Volocopter: Expect our flying taxis running for real in “two to three years”

So how far out are flying cars that you can actually hail via an app, get inside and be whisked off to your destination? Germany based Volocopter reckons a commercial service powered by its electric vertical-take-off-and-landing aircraft could be up and running before 2020.

“We think that in two or three years we’ll have the first commercial applications somewhere in the world with our service,” said co-founder and CIO Alex Zosel, who was speaking on stage here at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin.

“This is not so far away,” he added.

Zosel suggested the first service is likely to be a pretty targeted one though, that likely aims to tackle a particular mobility issue — such as a traffic blackspot.

“I believe strongly the first commercial application will be a point to point solution over a bottleneck somewhere where you have a lot of congestions or you have a river or something else. And then you have some aircrafts — like 10 or 20 aircrafts — flying point to point and shuttling people… This will come really fast.”

Also speaking on the panel was Yann de Vries of Atomico, which invests in the rival Lilium VTOL electric aircraft. He painted a picture of flying cars revolutionizing mobility by collapsing city to city distance via a network of speedy hops.

“Within 15 minutes, with Lilium, you can be within a 70km radius. So think about all the possibilities these offer,” he suggested, adding: “You can never do this with a car, even with autonomous vehicles, with all the traffic on the roads.”

“Here you can build a high speed, mesh network of 300km per hour links to any point that’s required, right. The use case is you land from London into JFK and then you can be in Manhattan… less than 10mins later.”

de Vries couldn’t put a timeline on his portfolio company getting its flying taxis up in the air commercially but also suggested it’s going to be sooner rather than later. Or, as he put it: “several years, not decades”.

What about landing spots? He suggested that, initially at least, flying car companies will be able to leverage existing helipads — claiming that in the US 90 per cent of the population is within 15 minutes of an existing pad.

Though he added that the big vision for the tech remains for it to power a “mass transportation market”.