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Old 12th May 2024, 18:54   #1
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Anand Mahindra unveils India's first electric flying taxi

Anand Mahindra, Chairman of the Mahindra Group, has unveiled India's first electric flying taxi prototype. It is expected to be fully operational by next year.

Anand Mahindra unveils India's first electric flying taxi-gnn0wwgwsaalwu9.jpg

The electric flying taxi called ePlane e200 has been developed by the ePlane Company, an initiative of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras. It's a 2-seater aircraft that has a maximum range of 200 km. It has a top speed of 200 km/h and can cruise at 160 km/h.

Anand Mahindra unveils India's first electric flying taxi-gnn0wwmwuaiuwex.jpg

The ePlane e200 is ideal for intra-city commutes and cargo transportation. Satya Chakravarthy, Professor of Aerospace Engineering at IIT Madras, said, "Designed for up to 10X faster intra-city commute and cargo transportation, we aim to alleviate on-road traffic congestion in cities through our flagship product."

Anand Mahindra unveils India's first electric flying taxi-gnn0wwxwcae8ko_.jpg

Source: Anand Mahindra

Link to Team-BHP News

Last edited by TusharK : 12th May 2024 at 18:56.
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Old 12th May 2024, 21:26   #2
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Re: Anand Mahindra unveils India's first electric flying taxi

Flying taxis, flying cars are an excellent feat of engineering. But, apart from that they seem to make no sense to me.

Landing infrastructure:In the article it says they will be VTOL (vertical take off and landing) aircrafts. Are they going to land straight on to roads?
If they have specific areas for these taxis (like helipads), the customer will have to walk to that area. Basically like a metro system (metro is cheaper and safer too).

Hazards:I live in Hyderabad. Hyderabad is currently insane with the amount of buildings with 40+ floors. A lot of areas have pretty tall buildings too.
What if they crash into the building? There will be loss of life, risk of fire accidents, and depending on the crash could pose structural risk to the buildings too (they might collapse).

Certification:How will they certify flying taxi drivers?

Quantity:How many will be in the sky at a given time. if there are too many it will cause a lot of noise pollution. It will be hard to coordinate them
if there are not many, it won't be enough, time saved avoiding traffic will be wasted waiting for it.

I'm all for cool engineering (I would like to do cool stuff just like this). But, we have to think twice (or more for something of this scale) before doing it.
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Old 13th May 2024, 00:51   #3
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Re: Anand Mahindra unveils India's first electric flying taxi

It's hard not to come across as a cynic while discussing such topics, but here goes my attempt beginning with my opinion :

I believe all we need is tar between cars
...meaning, well designed and constructed flyovers & subways. But can't argue with Mr.Mahindra's "Audacious aspirations matter".

Firstly, this prototype is of the non-working kind; I'd prefer the word 'concept' for these, but it could be argued that the 'original type' (proto typus) is a drawing/render here. Also, they seem to have unveiled it much earlier (I could find articles dating back to Jan '22 sharing plans for 'working prototype' by Sep '22). They recently seem to have got some 'Design Organisation Approval', which I think is why this is floating on the news again.

But as far as I could look-up, drones in India are only categorised as either 'Unmanned Aerial Vehicles' or 'Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems'; neither of these means it can carry a person or two. This leads me to think the approval is probably for a remotely piloted cargo-only version of this e200, which a co-founder spoke of in one of the earlier articles I read (will link all at the end).

In what seems to be a part of a protectionist measure, our Govt. had abolished several approvals for drones in 'The Drones Rule (2021)' , some being : "certificate of manufacturing and airworthiness, certificate of conformance, certificate of maintenance" (now, there are few amendments to this rule, but I don't see anything pertaining to approvals for the drone). For cargo drones, wedding or IPL videography drones, these sound pretty minor but I don't think this'd translate to approval for a drone taxi, if I was right in assuming this approval isn't, that is!

Links : News article from Jan '22, Mar '22, Apr '23
DOA approval & Drone Rules


Besides all the adverts-for-investors that these most likely are, the team themselves seem to have done a decent development over the years :


This, I think, is them in 2019. I noticed 'Ek Hanz' mentioned in one of their earlier websites; so just must be. (Yeah, I probably dug a bit too deep into this topic )


In 2023, testing e50 - 3m long; designed to carry 50kg of load.



This one is not from the same company, but the closest I could find to manned drone in India.
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Old 13th May 2024, 09:27   #4
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Re: Anand Mahindra unveils India's first electric flying taxi

The flying taxi already exists. It was invented 4 years after the airplane. It is called the Helicopter.

