Air vehicle _ concept flying carTired of getting stuck in traffic? Take your flying car and travel outside the city!

The flying car is not a regular vehicle but it will probably not remain an anachronistic dream. The very concept of flying car was first present from the beginning of the 20th century.
In movies or books, the flying car is already a reality of fiction.
And since 2016, the flying car is no longer just a concept.

The Flying Car in 2017

The origin of the flying car goes back to at least the 1920s, with the roadable aircraft “Avion-Automobile” of René Tampier in 1921. Technically, designing a rolling vehicle capable of flying is contradictory: on the one hand, an aircraft must be light and powerful to allow take-off, and on the other hand a car should on the contrary be heavy, to provide comfort and meet safety requirements.

Several prototypes represent what flying cars will be in the very near future.

The first obstacle to the development of the flying car is certification. There are many demonstrators or concepts of flying car:

– the AeroMobil 3.0, which is able to fly at 200 km/h with a maximum range of 700 kilometres. It is powered by a Rotax engine and modular wings made of composite materials (1);
– the TerraFugia Transition: a hybrid vehicle half way between a car and a plane. It is made up of folding wings with which it can cruise up to 160 kilometres per hour. Once the wings are folded up, it can be driven on the road like a regular car (2);
– the Terrafugia TF-X, a vehicle capable of Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) via propellers powered by all-electric motor pods, fully controlled by a computer (3);
– the Pal V-One: which is more like a helicopter; it can fly at an altitude of 4,000 feet, take off vertically within short distance, and drive on the road.

While Uber is still reflecting on how to proceed with its white paper on the Elevate project, the Dutch company Pal-V is now accepting pre-orders for its first two models (the Liberty Pioneer and the Liberty Sport) (4).

Both models have been certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for Europe and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) for the United States. And let’s not forget the Chinese Ehang, who unveiled its half-drone half-car concept, EHANG 184, a self-flying taxi to be launched in Dubai starting from July 2017.

Deliveries for the Pal-V Liberty, which will be able to carry two passengers and 20kg of baggage, are expected by the end of 2018.

Google co-founder Larry Page is also developing a vehicle that can take off vertically, with his company Zee.Aero.

Lastly, Airbus’s Urban Air Mobility division recently unveiled its own concept vehicle. Dubbed “Pop.Up”, it is connected to an artificial intelligence platform that should work out the best way to travel based on destination and related constraints (e.g., weather, travel costs). Airbus’ subsidiary Vahana has also designed an air taxi, which passengers will be able to book using their smartphone.

Use of airspace

The second obstacle to the widespread use of the flying car — when the bricks will have reached technological maturity — remains the restrictive legislation on air traffic.

With a flying car, you will need to comply with the highway code when on the public road, and the rules for the use of airspace when in the air. Besides, with a few rare exceptions, flying over the city will not be permitted.

The price of a flying car will be higher than a car and not necessarily more competitive than that of a small plane. But with the automation of production, and if regulation is not an obstacle, costs could decline quickly.

The use of a flying car raises many questions, such as traffic infrastructure, homologation and qualification, overflight of inhabited areas.

Fixing and implementing the conditions for integrating such flying objects into the airspace, alongside drones and other aircraft, is a real challenge.

Flying cars are a step forward in the evolution of passenger transport. They meet a real need:

– to tackle congestion caused by constantly increasing inter-city traffic;
– to develop share transport for reducing greenhouse gas.

Civilian drone manufacturers are already facing many regulatory barriers to the delivery of their products. Airbus estimates that a ten-year period will be required for the flying car to be perfectly integrated into both the airspace and the road space. Except for those designed as a rotating wing aerodyne, the development of flying cars could also imply the creation of new infrastructures well adapted to these driving and flying objects.

Didier Gazagne
Audrey Jouhanet
Lexing Law, Security & Defense

(1) AeroMobil 3.0
(2) Transition from Terrafugia
(3) TF-X from Terrafugia
(4) Liberty Pioneer and Liberty Sport from PAL-V