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'Flying taxi' of the future revealed

Jetpods would be able to takeoff and land in just 125 meters.
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Aerospace Engineering
Technology (general)

LONDON, England (CNN) -- For London commuters stuck in the slow lane, help could be at hand.

A vision of the future in which we abandon the congested city streets and take to the skies in miniature aircraft might seem like a science fiction fantasy, but the people behind a new invention believe it could be closer than we think.

The "Jetpod" is an air-borne taxi that is quiet and environmentally friendly. London-based Designers Avcen believe it could be a commonplace sight over our cities within five or six years.

"The aircraft had to be able to land and take off in 125 meters, it also had to have a very low noise output and the aircraft needed to be able to accelerate rapidly up to 350 mph in order to get point to point at low level very quickly," said Avcen managing director Mike Dacre.

In aeronautical jargon, a jetpod is a "VQSTOL" (very quiet, short take off and landing) aircraft, explained Dr. Joe Iannelli, Associate Professor of Aeronautical Engineering at London's City University.

"This aircraft can take off within 125 meters because a portion of the engine thrust is deflected downwards," said Dr. Iannelli.

"This creates an additional force pointing up, so that the total upward force exceeds the weight of the aircraft and the aircraft can take off."

The inventors estimate a test-flight could take place in less than a year and a half with final certification by 2010. The plane is expected to carry up to 7 passengers and Dacre says the pod could be profitable charging just $18 per passenger and reduce carbon emissions by taking cars off the road.

"We would be looking at about, say fifty aircraft to service a city the size of London at fifty sectors per day," he said. "That would take about 37,000 cars off the road."

With its ability to takeoff and land from a short runway, the jetpod's inventors believe the options to build a supporting infrastructure in the city center are endless. Runways could be built on elevated platforms over rivers, railway stations or roads.

And for stressed-out commuters, a quiet daily commute with a spectacular aerial view of the landmarks could be only five years away.

-- CNN's Paula Hancocks contributed to this report.

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