This quadcopter design is nothing but another helicopter. Helicopters are the reason why flying cars never got the traction everyone for the past 100 years has been thinking it would. Because the problem has already been solved.

When you travel in a car, you travel in 2 dimensions. When we take a flying car, it travels in the 3rd dimension as well so there is infinitely more space to travel to counter the traffic congestion, we all face in the first 2 dimensions.

All of these flying cars / flying taxis are trying to solve a problem that has already been solved. Thats the reason why they haven't been able to pick up on traction no matter what company has been making them since the competition from the incumbents (helicopters) is just too high.
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Old 13th May 2024, 11:02   #5
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Re: Anand Mahindra unveils India's first electric flying taxi

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Originally Posted by antz.bin View Post
...
All of these flying cars / flying taxis are trying to solve a problem that has already been solved. Thats the reason why they haven't been able to pick up on traction.
Lets assume for a moment that a very competent and safe flying car has been produced.
Even then handing such a competent flying car over to the general public to fly point to point arbitrarily and navigate around the city around buildings and over overhead high tension power lines and avoiding colliding with other similar flying cars is a huge security and personal hazard. The idea simply is not practical and a great risk to everyone.

What may work or succeed is if a driverless flying car is designed in the following way:
1. The user (general public) simply boards the vehicle and selects the destination landing pad (among the available choice of destination landing pads in the list).

2. The vehicle should take off automatically navigate itself, take a flight path through the city in a designated/authorized course and auto pilot all the way and land at a predesignated/authorized point in the destination.

3. In other words, the operation of such a flying craft should be fully automated and devoid of any human intervention. It should not allow any takeover of controls by those onboard along arbitrary/non-authorized paths.

4. Under all circumstances, if there is a failure of any kind, the flying car should be able to ensure an immediate assured gentle emergency landing and not drop down like a stone.

For example: the vehicle is at a height of 40 feet above the ground (too low for a parachute) and there is an engine failure, there needs to be a heavy flywheel with lot of inertia to keep the propellers rotating and enable a gentle landing even if something goes wrong with the engine.

I'm optimistic that such a vehicle with the above characteristics will be available for our(humanity) use in future The technology and operating regulations around it have to be rock solid and safe ofcourse.

There are already operational models such as the Amazon drone delivery in its infancy. They can extend and evolve the same (with humans as the payload eventually)

Last edited by for_cars1 : 13th May 2024 at 11:21.
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Old 13th May 2024, 11:14   #6
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Re: Anand Mahindra unveils India's first electric flying taxi

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Originally Posted by for_cars1 View Post
Lets assume for a moment that a very competent and safe flying car has been produced.
Even then handing such a competent flying car over to the general public to fly point to point arbitrarily and navigate through the city around buildings and over overhead power lines and other similar flying cars is a huge security and personal hazard. The idea simply is not practical and a great risk to everyone.

What may work or succeed is if a driverless flying car is designed in the following way:
1. The user (general public) simply boards the vehicle and selects the destination landing pad (among the available choice of desitination landing pad in the list).

2. The vehicle should take off automatically navigate itself, take a flight path through the city in a designated/authorized course and auto pilot all the way and land at a predesignated/authorized point in the destination.

3. In other words, the operation of such a flying craft should be fully automated and devoid of any human intervention. It should not allow any takeover of controls by those onboard along arbitrary/non-authorized paths.

4. Under all circumstances, if there is a failure of any kind, the flying car should be able to ensure an immediate assured gentle emergency landing and not drop down like a stone.

I'm optimistic that such a vehicle with the above characteristics will be available for our(humanity) use in future The technology and operating regulations around it have to be rock solid and safe ofcourse.
They can extend and refine concepts similar to Amazon drone delivery model (with humans as the payload)
For emergencies/ failure, parachute system can be used as done in some small planes and gliders. At the moment that system is costly but it has definitely saved a lot of lives!

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Old 13th May 2024, 12:03   #7
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Re: Anand Mahindra unveils India's first electric flying taxi

If it "flies", then there will be very strict government regulations around it (including for safety). I am willing to bet this will be more expensive than one thinks, and the time taken for door-to-door will be comparable to cars. In many cases, the car might be quicker. That's why no one flies Mumbai-Pune or Mumbai-Nashik. You need to account for check-in and checkout times, along with driving to & fro the airport / runway location.

Regardless, I'm never flying in such a basic machine. I even avoid flying in airlines that are bankrupt (e.g. GoFirst when it was cash strapped), so there is no way I'm getting into such a small aircraft.
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Old 13th May 2024, 12:05   #8
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Re: Anand Mahindra unveils India's first electric flying taxi

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Originally Posted by antz.bin View Post
Because the problem has already been solved.
I don't remember where I learnt this from, but someone said something along the lines of : "What a helicopter does is not flight; it's just getting air into submission".

