Flying cars – a norm in the Jetsons – are making headlines today. But how close are we to getting into a real flying car to travel from one location to the next, say our home to our office?
The answer maybe a little surprising to you, apparently, we are closer than most think.
A few companies, including aircraft maker Airbus, are competing to be the first to develop flying vehicles that can take off and land vertically which is, in reality, a smaller version of helicopters.
These vehicles, once a reality though will have an enormous impact on life as we know it today – changing the way we travel dramatically – due to their small size and flying capability. And may also be built in a way to make it easy to operate and control given the aid of technology.
But, since we are accustomed to driving on flat solid surfaces, handling a car in the air could be a challenge to many. Just think about some of the driving we see around us today, are we going to feel safe driving in a flying car with distracted and risky drivers around and even above us?
Then there is the noise factor. How will we cope with cars flying by our windows at work or home at full speed with their music at top volume?
Those are just some of the challenges that come with flying vehicles, yet it does not end there, there are many obstacles as well. For one, is it safe? For flying cars to be given the green light, a rigid testing phase will need to occur. Government officials, regulators and other safety personnel will need to be convinced that these cars are safe.
Another obstacle is how to handle the many new low-flying vehicles over cities without them colliding with each other or crashing into buildings? Will there be traffic lights or air paths to travel in? What about batteries, how long can a car go before needing a re-charge? If you are in the air and out of power, what’s the backup plan?
Despite these setbacks, some companies are moving forward with the concept of developing flying cars eyeing the potential market for such a product that can one day serve as air taxis and even provide individuals with their own flying cars. This can be a lucrative venture especially in large cities where traffic jams are a normal everyday occurrence. Drivers, instead of driving and parking on land, can fly and park on rooftops of buildings thus eliminating traffic congestion to a large extent.
A positive for manufacturers came from the FAA, in a statement, they said they are taking a “flexible, open-minded, and risk-based approach” to flying cars and have discussed with several manufacturers that for certification of an aircraft it has to be flown with a pilot in the initial stage and can later be transformed into a driverless flying car.
In a decade it is possible that flying cars will be a means of transportation according to Zach Lovering, Project Executive of Vahana, a flying taxi program of Airbus. Vahana is a vertical takeoff and landing vehicle with propellers in front and back. Airbus aims to make Vahana “the first certified passenger aircraft without a pilot.” The company has plans to test a prototype before the end of 2017, and a demonstrator by 2020.
Airbus is not the only company that is designing and testing flying vehicles. Cormorant built by Urban Aeronautics, an Israeli company is also a vertical take-off and landing vehicle with a standard helicopter engine. Cormorant can fly between buildings and below power lines with speeds up to 115 mph.
The Lilium Jet from Germany’s Lilium Aviation is a two-seater aircraft that will take off vertically and have an estimated cruising speed of up to 190 mph and a flying range of 190 miles.
The Slovakian company AeroMobil has developed a car, the AeroMobil 3.0 with wings that can unfold for flying. It can also take off from any strip or paved surface with just a few hundred meters.
Chinese drone maker EHang has been testing a person-carrying drone the Ehang 184 in Nevada. The takeoff and landing are pre-programmed and operated from a command station in China which can monitor and control the aircraft anywhere in the world.
Joby Aviation of Santa Cruz, California is developing a two-seat S2, an electric plane which takes off and lands vertically with speeds up to 200 mph.
Terrafugia, based in Massachusetts, began work a decade ago on TF-X, a car with folding wings that can fly or be driven on roads. Production will begin in 2019.
These companies are working many different variations of flying cars that are in various developmental stages, but one thing that we can take away from this is that once again another dream from The Jetsons era is in the process of becoming a reality.
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