Science & Technology



Ready for air taxis? Aerospace engineers and entrepreneurs aim to change how we see the sky

Daniel Desrochers, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Science & Technology News

The next time you are outside, look up.

You might see houses, buildings, a few trees. Higher you may see some clouds, a commercial airplane, a military airplane. Maybe there’s a helicopter.

In other words, not much. That’s changing.

Aerospace engineers and entrepreneurs across the world are in a race to fundamentally change how we see the sky.

They are working on new air vehicles — in an industry called advanced air mobility — that will be used to drop packages on your doorstep, transport people and cargo over shorter distances and could even give people the ability to call air-taxis.

“It’s not an if, it’s a when,” said Davis Hackenberg, the Advanced Air Mobility project manager for NASA. “Electric aviation is going to happen.”


Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill sponsored by Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids that would create a working group to study what the federal government needs to do in regards to the fledgling industry. It now heads to the U.S. Senate, where it’s being shepherded by Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran.

The bill is an attempt to get the government prepared for what will likely change the future of transportation. It will mean everything from new safety regulations, to infrastructure in the form of “vertiports,” to getting the public onboard with the concept of drone-like planes flying around their neighborhoods.

It’s also an attempt to keep Kansas — with its well-established aeronautics industry — at the forefront of the next generation in flight.

“I think we’re well positioned to not only be able to be the air capital of the world for all the general aviation and commercial aircraft that we have been historically but we can be the air capital of the world for advanced air mobility too,” said Pierre Harter, the Director of Research and Development for National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University


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