Thursday, August 28, 2008

Flying Cars: Up, Up, And Away

It's a bird. It's a plane. It's -- a flying car? Not since the red-lettered, blue bomber buzzed over Metropolis has such a fantasy captured the imagination of so many. In spite of our fascination with the concept, making a vehicle that can be certified by the FAA as airworthy, and can be legally driven on highways, is a complicated task. So complicated in fact, that as much as the idea of a flying car has been around for over half a century, no one has yet to crack through the many blocks in the way of it's advancement. Of course this does not stop many engineers and companies from trying. There are some dedicated and highly resourceful people beginning and in some cases nearing completion on the first consumer available flying car.

How can they possibly work?
A number of companies are developing flying cars, or roadable aircraft, as aficionados call it, that have integrated pieces carried in the vehicle, or modular pieces left at the airport when the car is being driven. Others are looking at Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL).

One very controversial aspect is how the take off and landing will be accomplished. If you don't want to drive to your local airport, you'll need to utilize VTOL, a flight technique used in military aircraft like the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey and the British Hawker Harrier Jump Jet. Moller International has a 4-seater SkyCar in the development process, with a FFA airworthy certified model planned in four plus years. Before you'll see one in your driveway, there are still questions to be answered about noise levels, special surface materials for takeoff and landing, and a spate of regulatory issues. These issues are possibly preventing Moller's Sky Car from becoming reality, yet there is mild sense that the world so hung up on cost effective and green transportation just doesn't have the energy or desire to become taken by the vision of the flying car. Perhaps one of the biggest draw backs is the price tag. Moller's precursor to the Sky Car named the Volantor will be close to 100,000 dollars.

Using more traditional flight techniques, some developers are working on folded or retractable wing technology, like Milner Motors and Terrafugia, Ltd., and several manufacturers are looking at producing kit planes as well. Although this does not have the appeal of a Moeller Sky car, it might be a good transitional phase in order to begin to lay the ground work both governmentally and in the wider consumer market for the possibility and reality of flying cars. Despite all the advancement in flying car technology there remains many issues preventing the flying car from "taking off."

In addition to crowded airports and vehicle storage issues, there are also legitimate questions like whether a pilot's license is required, difficulties with shared air space, traffic control, and costs. Most important of all, a focus on innovation rather than green technology may not be acceptable to today's eco-friendly conscious consumer.

About the Author
Andrew Beckers writes about topics that are important to humanity, Learn more about Flying Cars.

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