Drone Taxis on Track to Be Live at 2024 Paris Olympics
BY Zacc Dukowitz24 May 2023
Drone taxis were first announced for the 2024 Paris Olympics back in 2021. And even back then, the timeline seemed aggressive.
But it’s looking like the drone taxi program will actually launch on time.
French transportation authorities recently shared that air taxis are on track to be live at the 2024 Olympics in Paris, and that a ride in one will cost $119 (or 110 Euros) from the Charles de Gaulle Airport to one of several destinations in the city, which is about double the fixed rate for a taxi ride for similar distances.
This information was recently shared in a speech given by Augustin de Romanet, CEO of Paris Aéroport, which oversees the three international airports in France.
For the Olympics, it will be experimental. We will sell a few thousand tickets at very reasonable prices, around 110 euros.
– Augustin de Romanet, CEO of Paris Aéroport
The vehicles that will be used for the Paris test program are made by Volocopter, and are generally referred to as VoloCity air taxis.
The vertiports—very small airports made just for eVTOL drone taxis—are made by Skyports, and are about 380 square feet in size on average.
The First Live Drone Taxi Service—Ever
Like any emerging tech industry, the drone industry is packed with “first ever” claims.
And the drone taxi space is no different, with companies claiming they’ve achieved the first ever live demonstration with real passengers, or the longest flight, and so on.
But it looks like the Paris Olympics drone taxi program may have a good case to make that it will be the first ever drone taxi service. That is the claim made by Solène Le Bris, the lead on Paris Aéroport’s AAM project, when she spoke at Amsterdam Drone Week not too long ago.
We are trying to launch the first e-VTOL [vertical takeoff and landing] pre-commercial service in the world: that’s our ambition.
– Solène Le Bris, AAM lead at Paris Aéroport
Volocopter has conducted years of testing in partnership with Paris Aéroport and other city officials to get to this point. Take a look at this video for an overview of some of that testing:
Everything We Know about the Paris Drone Taxi Service
A key part of making drone taxi services possible in one of the largest cities in the world was to leverage existing networks in the city.
The air taxis will use existing helicopter routes to transport people around Paris during the Olympic games. However, the drone taxis will be flying lower than the helicopters, which should help them avoid the effects of any wind turbulence caused by the helicopters’ propellers.
In total, the program will have five vertiports where passengers can board and get off.
The first vertiport, located at Cergy-Pontoise, is already open and has been functioning as a testing ground since November of last year. Some of the key routes include short rides from the Charles de Gaulle airport to the Le Bourget airport, and from there to a new landing pad at a major train station called Austerlitz Paris. Another route can be flown from the Issy-les-Moulineaux heliport in southwest Paris and the Saint-Cyr l’École airfield in Versailles.
Extra landing pads may be added at the existing vertiports or nearby locations to allow for a buffer in case there’s a need for an emergency landing.
All of the drone taxis will be piloted, and they can only carry a single passenger. Paris Aéroport has shared that it will probably limit the number of tickets, though there will be “several thousands of tickets” available—but it hasn’t yet decided how people will be able to buy them.
As for navigating regulatory hurdles to get the air taxi program live, officials involved say that the burden of regulation applies to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.
It will be that agency’s job to certify both the VoloCity air taxi as airworthy, as well as providing a way for air taxi pilots to be deemed certified to fly. As of yet, neither of these certifications exist, but the regulations are being built right now.
If all goes well at the Paris Olympics, the city may consider rolling out air taxi service permanently.
Logistics aside, public response will be the main driver of whether this happens.
The main lesson is to see how the people react to these new type[s] of services. For most of the citizens in Paris, [they] are still science fiction! They need to touch it, to be inside the vehicle, and we need their feedback. The Olympics are the start.
– Romain Erny, Head of Aerospace and Mobility at Choose Paris Region
The air taxis might also be tested for emergency transportation to help people suffering from acute conditions get to hospitals as fast as possible.
We are also looking at the use of e-VTOL for medical purposes, with Paris hospitals. Emergency doctors say if you reach the site one minute earlier in a heart attack you increase the chances of survival by 10%.
– Solène Le Bris, AAM lead at Paris Aéroport
Now the question is—would you take this ride?