Category: vtol

The Owner of Volvo Just Acquired a Flying Car Company

Taking on Terrafugia

Geely, the Chinese company behind the automaker Volvo, recently announced their acquisition of Terrafugia, a company founded by five MIT graduates that is working on a prototype flying car. This move positions Geely to join a quickly growing flock of companies jockeying for the first mass-marketed flying car.

Terrafugia, a ten-year-old company, has already produced the “Transition,” a bulky vehicle with unfoldable wings that can go from driving to flying, with a horizontal takeoff like an airplane, in a few minutes. The company states that the Transition is already road legal, and they are already accepting $10,000 deposits for those who’d like to reserve one.

Electrek reports that Terrafugia also developed an electric version of their vehicle, the TF-X, last year. The TF-X will reportedly feature vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), like a helicopter, and will have a range of 500 miles.

“The team at Terrafugia have been at the forefront of believing in and realizing the vision for a flying car and creating the ultimate mobility solution,” said Li Shufu, Founder and Chairman of the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, in a statement about the acquisition. “Our investment in the company reflects our shared belief in their vision and we are committed to extending our full support to Terrafugia, leveraging the synergies provided by our international operations and track record of innovation, to make the flying car a reality.”

Flying Cars for the Masses

Putting aside the regulatory headache that flying cars will likely present, this is a reality that many companies are pushing for. This includes a partnership between Uber and NASA, Toyota (with a target for the 2020 Olympics), and even DeLorean, the company behind the flying car in the Back to the Future movies.

Russian weapons maker Kalashnikov has already unveiled their flying vehicle prototype, and the small Dutch company PAL-V has stated that they plan to fly their own on a voyage around the world.

According to Electrek, Terrafugia is tripling their engineering staff following the Geely deal, and they plan to bring their first vehicle to market in 2019. Their first VTOL aircraft is expected to follow in 2023.

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A Real-Life “Iron Man” Jet Pack Just Smashed World Speed Records

Flying Fast

Remember the guy who built a real-life “Iron Man” suit? His name is Richard Browning, and he owns a company called Gravity which is dedicated to developing his invention, the body-controlled jet engine suit named Daedalus. Now, Browning has added a Guinness world record title to this list of accomplishments.

Browning successfully flew his Daedalus suit at a record speed of speed of 51.53 km/h (32.02 mph) on his third attempt above the Lagoona Park in Reading, England. Despite mistiming a turn and dropping into the lake a little while later, Browning still managed to set a new world record for fastest speed in a body-controlled jet engine power suit.

The Daedalus is a uniquely designed exoskeleton —like Iron Man’s suit only bulkier — equipped with gas turbine engines, four of which are mounted on the arms and another two on each hip. Browning previously said that the suit could eventually go as fast as 321 km/h (200 mph) at several hundreds of meters above the ground.

We Love Tony Stark

Gravity, Browning’s company, now has hundreds of thousands of pounds in funding for the continuous development of the Daedalus, with a recently completed series of funding adding some $650,000 (£500,000) more, according to the Mirror. All of that funding is necessary, however, as it costs around $250,000 to develop each custom suit. The company is currently working to devise protocols so that the Civil Aviation Authority will allow the Daedalus for commercial use.

While the Daedalus might be the first personal jet pack suit to be made available to the public, it’s not the only one of its kind currently being developed. The world’s first true jetpack, called the JB-9, took flight back in 2015. The year after, JB-9’s developer, a company called Jetpack Aviation, entered into talks with the U.S. military to work on further development of the device.

More recently, aviation giant Boeing announced that they were sponsoring a two-year long competition to encourage the development of personal vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) gear, which is essentially what an “Iron Man suit” is.

All of this work makes it easy to imagine advanced personal modes of flight coming within the next few years. Together with autonomous vehicles and flying cars, this Iron Man suit is helping to shape the future of personal transportation.

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Boeing Just Took a Major Step Toward Autonomous Electric Flights

Aeronautics giant Boeing is acquiring Aurora Flight Sciences, a company focused on the development of autonomous electric aircraft. The move confirms Boeing’s commitment to bringing their first self-flying commercial passenger vehicle to reality.

Aurora won a significant amount of acclaim in 2016 when the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded them a contract to help build the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) X-Plane. Uber also enlisted Aurora Flight Sciences’ help on their Uber Elevate flying taxi project.

