USA: Kelekona develops the first drone-bus to carry up to 40 passengers
Following Uber Elevate’s proposal for an “air taxi” service to carry up to four passengers in 2023, American start-up Kelekona has designed and developed an innovative drone-bus to transport up to 40 passengers between cities.
The aircraft, which is 3D printed and has a futuristic design, has been created for short and medium-length journeys. The first flights will only carry different types of goods (up to 4.5 tonnes), but later passengers will also be able to use this service. The electrically-powered drone – equipped with 3.6 megawatt and interchangeable batteries similar to those used by Tesla in its Model S and Model 3 cars – is designed with eight thrust vectoring fans with variable pitch propellers for each stage of flight: vertical take-off, forward flight, and landing.
The company plans to launch its first flights in about three years, in 2024: the first route will transport passengers from Manhattan to the Hamptons in 30 minutes and the ticket will cost 85 dollars. Future routes will also link San Francisco to Los Angeles, Boston to New York and Paris to London with a one-hour flight.
Braeden Kelekona – founder and CEO of the New York-based start-up – said the main rival and competitor to this project is the public transport as it is widely used by citizens. “We have a really small airspace in New York,’ Kelekona told the news outlet”, Braeden explained. “It never made sense to us to create a small aircraft that was only able to carry up to six people”.
In addition to transporting passengers, Kelekona will also carry cargo for military personnel in war zones and will act as air ambulance for critical transportation.