Sheldon PintoApr 27, 2017 13:34:52 IST
Everyone has been extolling the virtues of flying cars and how they could change the way we travel. People have been talking about how travel could be faster, easier, automated and maybe even economical compared to the cars that are locked down on to roads and traffic today.
While the dream of manufacturing a flying car is a rather old (1950s) one, today’s billionaires seem to be pursuing the same out of passion. There are other giant corporations who also see flying cars as a means of transportation that should take off in the near future. But what is the progress on these projects and will they really take off?
Google co-founder Larry Page has been financing an aeronautics firm called the Kitty Hawk Corporation. Kitty Hawk is supposedly using those monies to fund research and eventually build a flying car. For now, however, the focus is on the experience. And it’s recently revealed a video showcasing what appears to be a bike mounted on top of a drone; basically, a single person vehicle.
Going by the visuals of what is a promotional video, it’s far from autonomous and basically hovers close to the water. As the website puts it, “The Flyer may be flown in uncongested areas in the US and is designed to be flown over fresh water.”
Kitty Hawk’s website is offering $100 three-year memberships for interested flyers, but this appears to be more of a recreational vehicle than something that could be used to travel from point A to point B. Since the website mentions that becoming a Kitty Hawk member will get you $2,000 off the sticker price, we reckon that it will be available for flying enthusiasts soon. The ultralight Kitty Hawk Flyer aircraft is expected to go on sale by end of 2017.
While Kitty Hawk has been looking into recreational vehicles for now, another company called Zee.Aero has been looking into something serious and on par with the rest of the flying car squad. Zee.Aero filed a patent back in 2012 and is currently testing and developing designs for an actual flying car with vertical take-off and landing capabilities (VTOL). Oddly, Kitty Hawk has clarified to The Verge that Zee.Aero is a part of Kitty Hawk. This one, unlike the Kitty Hawk, is a flying car that can transport passengers from point A to point B. The division has been rather secretive about its progress, but its website claims that it's “designing, building and testing better ways to get from A to B.”
While Larry Page is busy chasing flying cars, co-founder Sergey Brin, according to Bloomberg, is after airships. According to the report, Brin has been secretly building a massive airship inside of Hangar 2 at the Nasa Ames Research Centre. However, as of now, it remains unclear as to what Brin plans to do with it. Experts claim that Brin may be working on an autonomous transportation system to haul cargo, and depending on its size, could even turn out to be more fuel efficient than a truck.
Uber recently hired former Nasa aircraft engineer Mark Moore, who is now director of engineering for aviation. Aviation from a radio taxi service? Well, let’s just keep in mind that Uber is ambitious and has more than just cab services on its mind. The startup, according to Bloomberg, is not making its own flying car just yet, but is looking to fuel and fund like-minded projects through its Uber Elevate program. Uber’s idea of airborne commutes has a few problems, like noise pollution, vehicle efficiency and limited battery life on longer commutes. These would be similar to the ideas that Elon Musk shared recently.
Back in 2016 Airbus announced that it had plans to enter the VTOL aircraft market by 2020. The company showcased a bold design under what is calls Project Vahana. Vahana is a venture by A3 (A-cubed). The plane does not need a runway, will be self-piloted and can automatically detect and avoid obstacles and other aircrafts. The design showcased looked interesting as well. It takes inspiration from a helicopter instead of an aircraft and places two wings on the back and the front, with four rotors each.
Airbus also said that Uber was interested in its idea. As per a recent report by Aviation Week, Airbus is serious about its VTOL project and plans to change the way people move around within cities. Airbus has announced in 2017 that it will bring two models (one a single-seater and the second a multi passenger) vehicle by end of 2018. It might even be christened the CityAirBus.
Back in March of 2015, a new company called AeroMobil appeared on the flying car scene. AeroMobil CEO Juraj Vaculik, back at SXSW, said that the AeroMobil would go on sale as early as 2017. The AeroMobil indeed looks like the closest aircraft that we have come to perceive as flying car. It’s still an aircraft at heart, but owning an AeroMobil will need both a driving license and a pilot’s license. The design is rather long but the CEO told The Verge that the final design will fit within regulations and will work as both a car and an aircraft.
The big question mark here is the price, which the CEO hinted is aimed at “wealthy supercar buyers”.
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