The acquisition will bring together the expertise of a proven autonomous electric aircraft maker that has built and operated more than 30 pilot-free vehicles in their 20 years of existence and the financial muscle of Boeing, which has been invested in aeronautics for more than a century. This melding could very well lead to the first fully autonomous electric aircraft.

The development of flying vehicles is likely to continue trending upward, especially now that Boeing has been announced as the sponsorship of a $2 million contest to deliver the next generation of flying machines. Airbus, another aviation giant, is also working on VTOL taxis, which could be flying high as soon as next year, so we shouldn’t have long to wait before personal transportation gets a major lift skyward.

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Airbus’ Electric Flying Taxis Are Set to Take to the Skies Next Year

Fast, Affordable, & Environmentally Friendly

Airbus is aiming to put its flying taxi, the CityAirbus, into operation next year, as confirmed by the company earlier this week. The announcement comes after a successful full-scale ground test of the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicle’s propulsion system.

CityAirbus is entirely battery-powered (with electric 100 KW Siemens motors), uses a four propeller design to navigate through crowded cities and other dense environments, and can comfortably carry up to four people “in a fast, affordable, and environmentally friendly way.”

A complete breakdown of the CityAirbus. Image Credit: Airbus
A complete breakdown of the CityAirbus. Image Credit: Airbus

“We now have a better understanding of the performance of CityAirbus’ innovative electric propulsion system, which we will continue to mature through rigorous testing while beginning the assembly of the full-scale CityAirbus flight demonstrator,” says CityAirbus chief engineer Marius Bebesel.

Hailing a (Flying) Taxi

The flying taxi’s first test is scheduled for the end of 2018, and it will be piloted remotely before a human pilot is assigned. When it is commercially available for use, it will travel along fixed routes at a top speed of 120 km/h (74.5 mph). While Airbus would like to make it fully autonomous, they’re starting with pilots to “to ease certification and public acceptance.”

Expect to see more flying taxis and services within the next few years as the technology is further developed and tested. German startup E-volo, for example, also has plans to launch a taxi service next year, while Uber has promised to introduce their own flying taxis by 2020. Dubai recently had a successful test of its autonomous Volocopter, which is also meant to be used in urban areas — albeit for shorter, 30-minute trips. Lastly, there’s the German company Lilium, which just received an additional $90 million to develop their all-electric flying taxi, with the intent to have a series of commercialized aircraft by 2025.

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Boeing is Sponsoring a $2 Million Competition to Bring Us Real Jet Packs

Real-Life Rocketeers

A Boeing sponsored contest is looking to reward the developers of a functional jet-pack with $2 million. The new contest was announced at the SAE 2017 AeroTech Congress and Exhibition in Fort Worth, Texas. It was conceived by entrepreneur Gwen Lighter, chief executive of the company GoFly, who told The Verge, “There is no dream that is more universally shared than that of soaring through the skies. It unites us all.”

The contest will be held in three phases, with the first phase awarding ten semi-finalists $20,000 prizes each based on their written technical specifications. The second phase will then give four finalists $50,000 prizes based on revised specs and their prototype. Finally, a single grand prize-winning team will take home a $1 million prize based on the results of a Final Fly-Off competition, which will be judged by experts from Boeing and other aerospace organizations. According to the Washington Post, the winning jet pack must light enough to be lifted by hand or on a hand truck, carry a 200-pound person (or dummy) for at least 20 miles without refueling, be easy-to use, and be safe, with no pilot withstanding forces more than 5 g.

Next Generation

The competition hopes to attract a younger crowd, and to pull minds toward the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) field as opposed to other areas in the tech sector. Mike Hirschberg, executive director of the American Helicopter Society, told The Verge, “Really it’s about inspiring the next generation of aerospace engineers, scientists, and technicians so they don’t all go to Google.”

Along with flying cars, personal jetpacks have moved from the realm of science fiction to reality with the rapid development of new technology: improved batteries, lightweight drones, and easier production methods like 3D printing. Just this past March, the first civilian pilots took flight in a jetpack developed by Jetpack Aviation.

Lighter said, “At the end of our two-year competition, we hope we have new technology and frankly a whole new industry, where we have a mini Ford and a mini GM and a mini Chrysler at the start of the automotive industry, except now we have those mini companies at the start of a personal flying device industry.”

The future of transportation is teeming with ideas, reliant on the execution of some (formerly) sci-fi level technologies. We may be closer to living The Jetsons than ever before.

