Are we really close to seeing flying cars in the real world?
Many people who are *ahem* middle-aged today have grown up with the idea that in the 21.So how close are we? What changes would greater air travel bring? And above all, there are already flying cars?
Currently, companies such as boeing, uber and airbus have claimed to be working on their own flying car models. In addition, a report was recently published by MIT technology review indicates that the automotive market is likely to see around 20 flying vehicles on the market in the next few years. From north america to europe and asia , there are a number of companies involved in making flying cars or smaller prototype vertical takeoff and landing vehicles VTOL, and many of them hope to introduce fully functional air vehicles by 2030.
All these promising developments might indicate that there will be flying cars in the near future, but there is no denying that such promises and claims are made every year. Industry experts and engineers reveal that flying still poses many hidden challenges cars that both automakers and regulators must overcome before air travel becomes a reality.
The history of flying cars from fiction to reality
SOURCE: florida memory/flickr
Can you guess what the dystopian future of the 2017s is? blade runner 2049 and the cartoon of the 1960s the jetsons have in common ? The answer is flying cars. These have been a major component of many pop culture themes and ideas. Hovercars, which have been featured in iconic films like 1989’s back to the future part II and 1995sfifth element,and these references still have a big influence not only on the public, but also on automotive designers.
The first real attempt to build a flying car, however, is much older than the jetsons. in 1917, glenn hammond curtiss, considered by many to be the founder of the american aircraft industry, created ‘autoplane’, a road-going winged automobile. This flying vehicle was able to get off the ground during its early test runs, but it never achieved full flight. Due to the outbreak of the first world war, curtiss abandoned the project.
A replica of the flying delorean from back to the future. Source: thomas’s pics/wikimedia commons
In another early attempt, the u.s. bureau of air commerce awarded a contract in 1935 to the pitcairn autogiro company to develop a roadworthy aircraft. The result was the two-seat AC-35 autogiro aircraft that could take off and landin 52 m 173 ft of space. After folding back the rotors, the pilot could switch engine power to the rear drive wheel, allowing road speeds of 25 mph 40 km/h.
opractic helicopter ended project.
later, engineer, inventor and pilot waldo waterman, who was a former employee of glenn curtiss, took the engine from his studebaker car, made some modifications and used it in his high-wing monoplane. The two-seater watermanarrowbile later changed to aerobile flew for the first time on 21. February 1937. It incorporated tricycle landing gear, had detachable wings, could reach speeds of 90 mph on the road and was both inexpensive and easy to fly. However, t production was halted after 5 units because there was not enough demand for flying cars on the market at that time.
chuck berry’s single "you can’t catch me" from 1956 contains a text describing an airplane:
I bought a brand new flying car
it was a special design, it was a flight de ville
with a powerful engine and some hidden wings
press the button and you will hear it sing .
. I put my foot in my tank and began to roll
moaning siren, it was a state patrol
so i let my wings out and then i blew my horn
bye-bye new jersey, i’m in the air
Turns out the song is based on a real vehicle – moulton taylor’s aerocar, which made its first flight in december 1949. The aerocar is hailed as the world’s first practical flying car, the two-seat road-going aircraft could top flying speed of 177 km/h 110 mph and it had a cruising speed of 96.56 km/h 60 mph and a range of 300 miles. Its wings and tail were folded into a self-contained package that could be towed behind the car like a trailer and was even approved by the civil aviation authority. While taylor made some prototypes for 15.000 U.S. dollars, he was unable to secure a deal for mass production. Only five were built a sixth was built only as a flying model.
in 1959 ford developed a concept hovercar model called the levicar mach I. A full size prototype was displayed at the ford rotunda, michigan, but never produced. In advertising, the company claimed the single-seat vehicle could reach top speeds of 500 mph 800 km/h.
