Flying Cars: Some Things You Should Know About These Emerging Automobiles
We have seen Flying Cars being depicted in fantasy and science fiction movies.
For instance, we saw them in movies like Blade Runner (1982), Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II (1985/1989), The Fifth Element (1997), The Animatrix (2003), etc.
Now, we are close to seeing them buzzing above us in major cities in the air.
In fact, the world’s first-ever motor-sport for flying cars is expected to take place later this year. Of course, this will largely depend on how long the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic.
What exactly is a Flying Car?
A flying car is a type of personal vehicle that is capable of being driven on regular roads and also flying in the air. In other words, these vehicles can offer both ground and air transportation.
Also, Flying Cars are expected to provide perfect solutions to two major issues: congested roads and the significant reduction of travel time.
For more than a century, corporations and entrepreneurs have been promising a mass-produced flying car. Nevertheless, none has succeeded.
This, however, has not stopped some companies from venturing into this uncharted territory.
Investors In Flying Cars Production
Companies such as Boeing, Airbus, Toyota, Geely, Hyundai and Uber are realizing the need for more efficient travel. Therefore, they are investing millions into developing flying automobiles.
Toyota recently announced its intention to use its Skydrive machine at the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The Japanese car-making giant has already invested £275,000 in the Cartivator group that is developing a flying car. In addition, Volvo and Lotus parent company Geely has bought USA-based company Terrafugia.
While both Airbus and Boeing have projects underway, a raft of smaller companies is pushing aggressive timelines as well. Germany’s Volocopter plans to start trials this year of a flying taxi in Singapore.
Uber has claimed it will start test runs flying service next year between Frisco, Texas, and the Dallas–Fort Worth airport. The company also said it plans to start commercial flights in 2023. Uber has five flying-car makers as partners.
Clearly, we are closer than ever to making Flying Cars a reality.
How close is this to becoming an everyday sight?
The Flying Car technology will be a combination of a road-going vehicle with an ability for flight.
In the coming few years, nearly 20 small airborne vehicles is expected to hit the market.
In recent times, more carmakers, aviation companies and several startups are entering the race toward producing consumer-ready Flying Cars and air taxis. Many of which are touted as fully electric.
Over the years, one of the biggest challenges that have confronted the development of Flying Cars has been how to build a flying car that would not need a runway for take-off.
Indeed, the idea of private Flying Cars needing a runway for take-off did not make sense. This would significantly ruin the appeal. After all, one could drive a car to an airfield, fly to your destination and complete the journey in another car.
Vertical take-off and landing (VTOL)
The growth in drone technology has provided answers to the conundrum faced by proponents of Flying Cars.
Drones do not require runways for flight. Instead, their flight are achieved by the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technology. This is what investors in Fly Cars technology are now considering.
However, there are still obstacles to the introduction of flying cars with this type of flight system.
The Design of A Flying Car
A number of designs of Flying Cars have been developed.
Some are drone-like, with anywhere from four to 18 rotors keeping them aloft. Most are fixed-wing craft with propellers that point upwards for vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) and tilt forward for flight.
However, a practical flying car must be capable of safe, reliable and environmentally friendly operation both on public roads and in the air. For widespread adoption, it must also be able to fly without a qualified pilot at the controls and come at affordable purchase and running costs.
Many of the challenges in automotive and aeronautic engineering are the same: reduction of weight and increased efficiency. Again, drones are proving to be a good solution for many looking at the flying car market, such as Uber and Boeing, but they are much more scaled up drones than a car capable of flight.
Many prototypes have been built since the first years of the 20th century using a variety of flight technologies and some have true VTOL performance, but no flying car has yet reached production status.
To make vertical takeoff possible, these vehicles need multiple engines that can produce far more power that what is required for steady flight. That means that if one or two of them fail, the vehicle can still fly or glide to safety. New air traffic management systems will probably rely more on algorithms than humans to manage the routing will—another reason why it’s better if the aircraft fly autonomously.
Flying cars will not come cheap
Porsche and Boeing estimate that commercial passenger drones will hit the market around 2025, and several concept models are supposedly ready for takeoff as early as next year.
However, will they be affordable for anyone who is not super-rich?
Well, it is being estimated that to own a flying car, one might need to cough out as much as $1.3 million (N505 million).
Even after purchase, operation and maintenance of a Flying Car are also expected to be expensive. The reason is principally mooted in the fact that a Flying Car requires a large amount of energy to get airborne.
With the look of things, Flying Cars will initially be deployed for pay-per-use as a taxi. Companies like Uber are working hard to get this started.