It's A Bird! It's A Plane! It's A....FLYING TAXI?! Where in the world will we see the first flying taxis? What in the world will they look like? Who in the world will operate them? Join Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas for the Who, What, When, Where, Why, How and WOW on the world's first flying taxi cabs!
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It's A Bird! It's A Plane! It's A....FLYING TAXI?!

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It's A Bird! It's A Plane! It's A....FLYING TAXI?!

It's A Bird! It's A Plane! It's A....FLYING TAXI?!

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/536883330/536884126" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MINDY THOMAS, HOST:

Hey, grownups. Before we get started, just wanted to let you know that we have set up a survey, and we would love to get your feedback on our show. You can find it at NPR.org/wowsurvey. Answer a few questions. And tell us what you think. Once again, that's NPR.org/wowsurvey. Thank you so much. We really appreciate it. And now, let's get on with the show.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Stay seated. Three, two one. Ignition.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE POP UPS SONG, "WOW IN THE WORLD")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Get ready for an adventure of magnificent proportions.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WOW IN THE WORLD")

THE POP UPS: (Singing) I don't know what you've been told, but we're in a golden age. So many discoveries that are jumping off the page. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: With Guy and Mindy.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We're on our way, Houston.

GUY RAZ, HOST:

Hey, Mindy. Do you remember that show "The Jetsons"?

THOMAS: Oh, yeah, I know "The Jetsons." It was that cartoon from the past that took place in the future and basically predicted most of what we have today.

RAZ: Right, you remember?

GUY RAZ AND MINDY THOMAS: (Singing) Meet George Jetson. Do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do (ph).

THOMAS: (Singing) His boy Elroy. Ba-dah-da-dah-da-da-da (ph).

I don't know the rest of it.

RAZ: And Mindy, for kids who haven't heard of it, "The Jetsons" was a cartoon that a lot of your parents probably watched. It was about a family living in the future. They had a robot maid.

THOMAS: Oh, Rosie.

RAZ: And the coolest thing they had, Mindy?

THOMAS: A dog treadmill.

RAZ: Uh...

THOMAS: No. That is not - the flying car?

RAZ: Yup. And Mindy, back when "The Jetsons" was on TV, a lot of people thought that by the year 2017, we'd all be flying to work and to school in our flying cars. But alas...

THOMAS: We're still stuck here in traffic on the ground because - I don't even know why.

RAZ: ...Because it would be pretty dangerous, right? I mean, could you imagine flying cars flying all around all over the place? I mean, that would not be safe, right?

THOMAS: No. It would definitely not be safe. It would be awesome. I mean, just imagine it, Guy Raz. No speed limits. No red lights. No stop signs. People could just fly around like maniacs. And ride a wild sky. And...

(SOUNDBITE OF CARS CRASHING)

THOMAS: Oh.

RAZ: Yup. And so the dream of flying cars was really just that - a dream.

THOMAS: But if it's a dream, it could still happen, right?

RAZ: Mindy, you said the magic word. The D word, dream. And a dream is like an engine inside your body, except it powers ideas. And guess what, Mindy?

THOMAS: You're about to make my wildest dreams come true? Guy Raz, OK, you're going to need a lot of supplies for this. But good news - I've been keeping a list.

RAZ: Well...

THOMAS: All right, we're going to need 45 turkey basters, 200 AAA batteries, a pig that can lay eggs, and...

RAZ: Mindy...

THOMAS: That's not what you're...

RAZ: Well, Mindy, the dream of flying cars is about to become a reality. And it will start this summer.

THOMAS: What? You're telling me that flying cars are coming?

RAZ: Well...

THOMAS: Everybody duck! Run for your lives!

RAZ: Uh...

THOMAS: Kind of freaking out, Guy Raz.

RAZ: You should be OK, Mindy. I mean, they are coming. And this summer, in the city of Dubai, which is a small, little city on the Arabian Peninsula...

THOMAS: Oh, yeah. Dubai is known for having the largest, tallest and biggest of a lot of things. So what's next?

RAZ: Dubai will be the first place to have flying taxis.

