells, in which the power for six electric motors with a capacity of 100 kilowatts is produced. Also for the emergency is provided for. In the event of a failure of a maximum of two rotors, the flight taxi can still safely reach the destination. Otherwise, a parachute is available to land the drone safely on the ground.
The test flights will start soon
In theory, the flight taxi can already navigate completely autonomously. Nevertheless, a pilot will have to be on board for the upcoming test flights. This is currently required by law. The aim of the cooperation between Alaka'i Technologies and BMW is to obtain the approval of the German authorities for the aircraft as quickly as possible. But it is not known yet when the serial production should start. But the scenario is clear: The drone should be used on the one hand to transport passengers against payment. On the other hand, it is also planned to be used in the event of natural disasters. In impassable roads, for example, rescue workers could be flown to affected areas.