What I'm getting at is that the problem these guys are trying to solve is different - efficiency. It takes a lot more energy for a helicopter than an aeroplane to cover a distance; but the aeroplane needs lot more space (on the scale of real estate) to do so. Climate change forces us to move towards stringent norms & there's only so little real estate around metropolitan cities, precisely where the demand for airports is.

The 'hybrid system' they're trying achieve here is, simply put, taking off and landing like a helicopter, to require relatively little space & flying mid-air like a aeroplane, to save energy.

Let's suppose this concept gets real one day. These could be replaced with private flights. Ban existing private aeroplanes and helicopters in the name environmental protection; funnel wealth, from those who really want to use such vehicle into such companies that profit from and further develop existing tech, by basically forcing them to buy and use those, pay for certified drone-chauffeur, etc.

'Uber on the skies' is just a politician-to-press & investee-to-investor version of this. It's hard to imagine such a thing, because neither the tech nor the regulations are here yet.

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Old 13th May 2024, 14:38   #9
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Re: Anand Mahindra unveils India's first electric flying taxi

The photo is of a table top scale model not even of a full scale concept fuselage. Looks like the company and Anand Mahindra were itching to put out a press release over an idea or a proposed product.

Request readers to forgive me for a post that is acerbic.

Since the 1940s several folks with an inventive mind have been excited with the concept of a flying car called by whatever name. From an engineering point of view it is no great shakes. As we see here students at an IIT are designing this transportation device.

How is it in any way superior to a helicopter is hard to fathom range, nope; speed, nope; safety, not at all; cost of operation questionable; payload a far cry; ability to cope with rough weather very questionable. Aircraft that can take off vertically and fly like a fixed wing airplane exists the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey being the most prominent. There is a notion amongst the public that a quad arrangement is somehow superior or more technologically advanced. Not really IMHO but yes it can be slightly more compact than a traditional helicopter in length and rotor sweep area.

Energy density of aviation fuel is several times greater than the best battery ~250 to 300 watt-hours per kg versus ~12800 watt hours/kg. A flying device is super sensitive to every ounce of weight. As of now due to this 40X to 50X gap it is not possible to design a flying machine powered by batteries that has a superior performance than a turbine powered machine.

The skies over a city cannot accommodate vast numbers of small flying cars zipping around the place. It would be an aeronautical disaster.

..but the concept keeps tickling minds. Would this clear flight safety and air worthiness certifications from regulators - looks very tough. Is it economically viable - looks even tougher.
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Old 13th May 2024, 21:17   #10
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Re: Anand Mahindra unveils India's first electric flying taxi

It is great that the ePlane project has gotten the backing of Mahindra and company. Here are some facts to consider on the topic:

1. Drones are not AAM. Drones are remotely operated (known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft System - RPAS in ICAO parlance) and generally are not designed to carry people. AAMs are either piloted or autonomous, designed to carry people and cargo.

2. The AAM produced by the Chinese manufacturer EHang has already been certified by China's airworthiness authority, CAAC. Ehang has demonstrated that they can operate autonomously in UAE as well as in China. Expects to have a list price of US$410k for a two passenger aircraft.

3. Volocopter (Europe) has demonstration plans for their AAM during Paris Olympics. The plan is to have it piloted at this time - may or may not happen.

4. Multiple manufacturers in the US are close to certifying their vehicles and also developing ecosystems. In the US, the initial flights are likely to have on board pilots and be demonstrated before 2028.

5. While there are similarities between a helicopter and AAM, the AAM's ultimate goal is to have autonomous operations. In addition, an eVTOL takes off and lands vertically but uses aerodynamic lift during forward motion/ cruise phase. So, this makes the AAM more efficient similar to fixed wing aircraft when cruising.

6. There is a company that operates helicopters to go from Bengaluru Kempegowda airport to the HAL Airport in the city - their fares are not much more than what five star hotels charge for airport pick up from Kempegowda airport. This company even offers Lexus NX drop off from HAL airport to destinations in the city. Companies like this can easily adapt to operating AAMs profitably.

7. Pilotless autonomous operation is the future. However, this requires a lot of infrastructure and ecosystem development in addition to specific operating procedures and how they get integrated in to the traditional airspace.

8. Many of the AAM manufacturers have big companies backing them up. Boeing has Wisk, and many of the US Big Four airlines fund other AAMs.

9. There are probably more than 30 different types of AAMs in various phases of design and certification. Some AAMs are fixed wing as well.