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DeLorean Aerospace Is Working on a Flying Car With a Range of 120 Miles

Paging Doc Brown

DeLorean cars have become a staple of ’80s pop culture thanks to their starring role in Robert Zemeckis’s iconic Back to the Future trilogy. Now, a new generation of the DeLorean family is looking to put the brand back into the spotlight by giving new meaning to a line kooky inventor Doc Brown delivers at the end of the first film: “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

Flying Cars: A Future Buyer’s Guide [Infographic]
Click to View Full Infographic

In a recent Wired profile, Paul DeLorean, nephew of the original carmaker and current CEO and chief designer of DeLorean Aerospace, revealed that his company is joining the likes of Uber, Airbus, Kitty Hawk, and a few others in attempting to build a flying car.

DeLorean says the company is working on a two-seat, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle meant for personal transport and that will eventually be capable of autonomous flight. “We are moving forward on a full-size, piloted prototype which will carry two passengers and is designed to operate, fully electric, for a range of  [193 kilometers (120 miles)],” he explained to Wired.

Other flying cars in development are only expected to have ranges of around 40 to 80 kilometers (25 to 50 miles), so DeLorean’s target is well above the norm.

Image credit: DeLorean Aerospace
Image credit: DeLorean Aerospace

As for design specifics, the DeLorean DR-7 aircraft sports two sets of wings, one at the vehicle’s front and the other at its back, with another pair of winglets under the hind wings. The vehicle’s takeoff and forward propulsion rely on a pair of fans, which are powered by electricity and mounted along its center. The fans swivel after takeoff to push the vehicle forward.

In all, the aircraft is about 6 meters (20 feet) long, with a wingspan of about 5.6 meters (18.5 feet). To help the aircraft fit into a (large) garage, the wings are capable of folding against the vehicle’s sides.

Regulating the Skies

Whether they be of the self-driving or flying variety, the cars of the future need to surmount regulatory hurdles before we’ll see any kind of widespread adoption. The use of traditional vehicles and aircraft is currently regulated by numerous laws, and the advanced capabilities of autonomous or flying vehicles are presenting lawmakers with a slew of unprecedented questions.

Along with the need to upgrade our laws to govern this next step in the evolution of personal transport, we also need to upgrade our infrastructure. Electricity is emerging as the energy source of choice for this next generation of vehicles, yet much of the world lacks the infrastructure necessary to meet the refueling needs of a fleet of electric vehicles (EVs).

We still have some time to wait before we can hope to see these flying vehicles in action, as experts don’t expect the first models to be ready for another five to 15 years, but we are well on our way to a future in which roads won’t be the only places we see cars.

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Dubai Just Moved One Step Closer to Launching Its Flying Taxi Service

Investing Big

In February, Dubai, a city known for its active pursuit of all things futuristic, revealed plans to partner with German startup Volocopter on a flying taxi service. The city then updated the timeline for those plans in June, and now, it has moved one step closer to implementing them thanks to a €25 million (roughly $29.5 million) investment in Volocopter by Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler AG, Berlin tech investor Lukasz Gadowski, and a few others.

“The strong financial commitment of our new investors is a signal as well as proof of the growing confidence in the newly emerging market for electrically driven [vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles] put to use as personal air taxis,” Florian Reuter, Volocopter managing director, said in a press release announcing the new round of funding.

flying cars vtol volocopter autonomous aerial taxis
Image Credit: Volocopter

The startup has been working on a flying car for some seven years now, and the Volocopter 2X, a two-seater VTOL vehicle powered by electricity and capable of autonomous flight, is their second-generation vehicle.

flying cars vtol volocopter autonomous aerial taxis
Image Credit: Volocopter

Volocopter’s AAT would work like most ride-hailing services — a passenger would be able to summon the service on demand and then be ferried to their destination. The company will work closely with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) during a five-year testing period for this autonomous aerial taxi (AAT), which is set to begin by the fourth quarter of 2017.

flying cars vtol volocopter autonomous aerial taxis
Image Credit: Volocopter

Changing Urban Transportation

The benefits of a flying car or a flying taxi service seem obvious enough. For one, you’d avoid the usual traffic congestion of busy urban centers. Secondly, Volocopter 2X is safe and quiet, thanks to the 18 rotors that lift it off the ground.

flying cars vtol volocopter autonomous aerial taxis
Image Credit: Volocopter

According to the company, it won’t require heavy infrastructure support, either. “One moment, it is the replacement for a bridge that is being repaired, the other moment it is an air taxi used as a shuttle to a trade fair,” they explain on their website. This would effectively eliminate the typical concerns regarding the use of VTOLs in cities, such as the ones Elon Musk previously raised.

flying cars vtol volocopter autonomous aerial taxis
Image Credit: Volocopter

Volocopter isn’t the only company working on a flying car or an AAT. Uber has had plans for a flying vehicle and an aerial taxi service in the works for a while now, and a number of both established companies and smaller startups have their own designs for such vehicles, increasing the odds that flying cars will have a place in the future of transportation.


