Flying cars will soon be within many’s control. Some of the wealthiest companies in the world are helping some of the best engineers to make flying cars a possibility sooner rather than later.
The huge amount of capital needed to make this 22nd-century concept a reality is forcing car manufacturers to forge unlikely alliances with each other. Of course, no one is yet quite ready to fly cars. They are not supported by infrastructure, and regulations are needed to govern their use, such as personal drones, which is 1,000 times worse. The first vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles are not to be found at a dealership. They are going to be part of the e-hailing services created to shuttle people from one part of town to another.
So, who is working to make science fiction a reality? Let’s look at it
The VTOL taxis of Uber.
Uber’s is the largest of all the VTOL taxi projects so far. The company is targeting year 2023 as its service will become commercially available for the first time. But as soon as next year we could see the first Uber Air taxis. As early as 2016, Uber’s had his sights on air travel and committed to launching the first trials in Houston, Los Angeles, and Dubai in 2020. Next, the planned crafts look like a modern miniaturized version of a turboprop aircraft, but with a significant difference.
This flying car will take off and land throughout the cities they represent from large skyports. For one pilot and four passengers on board, each aircraft will be capable of a speed of 150 mph and a range of about 60 miles on non-reserve power. Hence, this flying car uses an automated system to run completely on electricity, although the pilot can take control in the event of a problem.
The expansion of Uber is important because it gives us a good idea of the challenges involved in the worldwide adoption of flying cars. For example, in a city with lots of harsh weather, personal VTOLs just don’t work reliably. Because of this, Uber is constrained for safety reasons to choose cities with very mild weather and little rain. This includes cities with the right air taxi shape and metro areas. Uber also requires investors in real estate and friendly governments to work through all the regulations associated with it. Because Uber’s ideal taxis will be electrical in nature, the company also needs to work with a very reliable, scalable electrical grid. Those criteria quickly add up to reveal how much research is ahead of these flying car entrepreneurs.
Project Vahana, from Airbus, aims to create a fully self-piloted electric VTOL aircraft. The self-piloting system has many advantages. When it comes to hiring and training pilots and software engineers it can save costs already have plenty of experience creating autopilot system for larger planes that can be extended to these VTOLs. It is also a perfect way to run a taxi service, as the cars will automatically go back to maintenance centers or follow another route based on current orders. The Vahana design had their first successful full-scale flight test at the beginning of 2018. The 20-foot aircraft only rose to the sky 16 feet and remained there for 53 seconds. But, with the autopilot system, it did so completely. Since then, Airbus has flew about 50 test flights, saying it’s on target for a debut in 2020.
The development of the Volocopter 2X is ambitious and it looks very cool. Developed in Germany, it features 18 battery-powered, single joystick-controlled rotors. Besides that, it can be said that the whole thing isn’t very realistic. However, thanks to a little funding from Intel, the company made a full-size test model and ran it through the stage at CES 2018.
The 2X can accommodate two passengers as it has a 30-minute flight time and a 17-mile load center distance. Intel’s project work involves complicated equipment, such as four separate positioning sensor systems, nine different electrical battery packs with built-in redundancies, and even a parachute placed on top of the vehicle if something goes wrong. It’s no wonder that Volocopter is the new choice for his forthcoming air taxi fleet from Dubai. By taking it on a two-minute flight over Singapore in October 2019, Volocopter showed off the 2X.
Jaunt Aviation’s helicopter-airplane hybrid.
Newcomer Jaunt Aviation has been working with the Triumph Group to develop a flying car that looks like a cross between a helicopter and an aircraft. The company is planning to tackle one of the main helicopter noise issues. The aircraft reduces the speed of its main rotor by using proprietary technology when flying to remain relatively silent.
Jaunt may not be a word for a household. It has formed relationships with some of the company’s largest companies. Aviation Today will provide, among other pieces of the puzzle, navigation software, flight control technology, and an electrical propulsion system. Uber has already named the company as one of its urban air mobility vehicle manufacturing partners.
In September 2019, Hyundai formed a flying cars service. The organization has not launched a model yet, but it recruited Dr. Jaiwon Shin, a NASA veteran, to spearhead its segment entry. His electrification experience and advanced air traffic control could give an edge to the South Korean business as it tries to jump ahead of rivals. In a statement the company wrote that, Hyundai’s new team would be developing core technologies. This will set the company up as a driving force in urban air mobility, a business expected to grow into a $1.5 trillion market over the next 20 years.
For a long time, flying cars have been a reality. But they will never become more commonplace than high-end sports cars because they are still in the phase of testing. On the other hand, flying cars could be a very troublesome idea after flying remote control aircraft for a couple of years with a decent number of crashes. People still manage to kill themselves and how many would be willing to take a much greater risk?
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