Sunday Science: Flying Cars and Air Traffic

Rocket Science Scale: 5 – Actual Rocket Science

So this week was pretty light in terms of the major aerospace players. Nothing blew up. No game changing new products were announced. So I’m going to talk about another player in the aerospace industry. The Start-ups.

Space-X started as a small company with big ideas. I’ve always thought of them as the Mac computer of the aerospace industry (making the hip, super popular rockets that it claims are completely awesome). Of course that would make the traditional players the Windows computers, which typically cheaper, function well and many people also like, it just isn’t as “hip” as its competitors (i.e. Boeing, NASA). Of course this is not a perfect comparison. And now, like the Mac is to computers, Space-X is a big player in the aero industry.

spacex_falcon_9_flight_2-4f9ec5c-intro-thumb-640xauto-33549

So what’s next? Thinking outside the traditional box, it seems that the new startups in the aero industry are focused on flying cars. Those things we dreamed of in Back to the Future which were so cool.

Oh Marty McFly and all that great stuff that happened in 2014 (Sorry Cubs)

Oh Marty McFly and all that great stuff that happened in 2014 (Sorry Cubs)

I’m not joking guys. Here are some concept designs from the companies.

141113164750-flyingcar3-horizontal-gallery

141113164737-flyingcar1-horizontal-gallery

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Whoever photoshopped himself into this photo is awesome.

Whoever photoshopped himself into this photo is awesome.

It also seems like there is debate on how the problem should be approached. Should the planes have to take off from runways? Do you go with the quadcopter design for vertical takeoff? Here’s a video of a quadrotor concept, from the startup Krossblade. If you start at the two minute marker, the company made a smaller drone to prove the concept could fly. It has vertical takeoff and then flies horizontally once in the air.

Here’s another video concept from the startup AeroMobil.

What I love about startups is that they are typically driven by innovation. They want to make the first flying car that can actually be used.

Of course, the biggest obstacles with this concept is how the flying cars will be used in real life. Depending on the altitude, it could interfere with current air traffic (which would be bad). Would the flying cars cause too much noise (making it impossible to walk under them)? Would they be allowed in the cities? Would we need runways in our backyards?

One cool video I found which helps demonstrate the air traffic problem is this video of the air traffic around London. All the streaks are planes that fly in and out of Heathrow and surrounding airports. This would probably be what the new startups need to think about. (There’s also some cool military routines going on over the seas)

All in All, I love the concept and the fact people are working on it. I hope the figure out the regulatory and political issues to make this a reality.

Maybe we will see flying cars in 2015/2016?

Links:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/14/tech/innovation/tomorrow-transformed-race-to-build-flying-car/index.html?hpt=hp_c3

http://aviationweek.com/commercial-aviation/entire-day-uk-airspace-traffic-visualised

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