No matter which manufacturer is quickest to gain velocity, Uber, a ride-hailing firm, aims to be at the centre of things.
On April 25th it held an event in Dallas to announce its plan to offer a service where people can hail an electric “vertical takeoff and landing” vehicle and ride it quickly to destinations that would otherwise take hours in heavy traffic.
Uber does not want to build these aircraft or landing pads itself, just as it does not own its own cars.
Instead, it plans to collaborate with other companies.
But Jeff Holden, Uber's chief product officer, does not exclude the possibility that the firm may at the outset own some aircraft, which he estimates will cost around $1m each.
The firm plans to have a prototype of its service ready by 2020.
It will launch it first in Dallas and in Dubai, both cities where the authorities have deep aviation expertise and where people commute long distances.
The firm rather optimistically promises that the cost per aerial mile for passengers will be roughly that of its low-cost car service, UberX.
There is plenty for manufacturers and services like Uber to overcome beyond gravity.
For battery-powered models, range is limited and the charging rate remains slow.
Manufacturers will need to ensure that vehicles can take off and land quietly, if this new form of transport is to stand a chance in cities.
How to oversee and license the new aircraft, which are subject to much tougher rules than cars, will be a subject of intense debate among rule-makers, who tend to move slowly and are just getting to grips with drones.
Drivers of flying vehicles are also likely to require a pilot's licence, albeit perhaps a simplified “sports” licence.
The journey ahead will be a long one.
1.aims to 计划；打算
例句:They aim to clear every dealer from the street.
2.take off 起飞；脱下
例句:We eventually took off at 11 o'clock and arrived in Venice at 1.30.
3.tend to 趋向
例句:We tend to think in absolutes.
4.stand a chance 有希望；有可能
例句:It's monstrous, you won't stand a chance!