This Is the Hyundai You'll Be Soon Flying

Hyundai VTOL for Uber 12 photos
Photo: Hyundai
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For the first time in nearly a century of day-dreaming, air taxis for the masses are closer to becoming a reality than ever. There are a number of organizations working toward this goal, and as of this year big names of the auto industry are seriously getting involved.
One of the main promoters of air taxis is Uber, a company that depends on its innovative ideas for success. For a number of years now its Elevate initiative has strived to find the best ways to make flying taxis a reality.

During the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, an important step was taken. Uber announced Hyundai had become the first car company to join Elevate, opening the doors to mass production of such machines.

On its end, Hyundai stated it has both the means and the will to start making vertical take-off and landing vehicles for Uber, and it even presented one such aircraft at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Called S-A1 PAV (Personal Air Vehicle), the craft is a vertical take-off and landing machine, electric, could turn autonomous, and is a preview of a future when people will be able to share aerial rides as well.

Before getting into it, we should note that the S-A1 is NOT a flying car. In fact, none of the companies working to make flying taxis a reality are developing flying cars (you know, vehicles that can be both driven and flown), but VTOLs.

VTOLs can be considered smaller helicopters with a larger number of propellers. They can take off, move from place to place and then land, but they cannot be driven on roads.

The S-A1 is a VTOL that combines the body style of an airplane with the capabilities of a helicopter. The airplane-shaped body is fitted with two wings, which in turn support the  propellers.

The Hyundai flyer has a total of eight propellers. Four of them (located on the wings, two near the body, and the other two on the tip of the wings and to the back) can be idled if they are not needed when taking off.

Hyundai aircraft CES 2020
Photo: Hyundai
The interior of the S-A1 is roomy enough to allow five people to be transported at the same time. The pilot is seated front and center, and four passengers can fit in individual seats at the back.

Hyundai chose a layout for the interior that eliminates the middle seat, a feat that should allow people to get on and off the flyer easier.

There’s not much luggage you can carry inside, safe for a personal bag or backpack. After all, this is an air taxi to be used for short trips across town or from city to city.

Hyundai’s air taxi will most likely be devoid of any unnecessary gadgets, due to weight requirements. You can expect to hear some music, maybe, through an audio system, but that’s it.

That could be possible because the use of multiple, smaller rotors instead of a huge one, should make the machine quieter for both the people inside and for those down on the streets.

Also, expect the Uber air service based on Hyundai aircraft to be app-based.

The S-A1 has been designed as an electric vehicle supported by an undisclosed battery. Whatever it is, it should allow “about five to seven minutes for recharging” during peak hours.

Hyundai aircraft CES 2020
Photo: Hyundai
The motors used to power the propellers are designed to allow a cruising speed of 180 mph (290 kph), at an altitude that can vary from 1,000 to 2,000 feet (300 to 600 miles). The battery should hold enough juice to allow for trips of up to 60 miles (100 km). That means the S-A1 can travel that distance at maximum speed in just 20 minutes.

The aircraft has been designed to require a pilot, at least at first. In the long run, Hyundai and Uber eye making it or its successors autonomous.

Hyundai has great experience in safety systems, most of them deployed on the cars sold over the past decades. It’s likely though that, because building an aircraft is not something Hyundai has done before, some help from Uber and other aerospace companies will be enlisted.

So far, the main safety feature of the S-A1 are the multiple rotors and propellers. Eight in all and positioned around the airframe, they are more than capable of covering each other in case of failure.

Hyundai has officially announced it will manufacture and deploy the air vehicles, starting probably with a production version based on the aircraft shown at CES. Nothing official was announced yet, but we are estimating that trials and tests of the technology would begin around 2025.

Once the aircraft produced, it will be used by Uber’s sharing service, and the American company will also be in charge of airspace support services, connections to ground transportation, and customer interfaces.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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