The Future of Aviation Lies In the Future of Flying Cars
The Flying Cars on Madhouse Projects, Blade Runner, Back to the Future, The Fifth Element, and in other various media environments used to be a pipe dream. Not anymore. They soon will be a reality. The people who will help usher in this reality are automotive engineers (such as Dick Thurman in The Madhouse Projects), industrial designers, entrepreneurs, visionaries, and certain organizations, all of whom had been inspired by certain works of science fiction and feel the need for greater, more personal air mobility.
In recent years, there have been plenty of experimentations, as well as tie-ups, in the field of autonomous flying cars.
Since 2016, Uber and NASA have collaborated to develop an urban network of flying cars. Maximizing data from Uber, NASA will create the industry standards and regulations, as well as develop the systems for air traffic management. Uber plans to develop a fleet of electric flying cars, which should help alleviate congestion and improve transportation in cities. Uber and NASA hope that commercial trips will be available sometime in 2023.
NASA looks forward to integrating such emerging aircraft, commonly called eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) or PAV (personal air vehicle), into the national airspace system. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the aviation industry have partnered with NASA since 2019 to test and certify eVTOLs.
Kitty Hawk, a Silicon Valley “flying car” start-up that is backed by Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet (the owner of Google), plans to combine self-flying software with human supervision. In 2018, the company unveiled Cora, a two-person, autonomous taxi, in New Zealand. In 2019, Kitty Hawk struck a joint venture with Wisk Aero LLC and Boeing on urban air mobility (UAM), focusing on Cora.
Also in the same year, the company introduced Heaviside (HVSD), a low-slung, orange and black aircraft with eight rotors and a 20-foot wingspan. The HVSD is designed to go anywhere and land anywhere fast and quietly (indeed, quitter than normal aircraft).
AirspaceX, a company that sells customized drones and provides aerial data services, also lays its stakes in the emerging personal aviation industry. In 2018, AirspaceX unveiled a sub-scale model of MOBi-ONE, an autonomous eVTOL with six propellers on a tilt-wing. The MOBi-ONE will fly at a top speed of 250 miles per hour and is designed to autonomously takeoff like a helicopter and fly like a plane. AirspaceX plans to deploy 2,500 autonomous electric flying taxis in America’s 50 largest cities by 2026.
In 2019, German aircraft manufacturer Volocopter unveiled VoloCity, its first commercially licensed electrically powered air taxi that will eventually run without a pilot and has room for two passengers, including light luggage. The wingless VoloCity boasts 18 small fixed-pitched propellers and 18 electric motors and hovers at 75 meters and can fly at a top speed of 70 miles per hour with a range of just under 22 miles. VoloCity’s first commercial flights are scheduled to take place by 2022. Volocopter claims to be the first and only eVTOL company in the world with a Design Organization Approval (DOA), the license to develop and build certified aircraft, from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The German company is currently seeking approval from America’s FAA for an air taxi launch.
Last year in Japan, SkyDrive, a start-up with financial backing from automotive manufacturer Toyota, successfully flew and landed a prototype of their flying car, SD-03, in which a pilot sat at the controls. The SD-03 measures 6.5 feet tall and 13 feet wide and runs on eight electric motors. The flying car is designed to be the world’s smallest eVTOL. SkyDrive plans to introduce the SD-03 commercially in 2023.
The sky is the limit for all the companies that work toward a viable, feasible, and accessible urban air mobility industry. The idea of flying cars in the future should be more than just an idea or a new piece of technology. It should be a well-integrated journey for everyone in the cities. Everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status, should have the option to walk, bike, drive, or fly.
The emerging UAM industry should be ready to take off once standards and regulations are in place and better, lighter batteries have been developed to allow eVTOLs to fly farther and longer have been developed. The UAM industry should be more than just a viable business but also safe and sustainable. In a future where flying cars are an accessible and convenient means of transportation in the skies, everyone should be able to experience a safe, secure and comfortable new way of life.