THOMAS: What? So you're saying that, just like "The Jetsons," people will be able to fly from their house to their friend's house, or to a restaurant or to school?

RAZ: Well, eventually, yes. But this summer, when the flying taxis are ready for customers, they will only go to a few places. And that's because they will be programmed to fly to just those spots, where they can land safely.

THOMAS: So how will this work?

RAZ: Well, Mindy, you've heard of drones, right?

THOMAS: Oh, yeah. I have a drone, Guy Raz. It's like a little remote-control-powered robot. And I use it to drop glitter and mayonnaise on my neighbors when they forget to invite me to their barbecues.

RAZ: Uh...

THOMAS: Here, watch this. So the first thing I do is I take one balloon, and I dump a bunch of glitter inside of it until the whole thing is full of glitter.

RAZ: Uh...

THOMAS: Right. OK. Now hand me that other balloon over there.

RAZ: Uh...

THOMAS: All right. Now I take this other balloon, and I shove a bunch of mayonnaise inside of it.

RAZ: Uh...

THOMAS: Then I am going to attach both of these balloons to the bottom of my drone. And then - get my remote control over here. All right. Power this thing up. And there it goes. It's going up, up, up. Oh, look. My neighbors are having a barbecue. And they forgot to invite me. Let's see if we can get this mayonnaise to drop on their hamburger buns. Am I right?

RAZ: Uh...

THOMAS: All right. Here we go. Ready? Bombs away.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPLATTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Mayonnaise in my eye!

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: Oh no!

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Hey!

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Glitter in the mayonnaise!

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Oh, the humanity!

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Who keeps doing this?

THOMAS: Ah, listen to them squealing with glee. Just a little neighborhood joke we have that's only fun as long as I'm the only one with the drone and they can't get me back.

RAZ: That's right. Drones are now much, much, much more common and much easier to make. And these flying taxis are basically bigger versions of the small drones that you can buy in a toy store or a hobby shop.

THOMAS: So what do these flying taxi drones look like?

RAZ: The flying taxi looks a little like a flying egg, except it has eight propellers to keep it steady and stable. And it doesn't have a pilot. It has just one seat inside. So it can only take one passenger at a time.

THOMAS: Wait a minute. So if there is no pilot, then how does the drone know where to go?

RAZ: Well, by using very sophisticated technology inside the drone taxi. There's a computer that is connected to satellites floating up in space. And these satellites are able to send signals to the drone taxies to tell them exactly where to fly. It's a little bit like using a navigation app. Like, you know, Mindy, when you use Google Maps or Waze on your phone - you know, those apps that give you directions.

THOMAS: Oh, yeah. I use them all the time to help me get lost.

RAZ: Well, they're supposed to tell you how to get to where you need to go.

THOMAS: No.

RAZ: But the principle is the same, except that instead of telling a human to turn left or to turn right, the app tells a computer what to do. And that is also why these drones don't crash into anything - because they are programmed that way. But Mindy, in case you are wondering, each and every drone taxi will be monitored by a human sitting at a computer on the ground, just in case something goes wrong. Then the human can quickly reprogram the drone and send it to a safe place.

THOMAS: Wow. That's so cool. So how much would a ride cost on one of these flying drone taxis?

RAZ: Well, the company that is offering this service isn't saying how much a ride will cost.

THOMAS: Man.

RAZ: But what we do know is that these little drones will probably be able to drop you off high up in the sky. So for example, do you know where the tallest building in the world is located, Mindy?

THOMAS: The same place known for having the biggest, longest, largest, tallest of things? I'd say Dubai.

RAZ: Yeah, exactly. It's also in Dubai. It's called the Burj Khalifa. And it stands 2,722 feet. That's about a half a mile, Mindy. And guess what?

THOMAS: Chicken butt. What?

RAZ: That little drone taxi will be able to fly as high as 11,000 feet.

THOMAS: Whoa.

RAZ: So say you have a meeting on the top floor of the Burj Khalifa building. You might be able to get dropped off right at the top, instead of at the bottom and then having to take the elevator up.

