How many of you loved the flying De Lorien car from Back to the Future? Perhaps Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with its wings that spread out from underneath? Sadly these types of flying car are nothing but a dream. There are options that are currently undergoing commercial trials. Will they alleviate the problem of sitting jammed in behind hundreds of cars in the morning rush hour?
Of course even Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had its own runway, the farmer's driveway, or the beach. The flying De Lorien is what most people desire, having the ability simply lift of when desired, but can this ever be a reality? Probably not. The other aspect these film cars omitted was the fact that permission is necessary for flying. FAA rules must be adhered to and pilots will need to be appropriately licensed. Although these vehicles are unlikely to go to altitudes above 8,000 ft.
How practical is the concept of the flying car and how much change to our thinking do we have to do?
Apart from cars with wings strapped to them, some other ideas include:
* Hovercraft - nice amphibious vehicle but the engines are loud and they only hover. Not good at cornering either.
* Gyro copters - watch the spinning blades they'll chop someone's head off, but can land on the parking space.
* Microlight - requires take-off and landing room and is a mini plane, looks a lot of fun though.
* Jet pack - James Bond used this in a couple of films. Provides pin-point landing, if you can get people to move out of your way, but they get their hair singed if they don't. Not sure about the miles per gallon.
* Paragliding - looks great fun but not practical for commuting.
Other options that have also been tried. None are able to take the place of the family car making a Sunday afternoon trip to the beach possible for the whole family, as that is where most people's desires are. Skipping over all the traffic and getting straight to your destination. Then everyone else has the same idea. Will all that happens be a shift in the location of the traffic jam switching from the ground to the sky? Few people want that, because, for some, vehicles in the sky become an invasion of privacy if they fly over your land.
The sky highway seems acceptable. Flying above city streets less so, where it is possible to see into bedrooms or back gardens. An invasion of privacy? I am not sure how this can be the case for a moving vehicle.
More than a Dream?
Flight is one of the earliest dreams of mankind. It will be an ever present one while we have the will to dream. In seeing and analysing birds in flight we put our imagination to the test. This drives man's desire for flight.
Despite the theory of Douglas Adams that flying is the art of jumping, then missing the ground, in reality human beings don't possess the right physiology for flight, so we must use technology. This means wings for lift and engines fro propulsion.
The Need for Wings
For flight, wings have practical value. The only way that heavier-than-air vehicle can take flight, is with the aid of wings. Wings come in two varieties, fixed or rotating. A helicopter wings rotate to give the vehicle lift in response to the power supplied from the engine. With fixed wing aircraft, the engine provides forward thrust, to draw air across the wing, which provides lift.
Of course a Jumbo jet is much heavier than the family car, but it is built for flight. It would not make good progress traveling down the I-95 highway, or round the M25.
Flying Cars Under Development Today
The concept of the flying car is to both move down the highway and take flight over traffic jams. AeroMobil has tried to integrate the sleek lines of a car with the needs of a fixed wing for flying. You have to take off and land using a traditional runway. Also the car, despite having two seats, looks cumbersome on the highway.
AeroMobil will be marketing their first flying car in 2017 (shown in the main picture for this post). I would like to wish the makers every success. The good news, this car has flown 430 miles on a full tank of fuel.
Car manufacturer, Toyota, has a patent for an 'aerocar'. Their concept, a vehicle, that transitions from a land automobile into a flying machine. Designed with a shape shifting skin, which presumably includes the wings popping out from the bodywork, called a shape morphing fuselage. This patent, filed in 2014, but the big question is will it work? How will it take off? When will it become a reality?
American firm Terrafugia will be offering the convenience of driving and the speed of flight through their Transition product. The company has flown two full scale prototypes and is looking for legal approval to bring the product to the US marketplace. Their prototype is ugly as a car with its wings fold in two, stowed vertically, when driven on roads.
They have also envisioned an environmentally friendly mass market flying car (shown below). The looks of this model are founded on a modern automobile.
There are about 9 other companies that are currently working on bringing the flying car to life including, the Xplorair VTOL, made in France. Most are based on the type of rotor blades used on drone technology. Here, the question is how street legal such models are as rotors can be dangerous. This also includes commercial aircraft maker Airbus. They are reportedly testing a flying car, although this model (the Vahana) is much larger than the others requiring 4 propellers at the front and back to provide lift.
Other models/ideas can be found in the following video: