Not long ago, the idea of traveling by flying car was pure science fiction. The Jetsons made the concept famous, but turning such a machine into reality seemed like a step too far. How should they be governed? Would you need a license? Where would they land and take-off from?
These questions remain mostly unanswered, but that hasn’t stopped a wide range of companies from putting forward their plans for a flying car. Some are conducting test flights right now, while others have wowed us with mocked-up concepts of a future that no one is quite sure will actually arrive.
Despite this, industry leaders like Airbus, Boeing, and Rolls-Royce are pumping money into flying machines of the future, while carmakers like Audi and Aston Martin are equally interested. Keep in mind, in almost all cases, if you’re planning to operate one of these flying cars, you’ll need a pilot’s license as well as driver’s license since you’ll be moving from ground to air.
Here are the 10 flying car companies you need to know about in 2018:
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Image Credit: Aeromobil.
Previously known as UberAIR, Uber Elevate is the ride-sharing company’s flying taxi division. The program hopes to launch a commercial service in Texas within 10 years, according to Uber boss Dara Khosrowshahi.
Not to be confused with helicopters, the vehicles Uber has in mind more closely resemble drones. A capsule large enough for two or three passengers — plus a pilot, at least initially — is flown through the air by a number of downward-facing propellers, powered by electric motors.
The vehicles, which remain theoretical for now, will be “VTOL,” which stands for vertical takeoff and landing. Uber predicts a future where fleets of these vehicles will park on building roofs, waiting to be summoned via a smartphone app.
Image Credit: uber Elevate.
Slovakia-based AeroMobil has been working on flying cars since the nineties and took its first flight in 2013. The company’s goal is to create a commercial vehicle that works as well on the road as in the air, and would be sold to “wealthy supercar buyers and flight enthusiasts,” they say.
After two decades of development, a production version of AeroMobil’s flying car was made available for preorder in 2017, with deliveries planned for 2020; prices start at $1.3 million.
The vehicle transforms from car to plane in three minutes, the company claims, and can travel at up to 100 mph on the road or 224 mph in the air. Nervous fliers will be pleased to hear that the AeroMobil is equipped with an emergency parachute.
While the above vehicle, called “AeroMobil 4.0,” requires a short runway for take-off and landing, the company’s fifth-generation concept operates using an all-electric VTOL system for vertical take-off and landing. Images of this vehicle — which remains a concept for now — were released in March 2018.
Aeromobil expects to put its VTOL vehicle into production within the next seven to 10 years, a move it says is “in line with the reality of building and scaling the infrastructure and regulation for such innovative personal transportation.”
Image Credit: Aeromobil.
Unlike its rivals, this flying car can be bought right now. The $400,000 Liberty requires a $12,300 deposit and deliveries are to begin in 2019.
The PAL-V Liberty traces its roots back to the equally mad Carver One, a leaning three-wheeled car which sat its one passenger behind the driver and leaned at up to 45 degrees through the corners. But it didn’t fly — so clearly there was room for improvement.
Netherlands-based PAL-V says the transformation from car to plane takes between five and 10 minutes, and that the Liberty is fully legal to operate on the road — and in the air — in the United States and across Europe.
Powered by two engines, the Liberty can drive at up to 100 mph on the road, where a 99 bhp engine accelerates it to 60 mph in a leisurely nine seconds. In the air, the Liberty can climb to a maximum altitude of 11,500 feet thanks to a second, 197 bhp engine. It can fly at up to 112 mph and has an airborne range of 310 miles.
Image Credit: Pal-V.
Chinese company Ehang caused a stir when it unveiled a huge drone at the CES technology show in early 2016. Looking similar to the kind of drone you might buy at Walmart, the electric Ehang 184 was actually designed to carry humans. The company said the drone would cost between $200,000 and $300,000, and be capable of carrying a single passenger weighing up to 260 pounds for 23 minutes.
Soon after, Dubai expressed interest in bringing the drones to its skies, where they could autonomously shuttle tourists for around 20 minutes at a time, beating the city traffic below.
The Ehang 184 completed its first human test flights in rural China in February 2018, after which the company said the drone could fly safely at up to 130 km/h (80 miles) “in force seven typhoon conditions.”
Image Credit: Ehang.
