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Tampa International Airport tests futuristic flying technology for first time: 'This is going to be a reality'

The demonstration was the first of its kind at a major United States airport.

The demonstration was the first of its kind at a major United States airport.

Photo Credit: iStock

Flying electric taxis might sound like something out of the future, but apparently, the future is almost here for Tampa International Airport. The airport recently hosted its first test flight of an electric vertical takeoff and landing plane, more commonly known as an eVTOL.

The demonstration was the first of its kind at a major United States airport, and officials said it was more than just a stunt. 

"This is going to be a reality for us very soon," the airport's chief executive officer, Joe Lopano, told the Tampa Bay Times.

There are several companies vying to break through in the fledgling eVTOL industry, including Beta Technologies, Joby Aviation, and Archer Aviation. The test at the Tampa International Airport was conducted by a German company called Volocopter, which has created an air taxi with eight rotors that looks like a massive drone.

Airport-related short-distance travel has consistently been one of the top potential uses touted by eVTOL companies. Small electric aircrafts could potentially take passengers from nearby urban centers to airports more efficiently than cars. 

However, the limited battery capacities that eVTOLs currently possess make longer trips unrealistic at present. Volocopter's chief executive Dirk Hoke told the Tampa Bay Times that its air taxis can currently only travel up to 12 miles at a time. He also said that these types of trips would likely be prohibitively expensive for the majority of customers at first but that he expected prices to go down over time.

The next step for the eVTOL industry and the companies attempting to make it a reality is to obtain federal approval. Volocopter expects to get approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency as soon as next year and will aim for FAA approval after that.

So, while the days of taking the electric flying taxi to the airport are not imminently upon us (and are even less imminent if you are not extremely wealthy), they may still be closer than many would expect.

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