Delivery drone and flying taxi, AirAsia is working on new services

AirAsia, a low-cost Malaysian airline, wants to deploy a flying taxi business as early as next year. “We are currently working on it”said Tony Fernandes, CEO and co-founder, as reported by Bloomberg. “I think we are a year and a half away from launch”, he added on Saturday March 6, 2021 during a discussion held within the framework of the Youth Economic Forum.

e-commerce, on-demand transport and flying taxi

Airlines have seen their activity drop sharply with the Covid-19 pandemic, which results in a significant reduction in travel. AirAsia is taking the opportunity to explore digital technology and the associated services that may be offered. It launched a “super app” last year that bundles services ranging from travel and shopping to logistics and financial services.

“We seized it as an opportunity, a unique chance to overhaul our company, to review things”, explained the CEO. The airline wants to go further. It wants to offer its own “e-hailing” service, an on-demand transport application as for the VTC, in April. Flying taxi transport can therefore be offered directly via this application.

United Airlines has moved closer to Archer

The flying taxis that AirAsia hopes to start rolling out next year will be quadcopters with four seats. But the airline has not given much more information, either on the line on which the service could be tested or the company with which it is discussing to create this quadricoper.

Several start-ups are currently working on similar projects, starting with Volocoper, EHang and Joby Aviation. But there is still a long way to go, whether at the technological or regulatory level, before being able to deploy such a service. AirAsia isn’t the first airline to officially announce looking at flying taxis. United Airlines recently made a commitment to purchase 200 eVTOLs from start-up Archer.

A delivery drone

The company also announced on the same day a partnership with the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Center agency in order to develop a drone for urban delivery. The objective of this partnership is twofold: to deploy the Urban Drone Delivery Sandbox and to set up a viable long-term urban delivery service by drone.

A pilot project for delivery by drone from orders made on e-commerce sites, including that of AirAsia, must be carried out on the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) site in Cyberjaya. With an overall duration of 6 months, this project comprises different phases. As a first step, partners will assess the capabilities, experience, approval process, deployment readiness and expansion of drone operator services.

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