Of all the VTOL taxi projects, Uber’s is the most ambitious. The company is currently planning on launching pilot program for “Uber Elevate” flying taxies in Dallas and Los Angelas. Uber has been working on this project since 2016, and hopes to see results soon.
While Uber has stated that it wants flying cars that can movie horizontally (preferably on road) as well as vertically, the company is keeping largely quiet on just what prototypes it is considering. We know they have five different partners working on creating a flying car model, including a Boeing research lab.
Uber’s expansion is important because it gives us a good idea of the challenges involved in adopting flying cars around the world (which is also kind of a bummer). For example, personal VTOLs just don’t function dependably in a city with lots of harsh weather, so Uber is limited to choosing cites with very mild conditions and little rain for safety reasons—as well as cities with the right shape and metro areas for taxis. Uber also needs real estate partners and friendly governments so they can work out all the associated regulations. Since Uber’s ideal taxis will be electric in nature, the company also needs a very reliable, scalable electrical grid to work with. These requirements add up quickly, and show how much work these flying car entrepreneurs have ahead of them.
AeroMobil’s ambitious prototype
AeroMobil, based in Slovakia, is determined to making a functioning flying car. They are on their fourth prototype, so you know they aren’t joking. All the prototypes are loosely known as the “AeroMobil” and when a commercial launch date is set (the company is hoping for 2020, with finalized version of the model aimed for 2025) it will no doubt continue the brand name.
The company has plenty of concept art to show how car would work in its final form. It’s one of the more notable “hybrid” models, and we aren’t talking about fuel. Unlike true VTOLs, hybrid flying cars are often designed to take off of runways to gain flight, but also have the ability to revert to a more car-like shape that allows them to drive on roads. As you can tell, this requires both retractable wheels and wings, along with a very efficient fuel system. AeroMobil is hoping that it can create a functional electronic model. The company has partnered with notable organizations including Starburst, an aerospace “accelerator” to help get their car to market ASAP.
Project Vahana, via Airbus, seeks to create an electric VTOL aircraft that is entirely self-piloted. There’s a lot of advantages to the self-piloting model. It can save costs when it comes to hiring and training pilots (who typically expect a higher salary than a taxi driver), and software engineers already have plenty of experience creating autopilot system for larger planes that can be applied to these VTOLs. It’s also an ideal way to run a taxi service, since the cars can automatically return themselves to centers for maintenance or take a different route based on current orders.
Of course, it’s also a lot to demand of a flying car. However, Vahana is progressing along a successful development program. In early 2018, the Vahana prototype had its first successful full-scale flight test. It wasn’t much—the 20-foot aircraft simply rose 16 feet into the air, and stayed there for 53 seconds. However, it did this entirely with the autopilot technology, and Airbus is planning on future tests for moving forward and other basic maneuvers.
Kitty Hawk’s flying prototype
Kitty Hawk’s CEO, Sebastian Thrun, claims that flying their latest prototype is, “As easy to use as playing Minecraft,” so we’re already sold—plus this also means there’s currently no pilot’s license required to drive it. The latest prototype, appropriately called “Flyer,” is a 250-pound model created by the startup to show off their ultralight design. Kitty Hawk, started by Thurn and Google cofounder Larry Page, plans on creating both a personal flying machine that’s largely for off-road fun (ultralight vehicles like this can’t fly over urban areas by law), and an air taxi for more urban environments. The small, drone-like personal flyer holds a lot of promise for those who want a quick and dirty flying car experience, but so far it’s only available for test flights on a lakeside training center……….Read More>>