THOMAS: Oh, man. That sounds so awesome. And I can't wait to ride one. But why does Dubai get it first? They get all the cool stuff.

RAZ: Well, Mindy, it's because Dubai wants to become the most modern city in the world. So for example, the city already has a metro train system that works without a conductor or a driver.

THOMAS: Wow.

RAZ: But if this experiment does work in Dubai, Mindy, I have no doubt that we will all be traveling in little air taxis in a few years from now.

THOMAS: But the future is tomorrow. And we've got no time to wait. So Guy Raz, hop inside this balloon. I've already greased it up with some mayonnaise.

RAZ: Uh...

THOMAS: I'm going to attach you to my drone and fly you overhead. Ready?

(SOUNDBITE OF DRONE FLYING)

THOMAS: Hi. Thanks for calling WOW IN THE WORLD. After the beep, get ready to record.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEP)

NATALIA: My name's Natalia (ph). I'm from Pennsylvania, and I'm 5 years old. My wow in the world is that I saw a hawk carrying a blue jay in its mouth. And all the other blue jays were chasing after the hawk. Bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEP)

LINNEA: Hello. My name is Linnea (ph) and I'm 6 and a half years old. I went to Costa Rica. And I saw an anteater. I saw some monkeys. And I saw a crab. And I also got to try a coconut. Thanks for all your great shows, Mindy and Guy Raz. Bye-bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEP)

CAMERON: Hi. My name is Cameron (ph) from Chicago. I am 7 years old. My wow in the world is jellyfish. Some jellyfish have hundreds of tentacles, and some only have a few. And jellyfish don't have brains.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEP)

OLIVE: Hi. I'm Olive (ph) and I'm 10 years old. And I live in Cranston, R.I., (ph) in Providence. And my wow in the world is that, when I went to New Hampshire for a vacation, we went on a train ride. And I saw many beautiful things. Well, that's my wow.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEP)

HEIRAN: Hello. My name is Heiran (ph). I'm 4 and a half and three quarters. I'm from Bryn Mawr, Pa., and my wow was - once, there was a claw machine. And I got a bear, and I didn't even see what I was doing.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEP)

TYLER: Hi. My name is Tyler (ph). I'm 4 years old. And I'm from Reno. My wow in the world is that there's a rock in my backyard. And when I lift it up, there's lots of bugs everywhere - slugs and roly polies.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEP)

ELI: Hi. I'm Eli (ph). Hi, Guy Raz. And hi, Mindy. My wow in the world is chemistry. And when I grow up, I'm going to be a scientist, and mix up all kinds of potions and stuff.

KYA: Hi, Guy Raz. Hi, Mindy. I'm Kya (ph) and I'm almost 4. And my wow in the world is medicine. And when I grow up, I'm going to be a doctor and make people feel all better.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: Thanks, Guy Raz. Thanks, Mindy. Bye-bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEP)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: End of messages.

THOMAS: Hey, guys. Thank you so much for checking out this Thursday edition of WOW IN THE WORLD. Grownups, to keep the conversation going, we've posted some fun questions on our website, wowintheworld.com. And we love hearing from you.

Grownups, you can find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - @WowintheWorld. And our email address is hello@wowintheworld.com. Today's show was written by me and Guy Raz, and produced by Jed Anderson. Say hello, Jed.

JED ANDERSON, BYLINE: Hello.

THOMAS: Our theme song is written and performed by The Pop Ups. You can find more of their awesome music at thepopups.com.

Finally, we've loved hearing what's been wowing you. Thanks so much for sending in your voicemails. We listen to each and every one of them. For a chance to be featured on an upcoming episode, have your grownups help you share something that's recently wowed you by dialing 1-888-7-WOW-WOW.

Thanks again for subscribing and telling your friends about our show. We will be back on Monday with a new full-length episode. In the meantime, go forth and find your own wow in the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WOW IN THE WORLD")

THE POP UPS: (Singing) Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: WOW IN THE WORLD was made by Tinkercast and sent to you by NPR.

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