Inventors and entrepreneurs have long tried and failed in making the flying cars a reality, but that may be changing.
Nearly a dozen companies from around the globe which include some with the deep pockets such as European aircraft makers Airbus are competing for developing this kind of first aircraft.
This aircraft will enable commuters to glide above the crowded roadways. Few of the aircraft under development are the cars with wings which unfolds for flight but most aren’t cars at all.
They typically take off and land vertically like helicopters. Rather than having single large rotor, they possess multiple small rotors.
Flying Cars. (Source: Top Destination – YouTube)
Running of Flying Cars:
Each of the rotor provided is operated by a battery-powered electric motor instead of a conventional aircraft piston engine. Its not sure bet that the flying cars dream will be turning into a reality.
There are many obstacles in-between which include convincing regulators that the aircraft is safe while figuring out how to handle thousands of new low-flying aircraft over the cities without collisions.
Even they will be developing batteries which will keep them aloft quite long enough to be useful. Yet entrepreneurs are moving forward.
They are able to see vast potential market for the air taxis and personally owned small aircraft for transporting people from fringes of metropolitan areas to city centers. It is as a result of the urban areas getting more congested.
They envisions tens of thousands of one or two person flying taxis while delivering passengers to the rooftops of office buildings in city centers and other landing pads during the rush hours.
Zach Lovering who is a leader of the Airbus project for developing an autonomous flying taxi called Vahana says, “In as little as 10 years, products could be on the market that revolutionize urban travel for millions of people.”
Uber has released a 98 page report on October while making the business case for air taxis which the company is seeing as a future of on-demand transportation.
Uber is not having any plans for developing a flying car itself but the online transportation network is advising several companies that are having aircraft in the works.
Nikhil Goel who is an Uber project manager for advanced programs says, “The role we want to play is as a catalyst for the entire industry.”
Some of the aircraft are drones which will be preprogrammed for each of the flight and monitored or operated from the ground or a command center. Others among them are designed for human pilots.
Advantages over Future Advancements:
It’s quite unclear about how much this aircraft will be costing, although the prices are likely to vary. Some of the aircrafts are designed to be owned individually while others are envisioned more for commercial use.
Designers are hoping that if the demand is high, prices can be kept affordable via economies of mass production.
Several recent developments could be making this aircraft possible. Further advances in the computing power can mean the rotors over multi-copter drones can be adjusted many times per second, while making the aircraft easy to control.
Drones have also been benefited from the advances in the battery and electric motor technology. Some of the companies like those of Chinese Dronemaker EHang, are scaling up drones so that they can carry people.
Another aircraft which is under development, Santa Cruz which is a California based Joby Aviation’s S2 is looking more like a conventional plane. It is having an exception that there are 12 tilt rotors which are spreaded along the wing and tail.
Some of them like the Vahana which is a cockpit mounted over a sled and flanked by means of propellers in front and back, don’t really look like any aircraft in the skies today.
Charles Eastlake, an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Professor emeritus of the aerospace engineering says, “In terms of what you can make fly in a reliable manner, the solution speed gateway that (computer) chips have gone through recently have literally opened the door to a whole new world of flying machine possibilities.”
He even cautioned that, “My best engineering guess is that people actually using autonomous air taxis in the next 10 or 15 years is possible, but definitely not certain. The challenges are big.”
Key for many of the designs will be the development of longer lasting lightweight batteries. Currently available batteries could probably keep an air taxi aloft about 15 to 30 minutes before it would have to land.
Depending on how fast the aircraft is flying, it probably isn’t quite enough for transporting passengers between the nearby cities or across the metropolitan areas.
Another handle will be winning Federal Aviation Administration certification for any of the radical newer kind of aircraft when approval of even smaller changes in the aviation technology.
FAA said in a statement that it is taking a “flexible, open minded and risk based approach” to the flying cars. FAA officials has discussed with the several manufacturers that the certification of the aircraft that will be flown with a pilot in the beginning and later converted to an autonomous passenger aircraft.
While the requirement of further research for ensuring that the autonomous aircraft are quite safe. Agency says, “We believe automation technology already being prototyped in low-risk un-manned aircraft missions, when fully mature, could have a positive effect on aviation safety.”
Reducing Noise and Problems with Landing:
While reducing the noise in another challenge since the air taxis will further be taking off and landing in densely populated areas, so is creating enough landing pads.
It is done for handling lots of aircraft at the same time. Newer air traffic control system would also likely be needed.
John Hansman, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor and is chairing the FAA’s research and engineering advisory committee says, “It’s pretty clear that the existing air traffic control system won’t scale to the kind of density at low altitudes that people are talking about.”
NASA is further developing an air traffic control system for smaller drones which perhaps could be expanded for including flying cars.
Hansman says, “There’s no question we can build the vehicle. The big challenge is whether we can build a vehicle that would be allowed to operate in the places where people want to use it.”