Air taxis in 10 years? The future of flight is coming to Utah

A Zipline drone is on display at an event announcing the launch of Project Alta at Hexcel Corporation in West Valley City on Thursday.

A Zipline drone is on display at an event announcing the launch of Project Alta at Hexcel Corporation in West Valley City on Thursday. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)


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WEST VALLEY CITY — A future of on-demand air travel reminiscent of the 1960s animated sitcom "the Jetsons" is likely on the horizon for Utah and could be coming in a decade.

Utah-based aerospace and defense company 47G on Thursday announced the launch of Project Alta, technically known as the Air Logistics Transportation Alliance.

The project — with a goal of establishing an "advanced air mobility system" for the state — is a collaboration between 47G, the Utah Governor's Office, the Utah Department of Transportation, the Utah Inland Port Authority and other stakeholders.

Advanced air mobility, according to 47G, is a novel mode of transportation that harnesses electric aircraft to move people and packages throughout the Beehive State.

"We are reshaping our local municipalities and our local communities, and we're reshaping them in a way that will have transportation hubs that will likely include some form of advanced air mobility," said Chris Metts, Project Alta executive director and former assistant deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Metts, who was hired by 47G to lead the project, added that he believes it's "not unrealistic, at all" that Utahns could be using a form of air taxis in 10 years or so.

"In partnership with 47G, we plan to create a well-functioning transportation system in the air that connects seamlessly with the transportation system on the ground," said Paul Damron, UDOT advanced air mobility manager. "Imagine a world where you can hop on an air taxi and travel anywhere along the Wasatch Front in 20 minutes."

Along with air travel for people, Project Alta could expand the use of battery-powered drones to deliver packages across the state. And while Utah is no stranger to delivery via drone — two Walmart locations announced the launch of drone product delivery in the state in January 2023 — Project Alta also has plans to expand capabilities to transport cargo.

Philippe Chevrier, Hexcel President, Gov. Spencer Cox and Aaron Starks, 47G president and CEO, don 47G caps for a photo during the launch of Project Alta at Hexcel Corporation in West Valley City on Thursday.
Philippe Chevrier, Hexcel President, Gov. Spencer Cox and Aaron Starks, 47G president and CEO, don 47G caps for a photo during the launch of Project Alta at Hexcel Corporation in West Valley City on Thursday. (Photo: Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

"Today, leaders kick off efforts that will open up new avenues for travel," said Aaron Starks, president and CEO at 47G. "These will eventually take shape ... in strategic locations with an emphasis in cargo delivery.

"Aircraft will eventually fly from Salt Lake City to Layton, and Ogden heading north, and then work their way to Draper, Vineyard (and) Provo to the south."

Starks added that the new technology and transportation will also carry an environmental benefit from an emissions standpoint by getting more trucks off the road and reducing the carbon footprint throughout the Wasatch Front.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox pointed out how crucial the aerospace and defense sector is to Utah's economic performance and said, together, they make up 20% of the state's economy. Project Alta is also launching at an opportune time, with industry analysts predicting the advanced air mobility market will reach a value of $1.5 trillion by 2040.

Gov. Spencer Cox, center, shakes hands with attendees of a press conference announcing the launch of Project Alta at Hexcel Corporation in West Valley City on Thursday.
Gov. Spencer Cox, center, shakes hands with attendees of a press conference announcing the launch of Project Alta at Hexcel Corporation in West Valley City on Thursday. (Photo: Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

Additionally, a handful of Utah-based companies already play an active role in the market, including:

"We know that Utah will soon become a global leader in advanced air mobility," Cox said. "Our state has unique assets. We have growth, we have tourism, we have business, we have beautiful national parks. These novel air mobility solutions will allow Utahns to access everything Utah has to offer."

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Logan Stefanich is a reporter with KSL.com, covering southern Utah communities, education, business and tech news.

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