In the following years many notable successful and unsuccessful flying car attempts took place such as advanced vehicle engineers AVE mizar in 1973 the engineer and pilot of the vehicle henry smolinski and AVE VP harold blake both died during a test flight of the vehicle; boeing’s sky commuter concept vehicle, built in the 1980s; the parajet skycar, developed in 2009; the volocopter, an all-electric air cab; and the chinese autonomous aerial vehicle, ehang, both currently under development; and the competition is ongoing.
The most ambitious flying car projects
cezeri from baykar. Source: baykar
More than 100 years have passed since the concept of flying cars was introduced. Many prototypes have come and gone, numerous flight tests have been conducted, but the wait for a commercially viable flying car is not over yet. However, some recent experiments, initiatives and demonstrations show that we are closer than ever to experiencing a world with flying cars:
- Aeromobil, a manufacturer of flying cars based in slovakia, successfully flight tested its road-going aeromobil 4 in september 2020.0 performed. The company claims that its flying vehicles will be available for commercial sale in 2023 , and they also have plans to launch a four-seat flying car in 2025.
4.0 is not the only flying machine of aeromobil, however. Previously, in 2014, the company had introduced the model 3.0 was introduced, which was further improved to add more safety features after an unfortunate test flight accident in 2015. The improved version can convert from road car to airplane in 3 minutes. Later, aeromobil also announced that its vehicle will be sold at a price differential of 1.2 and 1.6 million U.S. dollars once approved by local and international transportation authorities.
- Uber’s elevate project aims to introduce air cabs. The vehicles are being developed with joby aviation, a california-based aerospace startup. The company claims it has already traveled a flight distance of. 150 miles with evtol cabs and the first fleet of ubers air cabs will be operational by 2024.
- In June 2021, klein vision’s flying car prototype, the aircar, successfully completed an intercity test flight between nitra and bratislava airports in slovakia. The airports are located at a distance of about 96 kmaircar claims stefan klein that their prototype takes only two minutes and 15 seconds to convert from a car to an airplane and can fly it at altitudes of up to. 621 miles 1000km.
- Airbus began the vahana project in 2016 to develop an urban air mobility solution that could replace cars and trains for short-haul trips. Vahana should act as a personal VTOL and its first prototype alpha one was unveiled at the paris air show in 2017in 2019, alpha two was unveiled, flying at a speed of 105.6 mph 170 km/h during one of its test flights.The vahana project ended in december 2019 after 138 test flights in which airbus’vtols managed to fly more than 900 km.
- Turkish UAV maker baykar is developing the cezeri , an autonomous quadrocopter that can fly at a cruising speed of 100 kph. This single-seat aircraft looks futuristic and is powered by rechargeable batteries. Cezeri completed its first test flight in september 2020 and the company is promoting it as a green urban air mobility solution for the near future.
A terrafugia prototype car from 2012. Source: markwarren/wikimedia commons
- In january 2021, terrafugia’s aircraft-auto-hybrid transition received the light-sport aircraft LSA airworthiness certificate from the u.s. federal aviation authority FAA. Now the company can manufacture and sell its flying vehicle in the U.S., even though it has not yet received approval for road use of the vehicles. The company hopes that by 2022 its flying carswill be certified for both road and air use. Users can convert the vehicle from driving to flying in less than a minute, but need both a driver’s license and a sport pilot’s license to operate one.
Recently, bills have been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to develop a nationwide strategy for advanced air mobility AAM technologies like evtols in the future.
As part of the federal advanced air mobility campaign, NASA is also flight testing the evtols in conjunction with joby.
What then is stopping flying cars from becoming a reality?
An illustration of airbus vahana. Source: airbus
The process of making a commercially viable flying car is both expensive and time-consuming. In addition, manufacturers face a number of serious legal and regulatory hurdles. Even if a working and commercially viable roadworthy aircraft was developed to be in orderto get a fleet of aeromobiles into service, an infrastructure to support it would also be needed. From landing pads, storage areas and fueling stations to road laws, insurance and permits, everything still needs to be worked out.
