While the idea of flying cars does seem to come straight out of a science fiction novel, they are a project that real life engineers are working. The idea for flying cars has been talked about since the 1920s, and it has been something that has fascinated people all over the world.
A flying car would mean that traffic would no longer be an issue. Have you ever sat in traffic during rush hour, wishing that you could just fly over all those ground bound cars? Well this is something that might happen much sooner than you would expect.
In the last decade or so, there has been some exciting progress made to the idea of the flying car. While there still is not a mass produced option available yet, and there are some other potential issues that need to be solved for this to work for the general population, the technology is progressing quickly.
What is a Flying Car?
The main defining feature of a flying car is that it is a passenger vehicle that is road worthy, but it can also fly through the air. Henry Ford thought that eventually we would see a readily available and mass produced airplane-like vehicle, which would bring flight to everyday people. He saw it being something that could be bought, maintained, and used in the same fashion as a car.
This was a neat idea at the time, but for the most part seemed very far-fetched. The novelty of the idea lead it to be featured heavily in fiction novels and movies. However, some high flying engineers have been working on making it a reality for almost a century.
Over the 20th Century
After Ford powerfully indorsed the idea in the beginning of the 20th century, some work was done on making the flying car a reality. Ford even had one of the first designs for a prototype. Unfortunately, that ended up in disaster, and ended up killing the craft’s pilot.
Later on, in the 1950s, the United States army began to investigate the possibility of creating a flying Jeep. The idea was to build something similar to a helicopter, yet use fans instead of propeller blades to provide lift. They wanted something smaller and easier to control than a full-sized helicopter. The prototypes all worked, and were able to fly significant distances, but the real life applications for them just did not seem to work quite right. The Army decided to not pursue these vehicles any further at that time.
Modern Flying Cars
Currently there are many different companies that are actively working to bring flying cars to the masses. There are now many ultralight aircraft prototypes around, and work is on-going to perfect the designs and bring them to production.
AeroMobil presently has a design for a flying car that you can currently pre-order. It is quite expensive, and still is not something that is guaranteed to deliver. The company uses carbon composite materials to create a lightweight body, and the design focuses on making the vehicle extremely aerodynamic.
The controls are a mix of flight and driving controls that are usually seen on these types of vehicles. AeroMobil states that it hit a mix that would be familiar to drivers and pilots alike. Most of the controls and dashboards are set up to assist with flying, and focus on being recognizable to pilots; this is also to assist with FAA regulations and other flying issues
The safety features are interesting, as they must protect the driver and passengers from both on road problems, and things that can go wrong in the sky. They use their own proprietary harness systems that are designed to restrain people both during flight and road travel. To make air travel safer, AeroMobil has included parachutes that can be deployed by the pilot in the event they are required.
This company, which is currently trying to provide a flying car for the masses, was founded by Dr. Rafi Yoeli. Their engineers are trying to design, build, and market a vehicle that is both approved by the FAA to be deemed an aircraft, but still have the ability to drive in a similar fashion to everyday vehicles.
The designs that most of Urban Aeronautics uses rely on duct-fan technology. Yes, that is the same idea that the Army had back in the 1950’s. Of course, they have managed to make some design changes that make the design easier to fly, more fuel efficient, and potentially something that most people could have in their garage.
Terrafugia is a small and privately held company that is also working on bringing flying cars to the world. It started in 2005, when a group of five MIT graduates decided to seriously seek funding to achieve their dream of flying cars.
In the time since 2005, they have managed to gain a lot of support in the form of investments. They are currently working on a prototype that can be driven on current roadways, but also be flown by pilots as a light aircraft.
Their prototype has flown more than 100 hours since it first took to the air in 2009. It has been used in several public demonstrations, and has taken off and landed successfully over 200 times. It is currently looking to gain some exceptions that need to be issued from the FAA to make this design available to the public.
What is Next for Flying Cars?
Most of the design work done by different companies has been completed. There are many different working prototypes available, and the technology is there.
When it comes to how these vehicles will be operated, as they become more available to the public is still up in the air. The current requirements to operate these vehicles include road licensing and pilot’s license. Due to the nature of these aircrafts, the FAA is assigning classes to these machines that could prove getting your flying car license a little difficult.
It is the hope of many of these flying car innovators that the mass produced product would have enough self-driving capability to lessen the pilot requirements. This is still a long term goal, but a critical step to getting flying cars in your driveway.