Silicon Valley is literally taking to the skies.
Tech giants like Uber and billionaires such as Google’s cofounders have all been in the news over the last week for backing new forms of aviation transport that could one day whiz people around cities or even across continents.
Let’s take a closer look at who is backing which ideas:
- Uber: the San Francisco taxi-hailing company said on Tuesday that it wants to develop taxis that fly people around urban areas at speeds of up to 150mph. It hopes to test a network of electric plans taxis by 2020.
- Larry Page: Google cofounder and Alphabet CEO Larry Page has backed a flying car company called Kitty Hawk, which is actually a bit more like a flying jet ski company. Kitty Hawk announced on Monday that its first contraption will be available to buy before the end of 2017.
- Sergey Brin: Google cofounder and Alphabet president Sergey Brin is secretly building a massive zeppelin in Hangar 2 of the NASA Ames Research Center, according to a Bloomberg report. There is already a giant metal skeleton already in place, according to the report.
- Niklas Zennström: Skype billionaire Niklas Zennström has also backed a Munich-based electric flying car company called Lilium, which was recently completed its first test flight — something that Zennström describes in a blog post titled “The Decisive Moment.”
There are several other companies and individuals working on different projects. Aircraft manufacturing giant Airbus, for example, wants to test autonomous airborne taxis by the end of 2017, while there are already Iron Man-like jetpack technologies out there, including the JB-10 jetpack, which was demonstrated by pilot David Mayman over the River Thames last October. He hopes to make an electric version of the jetpack to be available in 2019, when he expects it to retail at a price of nearly £200,000.
But why the sudden rush from Silicon Valley to develop these new pie in the sky ideas? One likely scenario is that they see these new forms of aviation as profitable businesses that could make them their next billion dollars. Of course, it’s also possible that they genuinely want to develop new, greener, and more efficient forms of transportation.
Last year at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, Zennström said: “The way we deal with transportation today is broken. There are congestions and to get from East London to West London takes forever. There is pollution in our cities with carbon dioxide so we get climate change.
“Of course you have electrical vehicles and autonomous vehicles to deal with some of those things but really to solve it in a big way we think you need to take to the skies.” The entrepreneur-turned-investor, who backed Lilium in a €10 million (£8.5 million) funding round last December, also told Business Insider in an interview earlier this year that that he expects sustainable/green companies to become the next tech giants of the world.
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