Students Asked to Design Air Taxis That Are Inclusive for Everyone

The Vertical Flight Society partnered with Aerobility for its 39th annual student design competition, which seeks to create air taxis that are accessible to everyone. Courtesy Aerobility

As air taxi developers across the globe continue to make advancements in the future of urban mobility, one organization is looking for ways to make sure the aircraft of the future are accessible for all.

The Vertical Flight Society—formerly the American Helicopter Society and the world’s largest nonprofit technical society focused on vertical flight—has announced plans for its 39th annual Student Design Competition. This year’s competitors will be tasked with creating an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft that accommodates passengers with a broad spectrum of mobility difficulties, or other disabilities, for urban air mobility (UAM) missions.

“Some $10 billion has been invested in eVTOL developments over the past six years, with nearly half of that coming just this year,” said Mike Hirschberg, VFS executive director, in a press release. “EVTOL air taxis can provide safe, quiet, affordable, clean solutions for metropolitan transportation needs, so they must be usable by the widest possible segment of the population.”

Albert Brand, senior technical fellow for flight technology for Bell, this year’s contest sponsor, said the need for these accessible air taxis is significant. ”As an emerging industry, it is not too early to anticipate the greater needs of our society when it comes to eVTOL transportation,” he said. “We need to recognize the needs of travelers with reduced mobility and factor that in our designs.”

The competition is open to students at universities worldwide with $12,500 in cash prizes available to the winning undergraduate and graduate teams. Two members of the first-place teams will be invited to present the details of their designs at the 79th annual Forum & Technology Display on May 13 to 15, 2023, in West Palm Beach, Florida.

VFS partnered with Aerobility, a U.K.-based charity that offers disabled people the opportunity to fly an airplane, for this year’s contest.

“The opportunity to encourage tomorrow’s designers to consider accessibility at the birth of a new transport mode is very exciting,” said Mike Miller-Smith, CEO of Aerobility. “One can only imagine how different air travel today would be for people with disabilities if this had been done at the birth of commercial aviation.”

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Based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Meg is head of Digital Editorial Content, bringing 20 years of editorial experience in both digital and print to the Firecrown team. Follow Meg on Twitter @emdash13.

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