Disclosure: The Dubai Future Foundation works in collaboration with Futurism as a sponsor and does not hold a seat on our editorial board.

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Uber Just Promised to Bring Flying Taxis to Life in 3 Years

Flying Taxis

When Uber first introduced the concept of ride-hailing, the company single-handedly led a revolution in the transportation industry—one that is still ongoing. Now, the company is poised to launch another innovation. This comes in the form of their vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) flying car.

Yes, it’s a flying car, and it’s one that is custom designed for passenger pickups.

Ultimately, the concept is anchored on Uber’s longstanding ride-sharing concept, which they are now hoping to move forward into the next stage of development by taking it to the skies. So really, it’s more than a flying car; it’s a flying taxi.

Image Credit: YouTube/ Aurora Flight Sciences

This development means that, in the future, commuters will be able to access a network of small, electric VTOL aircrafts that can provide fast and reliable flying transportation. We have long known that the project was in the works, but now, Reuters reports that Uber has finally picked the first cities that will benefit from the service.

The company is set to deploy their flying taxis first in Dallas-Fort Worth and Dubai, and they assert that they will do so by 2020.

The fleet of VTOL aircraft has been dubbed Uber Elevate, and will be manufactured in partnership with Aurora Flight Science, Pipistrel Aircraft, Embraer, Mooney, and Bell Helicopter. The UberAir app will then be used to book trips, which Uber believes will prove to be more cost-effective and efficient.

A New Era of Transportation

The world’s fascination with making flying cars is driven by a lot more than our desire to bring science fiction to life. Traffic, especially in urban areas, has been a perennial problem that we have yet to address, and shifting to airborne vehicles to help shuttle commuters could be the answer.

Flying Cars: A Future Buyer’s Guide [Infographic]
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Of course, Uber isn’t alone in the race to build a flying car. A German startup called E-volo also believes VTOL aircraft could be the future of transportation, and is planning to test a flying taxi service with their prototype as early as next year. And Airbus, a company best known for building airplanes, is planning to create a helicopter-style autonomous vehicle capable of shuttling several riders at once.

Not only do these novel transportation options provide a solution to traffic congestion, they also help ensure that transportation options are more sustainable, as these VTOLs are designed to run on electric propulsion systems with no operational emissions.

Transportation experts believe that we are no more than 10 to 15 years away from having fully operational, autonomous flying taxis. And at the rate Uber and other companies are going, it looks like their predictions are right.

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A Flying Taxi Service Will Soar Through the Skies by 2018

Flying to the Future

Who doesn’t love flying cars? Almost every science-fiction flick that’s set in the future features flying vehicles, which shows just how much people want flying cars.

Flying Cars: A Future Buyer’s Guide [Infographic]
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Fortunately, the wait for these futuristic vehicles may soon be over, thanks to companies like German startup E-volo. The company has been working on a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft since 2011. Now, it is confident that it can bring its VTOL into a commercial setting.

E-volo’s latest multicopter, the Volocopter 2X, is its ticket into this future. The electric aircraft is designed for two passengers and can take off using a simple joystick. Its 18 rotors allow the Volocopter to fly very, very silently.

All images courtesy of E-volo.
All images courtesy of E-volo.

Specs-wise, the Volocopter can reach top speeds of roughly 100 kph (62 mph), but only for a limited amount of time and across not-so-long distances. This VTOL comes with nine batteries — it’s electric and clean — that give it enough power to fly at a cruising speed of 69 kph (43 mph) for a good 17 minutes.

The Future of Transportation

E-volo plans to try out a flying taxi service with the Volocopter 2X by 2018. For this first planned taxi flight, the VTOL will be manned by a pilot. However, E-volo has put sensors in the Volocopter that could allow it to eventually fly autonomously.

E-volo also plans to get international approval in the near future to fly the Volocopter in the rest of Europe and in the United States. For now, this VTOL has been classified in Germany as an ultralight aircraft. In principle, anyone with a license as a sport-pilot in Germany would be able to fly the Volocopter.

