Just a dot on the horizon at first, the bug-like and surprisingly quiet electrically-powered craft buzzes over Paris and its traffic snarls, treating its doubtless awestruck passenger to privileged vistas of the Eiffel Tower and the city’s signature zinc-grey rooftops before landing him or her with a gentle downward hover. And thus, if all goes to plan, a new page in aviation history could be written.

After years of dreamy and not always credible talk of skies filled with flying, non-polluting electric taxis, the aviation industry is preparing to deliver a future that it says is now just around the corner.

Capitalizing on its moment in the global spotlight, the Paris region is planning for a small fleet of electric flying taxis to operate on multiple routes when it hosts the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games next summer. Unless aviation regulators in China beat Paris to the punch by green-lighting a pilotless taxi for two passengers under development there, the French capital’s prospective operator – Volocopter of Germany – could be the first to fly taxis commercially if European regulators give their OK.

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