10. Due to battery limitations, the eVTOL aircraft will not a have a long range or endurance. But, there are companies developing gas turbine powered AAMs as well.

Cheers.

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Old 13th May 2024, 22:31   #11
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Re: Anand Mahindra unveils India's first electric flying taxi

Quote:
Originally Posted by V.Narayan View Post
..but the concept keeps tickling minds. Would this clear flight safety and air worthiness certifications from regulators - looks very tough. Is it economically viable - looks even tougher.
Considering the concerns you mentioned, it would make good sense for Food delivery apps to deliver cargo/food/medicines to apartment complexes with heli pads. This way they get a chance to collect data about challenges and fix them.
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Old 14th May 2024, 10:12   #12
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Re: Anand Mahindra unveils India's first electric flying taxi

Despite all the criticism and concerns, I would say this is still a good first step.

I am not sure how they will launch this next year, for any piece of fresh aviation machinery intended to carry humans takes years of rigorous testing. Mahindra probably spent more time testing XUV 700.

Considering this is a flying automobile, it will fall within the purview of the aviation ministry, and regulation for a battery-powered, human-carrying airborne automobile is still abstract and open to misinterpretation.

That all being said, this is at least a decent start, a spark that can be nurtured to an ever-burning flame. Even electric cars had such a kind of seemingly farfetched start, at least in India. Back when we had lightweight Reva, it was hard to believe we could get anything bigger and better, and now we have the likes of Nexon EV, a battery-powered car that weighs over a ton.

Last edited by r2212xx : 14th May 2024 at 10:13. Reason: Broke content into smaller paragraphs
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Old 14th May 2024, 11:00   #13
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Re: Anand Mahindra unveils India's first electric flying taxi

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Originally Posted by V.Narayan View Post
The photo is of a table top scale model not even of a full scale concept fuselage. Looks like the company and Anand Mahindra were itching to put out a press release over an idea or a proposed product.
Mr. Mahindra (or his PR team) is very good at leveraging 'buzz' with his personal social media accounts, much better than peer business heads. There's rarely a month that doesn't go by where one or the other of his posts don't make it to the news. I think there was a model or prototype of some sort of M&M ventilator during covid days? Lots of people went gaga, some predicted that those would never see production. What ultimately happened to those affordable ventilators?

Quote:
Originally Posted by V.Narayan View Post
Request readers to forgive me for a post that is acerbic.
Actually, thanks sir for a factual evaluation. Too many brands just use tactics like this to promote themselves. It's good to be a skeptic in a sea of followers.

Last edited by am1m : 14th May 2024 at 11:04.
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Old 14th May 2024, 11:25   #14
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Re: Anand Mahindra unveils India's first electric flying taxi

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Originally Posted by V.Narayan View Post
How is it in any way superior to a helicopter is hard to fathom range, nope; speed, nope; safety, not at all; cost of operation questionable; payload a far cry; ability to cope with rough weather very questionable. Aircraft that can take off vertically and fly like a fixed wing airplane exists the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey being the most prominent. There is a notion amongst the public that a quad arrangement is somehow superior or more technologically advanced. Not really IMHO but yes it can be slightly more compact than a traditional helicopter in length and rotor sweep area.
Just for info, The V22 Osprey has spent more time grounded than in the air on account of several issues. It is not really a success. The only successful VSTOL aircraft that has been around is the Sea Harrier. Having spent years with it, one thing I can safely say - Its not for the cities
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Old 14th May 2024, 12:05   #15
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Re: Anand Mahindra unveils India's first electric flying taxi

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Originally Posted by handsofsteel View Post
Just for info, The V22 Osprey has spent more time grounded than in the air on account of several issues. It is not really a success. The only successful VSTOL aircraft that has been around is the Sea Harrier. Having spent years with it, one thing I can safely say - Its not for the cities
The AAMs are completely different than V22s due to the wonders of electric propulsion and extreme redundancies. Several companies have flown their AAM prototypes for thousands of miles even autonomously. Below is an example from Wisk (Boeing JV):



Archer has signed an MOU with Indigo's parent company to start AAM service from IGI to Gurgaon/ Noida in 2026. It most likely will be piloted when they start. 2026 is not that far away and we can certainly revisit this thread . Archer plans to start operating in the US in 2025.

Also, be sure to see the video from Joby's webpage. Very informative on how differently these aircraft operate even from one manufacturer to another. Nothing like the same old tube and wing configuration with turbofan propulsion.

I am sure with Mahindra's financial backing, ePlane will be able to get certified in short order. If I recall correctly, they already have test flown their prototypes.
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