E-volo isn’t the only company working on flying cars, VTOLs, or a flying taxi service. Popular ridesharing company Uber has been working on one, too. Big companies and startups alike have been testing their own flying vehicles: there’s industry veteran Airbus, Larry Page’s Zee.Aero, and a Chinese startup called Ehang. More options should make the tech increasingly more affordable.

Apart from Elon Musk, most people seem convinced that flying cars are the future of transportation, and it may be a future we reach sooner than you think.

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This Is Flight in the World of Tomorrow

Vision of the Future

A sleek new helicopter design was unveiled by Bell Helicopter at the Heli-Expo in Dallas, Texas.

Called the FCX-001, the next-generation machine will be built from sustainable materials and run on a hybrid power system. It will come equipped with augmented reality (AR), an artificial intelligence (AI) co-pilot, and rotor blades that morph depending on flight conditions.

Image Credit: Bell Helicopter

An anti-torque system improves the helicopter’s safety, reduces noise, and increases performance, while a hybrid propulsion system with a thermal engine core for primary power will help give better control and simplify maintenance.

Regardless of operational conditions, thanks to its augmented reality system supported by AI, the FCX-001 will be capable of controlling itself singlehandedly. This kind of technology allows the usual Multi Function Display to be replaced, thus allowing the aircraft to be supervised by one pilot with the the AI in the co-pilot role. This key feature is a logical step towards achieving fully autonomous vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft.

Built with advanced sustainable materials, the aircraft can basically be configured to customer’s needs. The modular cabin can also take advantage of the aircraft’s AR capabilities and provide a tailored infotainment experience for each passenger.

Unmanned and Autonomous

“Being a pioneer in the aircraft industry is in our DNA and we want to share this renewed passion with the world. The FCX-001 points the way for our future – a renewed focus on innovative solutions and technologies. When the time is right we look forward to sharing more of what we’re doing behind closed doors,” says President and CEO of Bell Helicopter, Mitch Snyder.

If the numerous concepts introduced for VTOL aircraft are anything to go by, the future of flight will definitely be unmanned and autonomous.

Joining Bell Helicopter’s efforts to put such innovative vehicles in the sky are Uber, which seeks to provide a cost-effective and efficient ridesharing service in the sky; Dubai, which is already in the midst of testing hover-taxis as a way to manage traffic congestion on their highways; and Ehang, the company behind the world’s first autonomous drone for humans that intends to use their technology to automate organ delivery.

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Elon Musk: Flying Cars Are Definitely Not the Future of Transport

Not a Scalable Solution

As far as the future of our roadways is concerned, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO isn’t placing his bets on flying cars. For someone who’s into bold and disruptive technology, Elon Musk’s stance on flying cars appears to be a contradiction — more so since his proposed solution to congested traffic seems crazier. “Obviously, I like flying things,” Musk told Bloomberg’s Max Chafkin. “But it’s difficult to imagine the flying car becoming a scalable solution.”

A future with flying cars has long been the subject of science fiction . That’s why, a number of companies are hard at work trying to make it a reality. Among these, aerospace giant Airbus seems to be taking the lead, and they want their autonomous flying vehicles in the skies (and on the roads) by the end of this year. Google co-founder Larry Page is also working on his own flying car with the elusive startup Zee.Aero. Even the concept of drone-like cars is being explored.

Even Uber wants its own fleet of flying cars, leveraging on vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technology, and they already have plans that include the infrastructure needed to make it work.

This is close to flying a Tesla could get. Image credit: Tesla
Image Credit: Tesla

Firmly on the Ground

Despite all this development, Musk is convinced that flying cars won’t ease traffic on the ground, and he may have a point. Especially since a lot of flying car models are opting for VTOL versions, they won’t really be cars, in the strictest sense. Additionally, other models in development still need runway-like space to take off.

CLICK TO VIEW FULL INFOGRAPHIC
CLICK TO VIEW FULL INFOGRAPHIC

For Musk, Silicon Valley’s obsession with flying cars won’t be great for city travel. Flying cars, he explained, would need to generate considerable downward force to keep them flying. That translates to a lot of noise and wind for those on the ground. There’s also the probability of debris falling in the case of mid-air fender-benders. “If somebody doesn’t maintain their flying car, it could drop a hubcap and guillotine you,” he said. “Your anxiety level will not decrease as a result of things that weigh a lot buzzing around your head.”

And Musk would rather keep his head, thank you very much, even if it means boring a whole underground.