As one of the most unexpected entries on this list, British sports car company Aston Martin is making a name for itself by building unusual vehicles. Already trying its hand at building a submarine and a speedboat, a luxurious (and autonomous) flying car is the obvious next step. It’s almost as if Aston is hurriedly equipping James Bond with everything he’ll need for his next movie.
Aston’s VTOL flying machine offers space for three in its leather-clad cabin, with one person sitting in front of the other two and a jet fighter-style canopy overhead. Power comes from a gas turbine hybrid propulsion system developed by Rolls-Royce (the aircraft engine company, not the car maker).
Aston Martin claims the vehicle should be able to travel from London to Paris in about an hour — a journey which currently takes two hours and 15 minutes by train, or one hour and 15 minutes by plane. Such a statistic means the Volante Vision should travel for 200 to 250 miles at about 200 mph.
Image Credit: Aston Martin.
Audi and Airbus
As a sign of how invested major companies are in the concept of private flight, Audi and Airbus announced at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show that they are jointly working on a flying vehicle, called “Pop.Up Next.”
Unlike some of their rivals in this space, Audi and Airbus see a future in which a two-person pod can either be flown autonomously by a detachable drone, or drive itself on the roads by attaching to an electric rolling chassis. Inside, passengers are entertained by a huge 49-inch touchscreen which wraps itself across the entire width of the cabin.
There are no details yet on speed, altitude, or range, but the very fact that companies like Audi and Airbus are making such prototypes says a lot about their position on these vehicles.
At the same Geneva show, Porsche said it was also interested in flying cars. The carmaker’s research and development chief Michael Steiner said, “We are looking into how individual mobility can take place in congested areas where today and in the future it is unlikely that everyone can drive the way he wants.”
Image Credit: Audi/Airbus.
Airplane engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce is also keen to explore the future possibilities for private flight.
Unlike most other flying taxi concepts we have seen recently, the Rolls-Royce could theoretically travel at up to 250 mph and have a range of approximately 500 miles, its designers have said. The concept is designed to carry four or five people, and its wings can rotate 90 degrees to enable vertical take-off and landing.
Rolls-Royce said, “We believe that given the work we are doing today to develop hybrid electric propulsion capabilities, this model could be available by the early to mid 2020s, provided that a viable commercial model for its introduction can be created.”
The flying machine is intended to use gas turbine technology to generate electricity that would power six electric propulsors, specifically designed to operate quietly. This would help enable the machine to fly in urban areas without causing too much noise pollution.
Image Credit: Rolls Royce.
Built by a Canadian startup called “Opener,” the BlackFly’s unique selling point is how it can be flown without a pilot’s license — or so the company claims.
The strange-looking machine can reportedly fly for 25 miles at speeds of up to 62 mph. It can carry one person, is fully electric with a charge time of 30 minutes, and has a fixed-wing VTOL design.
Opener claims to have already conducted more than 1,000 test flights and flown more than 10,000 miles while developing the BlackFly. The flying machine has an automated return-to-home function that lets the pilot get back to his or her starting point, and there will be an optional “ballistic parachute” for added peace-of-mind.
Echoing that of others in this space, the company’s long-term goal is “to integrate these highly-efficient vehicles into a rural/urban commuting network. These networks would be powered by renewable energy sources requiring only a fraction of the transportation energy used currently.”
Image Credit: Blackfly.
Although not actively building its own flying car (as far as we know), airplane manufacturer Boeing is involved with the $2 million “Go Fly” competition.
The competition challenges teams to build a “personal flying machine” capable of taking its pilot quietly and safely a distance of at least 20 miles without refueling or charging.
Although only intended to carry one person — and often taking the shape of a flying motorbike rather than a taxi-like vehicle — the entries all offer an interesting look at what the future of mobility could look like — and all under the watchful eye of Boeing.
Image Credit: Aeroxo LV.
Kitty Hawk is a flying car company backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, and its first vehicle, called “Cora,” took off for the first time in March 2018. Cora looks like a plane at first glance, but the wings support downwards-facing propellers to enable vertical take-off and landing.
A propeller on the rear of the fuselage provides forward thrust — enough, Kitty Hawk claims, to reach a top speed of over 150 km/h (93 mph) and for a range of up to 100 km (61 miles).
This article originally appeared on GearBrain and syndicated by MediaFeed.org.
Image Credit: Kitty Hawk.