Tuesday 18 September 2018

'Where we're going, we don't need roads'...Irish businessman plans 'flying taxis' in four years

The DeLorean was the ‘time machine’ car used in the Back to the Future movies. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
The DeLorean was the ‘time machine’ car used in the Back to the Future movies. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Eric Auchard

"Where we're going, we don't need roads." The iconic quote as Dr Emmet Brown powers up the Delorean in the 'Back to the Future' saga will stick in the minds of film-goers who dreamed of flying cars.

Now the same motto could be adopted by an Irish entrepreneur who is entering the race to build new inter-city "flying taxi" services.

Stephen Fitzpatrick, founder of Ovo Energy, said his new venture will apply lessons from F1 racing to build electric Vertical Take Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

Vertical Aerospace, as his self-funded flying company is known, aims to offer short-haul, inter-city flights carrying multiple passengers using piloted aircraft within four years. Since its inception in 2016, the firm has hired 28 veteran aerospace and technical experts from Airbus, Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Martin Jetpack and GE.

Entrepreneur: Stephen Fitzpatrick of Vertical Aerospace
Entrepreneur: Stephen Fitzpatrick of Vertical Aerospace

Vertical is looking to target some of the most congested air corridors in the world with aircraft that don't require runways but also have enough heft to travel up to 800km.

"We are investing in all the technology evolution taking place in aerospace but we are trying to apply that to something that's real world and is possible to execute four years out," the Vertical Aerospace founder and chief executive said. "We are not waiting for huge changes in existing regulations."

Competitors working toward launching autonomous flying cars early in the next decade range from aerospace giant Airbus to Uber. Several of these projects envision a service that can be ordered via smartphones, from "skyhubs" in city centres.

Belfast-born Mr Fitzpatrick prides himself on developing business ideas in areas where, at the outset, he has zero technical background. His first brush with hardware and physical product engineering came when he was a short-term owner of Formula 1 team Manor Racing.

Mr Fitzpatrick said it dawned on him that many racing car advances also applied to aircraft. "The technology we were using in Formula 1 was just too high-spec to be applied to the challenges of the typical road car," Mr Fitzpatrick said.

"What you can get from an F1 engine has more power density per kilo than a jet turbine," he said.

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Irish Independent

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