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Uber Taps NASA Expert to Make Flying Cars a Reality

Uber Elevate

Uber’s ride sharing concept didn’t just revolutionize the transportation industry – it carved a totally new business model. It’s no surprise then, that the company is consistently investing in technology that will once again prove to be game changing.

Last October, Uber announced plans to develop vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft to provide a cost-effective and efficient ride sharing service that can shuttle passengers around cities. Now, former NASA engineer Mark Moore will be joining the team to bring these flying, on-demand vehicles into reality.

VTOL route. Image Credit: Uber

Moore, who originally lent his engineering expertise for Uber’s white paper on the VTOL craft, will now serve as the company’s Director of Engineering for their new concept, dubbed Uber Elevate.

“I can’t think of another company in a stronger position to be the leader for this new ecosystem and make the urban electric VTOL market real,” the 30-year NASA veteran shared with Bloomberg. 

Challenges of Flying Cars

While Moore is intent on taking Uber’s vision to new heights (literally), he’s pragmatic enough to recognize the technological and logistical challenges of this project.

On the technical side, the company has to contend with improving vehicle efficiency and limited battery life, while making sure to address potential issues, like noise pollution. On the logistical front, the company has to lobby regulators to reduce air-traffic restrictions, and certify aircrafts for use. But, given Uber’s 55-million-strong market, it’s in a prime position to demonstrate the potential of this technology, and maybe even pave the way for other innovators who are working to bring vehicles to the skies.

AeroMobil has been working on a prototype that combines the characteristics of a traditional car with a small airplane. Airbus’ Project Vahana is working on a similar, helicopter-style autonomous vehicle that can ferry passengers in the air. And Jetpack Aviation, a company primarily focused on developing jetpacks, is dipping their toes in the flying car industry.

Uber, along with all these companies, will inevitably create a new frontier in transportation – defined by convenience, sustainability, and innovation.

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According to Experts, We’re 10 Years Away From Autonomous Flying Taxis

Ridesharing in the Sky

Way before Elon Musk planned to drill under Los Angeles to avoid traffic, several companies had already been toying with the idea of beating traffic by going over it. Indeed, flying cars have long been a part of science fiction, but they could soon become a part of our everyday reality. And once we have autonomous flying cars, it’s only a matter of time before we have autonomous flying taxis for those who prefer hitching a ride to owning one.

According to a report by the Associated Press, experts think flying taxis could arrive in the next 10 to 15 years. “In terms of what you can make fly in a reliable manner, the solution speed gateway that (computer) chips have gone through recently have literally opened the door to a whole new world of flying machine possibilities,” Charles Eastlake, an aerospace engineering professor at Embry-Riddle University, told the AP. “My best engineering guess is that people actually using autonomous air taxis in the next 10 or 15 years is possible, but definitely not certain. The challenges are big.”

In the Works

Certainly, recent developments in engineering have contributed greatly to bringing flying cars closer to reality. Still, there are other technical hurdles to overcome, and more still in order to develop flying vehicles that are autonomous. For one, there aren’t yet any flight versions of autonomous sensory systems found in self-driving cars. There’s also the challenge of battery weight, which is an issue even for current electric cars that stay on the ground — autonomous flying taxis would need much better, lighter batteries.

In addition to sorting out the technology, we’d also need ground infrastructure that would allow flying vehicles to operate unobstructed, with enough space for take-off and landing zones. “There’s no question we can build the vehicle,” MIT professor John Hansman, who advises the FAA, told the AP. “The big challenge is whether we can build a vehicle that would be allowed to operate in the places where people want to use it.”

That isn’t an insurmountable hurdle, though, as ridesharing company Uber already has infrastructure plans for a flying taxi service that relies on vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles. Indeed, they aren’t the only company thinking about this new era in travel. European aircraft manufacturer Airbus is keen on delivering a prototype of its A3 Vahana this year, with plans to have it ready for production by 2020. Israeli tech firm Urban Aeronautics has already created prototypes of its Cormorant, a people-carrying drone that’s intended for military use and that can attain speeds of up to 185 km/h (115 mph), hover for an hour, and carry up to 1,100 pounds. 

Apart from these, there are still others: the VTOL Lilium JetAeroMobil 3.0, which uses regular gasoline; Chinese drone-maker EHang’s 184 person-carrying drone; Joby Aviation’s all-electric VTOL S2; and the Zee VTOL car, which Google founder Larry Page was supposedly spotted in, just to name a few. Undoubtedly, with all these projects in the works, it’s clear that flying cars and autonomous flying taxis are coming. It’s just a matter of how soon we can be ready for them.

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