Telstra is getting into the flying car business

The Verti-plane scale model in action in Canberra. Picture: Supplied

  • Electric VTOL aircraft can fly 250km at cruising speed of 300km/h.
  • Will be piloted autonomously.
  • Electric VTOL market forecast to be worth US$27 billion by 2032.

Telstra has invested in an autonomous electric plane that can take off and land on a flat rooftop, helipad, or any other large flat surface.

You might call it a “flying car”. But startup AMSL Aero says its technology can deliver a vehicle that can do a whole lot more than your daily commute.

AMSL Aero is part of Telstra’s muru-D startup accelerator program, which provides mentoring and investment to early stage technology companies. Together, the two were in Canberra this morning to jump into an electric VTOL market forecast to exceed the value of the current US$27 billion global helicopter market by 2032.

Here’s your future air taxi:

The Verti-plane scale model in action in Canberra. Picture: Supplied

If it looks small and composed of an alarming amount of corflute, that’s because it’s a 1/5 scale prototype. But just like the future real deal, it takes off and lands vertically like a helicopter but flies fast and efficiently like a plane.

Fast as in a 300km/h cruising speed, with enough charge to take it 250km.

The “Verti-plane” tech tilts the two wings to enable vertical flight for take-off and landing, and horizontal flight for cruising.

The design was led by Andrew Moore, the guy in the hat:

AMSL Aero co-founder Andrew Moore and John Wilson, design engineer at AMSL Aero. Picture: Supplied

Moore began his career as an aeronautical engineer in the Australian Navy and has since pulled together 20 years experience in designing and building aircraft.

He’s a pilot, and his dad was a naval pilot, so he’s not flying blind, so to speak.

On Telstra’s side of the deal is the chance to show off the capabilities of its 5G network, which will start rolling out in the second half of 2018.

Telstra CTO Hakan Eriksson said 5G will be “essential” to support the increase in IoT connected devices over the next decade.

Because when your life is in the hands of an autonomous pilot, things like “greater bandwidth, greater security and reliability with features designed for communications and control” become important.

Eriksson said 5G networks will give telcos the capability to support the command and control of autonomous vehicles so that the airspace, especially around cities, “can be more safely managed for airborne technologies including drones and aerial people carriers such as the Verti-plane”.

In terms of the Verti-plane, that can also mean support for defence operations and disaster recovery operations.

The Australian Army UAS (Drone) Sub-Program has also offered to investigate the technology’s potential uses.