The concept of driverless vehicles has blown our minds! As we continue our countdown to the MCAV ‘future of transport’ event (just 5 days remaining!!) our minds have escaped us and we have dared to dream of technology beyond driverless cars. Perhaps because autonomous cars have crept on us, and we have not had time to prepare our minds for the huge changes just around the corner (or perhaps because we’ve been dreaming a little too much!) we have decided to broach the subject of flying cars.
Ok, maybe we should wait for driverless cars to appear before we get ahead of ourselves. However, with all that space up in the air – why can’t we dream of a future where we fly to work, instead of getting involved in any type of traffic? Perhaps we could even fly off on our holidays – destination: anywhere!
Before we get too carried away, we should think about keeping our feet on the ground (pun unintended) and look at what is happening around the world, in terms of flying cars. Is this a realistic proposition within our lifetime, or are we dreaming? Let’s acquaint ourselves with some of the big names and companies that might become a household name for flying car enthusiasts one day.
Since 1965, Paul Moller has been designing a ‘Skycar’ which he is vehemently persisting with – hoping it will be the first flying car to be launched! In 1965 the ‘XM-2’ was created and we are really impressed with his attempt as the car floated! It didn’t, however, travel anywhere, so Paul went back to the drawing board.
What he came up with 24 years later (1989) was the M200X which has since participated in around 200 flights and can reach heights of up to 50 feet. Clearly Mr Moller knows his stuff and his attempts did not stop after the M200X.
The ‘Skycar M400’ (Paul’s latest design), seems to be his best invention yet. The vehicle takes off and lands vertically. When flying, it reaches speeds of up to 400 mph, with a cruise speed of 350 mph. Incredibly, the M400 has a range of 900 miles! Our approximations suggest that it could be flown from England to Eastern European countries, such as the Czech Republic or Poland. It is GPS controlled, and has a parachute and airbags just in case anything goes wrong.
Macro are based in Huntsville, Alabama, and have been busy working on the ‘Skyrider X2R’ – a flying car that takes off and lands vertically. The flying car has been made to a very high spec, and designed with the user in mind. It merges the 2-seater sports car with helicopter and aeroplane mobility, making it small enough to store in regular garages.
Navigation of the ‘Skyrider X2R’ is designed to take place by cellular services and GPS; users will simply enter the address of their destination (or the telephone number) and they will be flown directly there! MACRO Industries are also designing 5 and 7-seater versions of the ‘Skyrider X2R’ so that users can potentially take their family flying for the day!
Dr Rafi Yoeli
Dr Rafi Yoeli – of Urban Aeronautics, based in Israel – has been working on the ‘Cityhawk’ – a flying car which is described as a ‘fly-by-wire’ car (meaning it is semi-automatic and controlled by what is normally a computer-regulated system). In addition, he has also been working on another flying car called the ‘X-Hawk’ which has a rotorless verticle take off. Pilots flying the X-Hawk will also land vertically.
Branko is a senior engineer at the McDonnell Douglas Aerospace. He designed a vehicle, the ‘Sokol A400’ which has a really interesting gadget. When a button is pressed, the wings push out! This makes us think of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ or the button pressed by ‘Bully’ at the start of Bullseye…
Sky Technologies may have the name best suited to the concept of the flying car. They designed the ‘Aircar’ which has – when flying – reached a speed of between 200 and 400 mph! When driven, the car reached 65 mph. However, more recent reports have suggested that the ‘Aircar’ will no longer be worked on due to a lack of resourcing.
Neva is a consortium of 5 European companies who have made other flying equipment such as drones. They are producing the ‘AirQuadOne,’ a vehicle that operates by 4 electric turbofans; fans of which have already been tested within drones.
The ‘AirQuadOne’ weighs, approximately, 1000 pounds, which includes the estimated weight of the pilot. The type of flights that the flying car will be likely to perform last for around 30 minutes, and pilots fly at speeds of around 50 mph over a 25-mile range.
It appears that the ‘AirQuadOne’ is likely to be suited to passengers travelling from one side of the city to the next. Pilots will take off and land vertically, and can be plugged in to charge. Dare we dream of this vehicle making it into the homes of commuters in the not-too-distant future?
Through an analysis of the types of work being carried out by designers and organisations, we can see that the technology does appear to be ready for flying cars to exist. They have been made a more realistic proposition, by much-improved batteries and new materials that are lightweight, yet incredibly strong.
What might well hinder the progress of flying cars, however, is regulation and financial affordability. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are looking at new standards that might be required for flying, though it has been suggested that this will take years to be finalised. Furthermore, flying cars will not be cheap and regular commuters might have to stick to more conventional methods for the time being…
Flying cars are a realistic proposition, but – at present – we seem to be a long way from the days where we will be flying to work! Our attention has been re-focussed towards a nearer step: driverless vehicles. To hear about autonomous vehicles – and to discuss the technology in more detail – join us at the ‘future of transport’ MCAV event on the 27th June.
By Neil Phipps
Photo by Roman Kruglov