There are many important factors that still need to be fully resolved for flying cars to exist in the real world:
Technical challenges in production
A flying car is a very complex piece of technology, and current automotive production lines are not suited for mass production of a lightweight, roadworthy aircraft. New assembly lines and advanced machinery are needed to achieve efficient production levels for flying cars, but not many automakers are ready or prepared for this drastic change.
However, some, like rene landry, an aerospace systems researcher at ETS, have called the challenge "an opportunity to overhaul an industry that is starting to look encrusted. It is time to think a lot about aviation."
Moreover, a flying car is a seemingly impossible mixture of two different technologies, while a car stays on the road because its weight is distributed to create a downward force, an airplane will never work with such an arrangement. So when building a flying car designers and engineers need to develop a machine that can quickly adapt both its structure and its weight to the consumer’s preferred mode of transportation.
Because of such complications, it takes a lot of time and investment to produce a feasible flying car model. An example of this is klein vision’s aircar, which went on its first flight in 2013, nearly 23 years after stefan klein first designed itconcept.
Lack of infrastructure
Major players such as uber, hyundai, and airbus are focusing on the idea of evtol flight cabs rather than flying cars because the current infrastructure cannot support flying vehicles that require runways or come with large folding side wings. Vertical takeoff and landing vehicles fit better in current settings because not only can they be designed to land on existing helipads, but these drone-like vehicles are also capable of quickly landing, picking up, and dropping off passengers in crowded cities so they could be used by commuters.
However, landing stations and communications units that could support a future evtol cab fleet can only be achieved with infrastructure investments worth billions of dollars. Companies like joby aviation believe the cost of a sustainable, long-term urban air mobility solution is reasonable. The company is already working on designs for skyports and roof-based landing and takeoff infrastructure for ubers air taxis.
Regulations, certifications and guidelines
how would you feel if you owned a fully functional flying car, but couldn’t drive it? This is the case with most flying car models that have successfully completed flight tests but are awaiting regulatory approvala host of new regulations, laws, guidelines, air traffic control systems and policies to ensure the safety of all, whether in the air or on the ground.
However, the new AAM bills introduced in the U.S. Congress give hope that the government will soon make important decisions on these issues.
Aerospace experts believe that modern electric batteries are not powerful enough to enable long electric air cab trips. Even NASA’s most advanced experimental electric aircraft only has a range of up to 100 miles 160 km and this is no air cab in terms of wingspan and weight. Therefore, it would be a challenging task for companies to develop efficient power systems for their evtols.
another question is whether the technology of flying cars can be made affordable for the average citizen? Flying cars are basically advanced airplanes and even the cheapest private plane costs around 1.96 million US dollars worldwide, with high maintenance fees on top of that. For this reason, many companies are concentrating on developing aircraft as fleet air cabs rather than private vehicles.
Ashley andrew, MD, hyundai motors UK has pointed out: "it’s easy to say that in the future we’ll all be traveling in autonomous capsules and flying around our cities – it’s a whole other thing that will make this possible."
Modern mini-helicopters and vtols also generate noise levels that are unacceptable in an urban environment. Therefore, engineers must also design aircraft with greatly reduced noise signatures, or they may never become a major mode of transportation.This is tricky, but not impossible. Brain german, an associate professor at the georgia university of technology, explains this by making changes to the. Rotor blade design and implementation of a distributed rotor system in aircraft can significantly reduce noise levels.
A joint study conducted by the aerospace industries association and deloitte insights in january 2021 shows that the air mobility market could be worth 115 billion uS dollars 0.5% of uS GDP by 2035. Another study , by morgan stanley, predicts that the urban air mobility market could exceed $1 billion by 2040. All these figures, together with recent developments in the aircraft industry, give us hope that the myriad challenges associated with air vehicles will sooner or later be solved, and we will finally see the era of the flying car.