CES 2018: Intel's CEO Becomes First Passenger in an Air Taxi

Intel's partner, Volocopter, provided its multicopter and flew it by remote control in a hangar—a baby step, but still, a first step

1 min read
Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel Corporation on Volocopter’s first passenger flight.
Image: Volocopter

Brian Krzanich, the chief executive of Intel, became the first official passenger to ride in an air taxi when an 18-prop copter from Intel’s partner, the German company Volocopter, lofted him within the confines of a hangar near Munich.

Krzanich showed off the video in his keynote yesterday at CES, which is fast becoming the world’s premier showcase for transportation technology.

Being the senior partner may have given Intel’s CEO a certain droit de seigneur, but you can bet that he was preceded—unofficially—by some anonymous engineer. And the risk he took hardly defines the right stuff: a ground-based pilot controlled the craft remotely, making small and gingerly maneuvers, in a safe space unruffled by wind.

But this baby step is still the first step of its kind, and one more step on the way toward the company’s stated goal of providing autonomous personal flight to the masses. It’s been a long slog. We reported on Volocopter’s original, directly piloted machine, way back in 2011.

A raft of startups is chasing the same dream, among them Vahana, a project of the Silicon Valley subsidiary of Airbus; Ehang, of China; Zee Aero, a personal investment of Google’s co-founder, Larry Page; Uber; and industry veteran—if that word may be used—Terrafugia.

SureFly, the one contender that uses hybrid gasoline-electric propulsion, was to have shown off its prototype yesterday, but the company made the bold decision to fly outdoors. Inclement weather got in the way, so its first public flight will have to wait a bit longer.

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​​Why the World’s Militaries Are Embracing 5G

To fight on tomorrow's more complicated battlefields, militaries must adapt commercial technologies

15 min read
4 large military vehicles on a dirt road. The third carries a red container box. Hovering above them in a blue sky is a large drone.

In August 2021, engineers from Lockheed and the U.S. Army demonstrated a flying 5G network, with base stations installed on multicopters, at the U.S. Army's Ground Vehicle Systems Center, in Michigan. Driverless military vehicles followed a human-driven truck at up to 50 kilometers per hour. Powerful processors on the multicopters shared the processing and communications chores needed to keep the vehicles in line.

Lockheed Martin

It's 2035, and the sun beats down on a vast desert coastline. A fighter jet takes off accompanied by four unpiloted aerial vehicles (UAVs) on a mission of reconnaissance and air support. A dozen special forces soldiers have moved into a town in hostile territory, to identify targets for an air strike on a weapons cache. Commanders need live visual evidence to correctly identify the targets for the strike and to minimize damage to surrounding buildings. The problem is that enemy jamming has blacked out the team's typical radio-frequency bands around the cache. Conventional, civilian bands are a no-go because they'd give away the team's position.

As the fighter jet and its automated wingmen cross into hostile territory, they are already sweeping the ground below with radio-frequency, infrared, and optical sensors to identify potential threats. On a helmet-mounted visor display, the pilot views icons on a map showing the movements of antiaircraft batteries and RF jammers, as well as the special forces and the locations of allied and enemy troops.

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