Flying cars are not a new concept. There are many products already in the market that are looking to solve the personal air transport dream. The Icon amphibious aircraft is a popular and successful two seat personal flying solution, but it is more aircraft than car. On the other hand there are some true aircraft car hybrids like the AeroMobil Roadster and the Gyro-copter based Pal-V.
Whatever the approach, one thing is for certain. You will need to learn how to fly and get a pilots license to operate any of these vehicles. This fact may be the single most limiting factor that will prevent mainstream adoption of these vehicles. Even with safety standards being enforced and backups designed to cope with system and engine failures, minimizing the Human Error factor is the most difficult problem, and it can not be solved using traditional design solutions.
Fly by wire is not a new concept. All high performance military aircraft have been using Fly By Wire since the 70’s. The famous F-16 is one of the first aircraft to use this technology to great effect. These aircraft are designed to be aerodynamically unstable, and virtually impossible to fly manually. The pilots inputs are reinterpreted by a computer program and appropriate commands are given to the flight surfaces to do what is desired by the pilot. This approach results in Super-maneuverability and Supersonic control that was not possible using traditional methods.
Recent Developments in artificial intelligence has taken this one step further. Quad copter drones are everywhere now. They are being used with great effect in Surveillance and Film Making. Dji’s most popular Phantom Drone can be flown in winds of 57kph and still maintain stability enough to take smooth stutter free videos. They effectively fly themselves.
The Chinese Company E-Hang is looking to implement a similar Drone design for their personal air transport solution in Dubai. It is an electric Quad-copter that can be told where to go and it will take off and fly you to your destination without the passenger making a single flight input. In fact if you look in the cockpit, there are no flight controls at all. Just a large LCD touch screen where you can set your destination.
E-Hang’s solution is proving to be the most promising since it completely removes the human error element and is the direction that needs to be taken for mainstream adoption of flying cars and flying taxi services in the future.
Triman S Bhullar