Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Some days I wish my Nissan could fly
Posted by John McHale
Yesterday I read a story in USA Today on inventors racing to be the first one to successfully build and market a flying car.
The article -- "Inventors are sure cars can fly" -- was written by reporters Chris Woodyard and Sharon Silke Carty.
Woodyard and Carty tell how entrepreneurs behind the different aircraft prefer the term "roadable aircraft" to flying car -- saying the latter term makes them appear kooks.
It's an interesting read, detailing "a three-wheel flying motorcycle" one inventor built in his garage to a two-seat car that flies.
One of the inventors discussed in the article, Paul Moller, was covered in anarticle from the April, 2001 issue of Military & Aerospace Electronics. He's the founder of Moller International. In the article he said hoped that the military might get behind flying automobiles because they are free from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifications.
Alas, that is no longer the case as we have detailed in our publication and website since 2001. Designers of military aircraft that fly through civilian airspace have been required to meet certain FAA certifications -- DO-178B and DO-254 -- in electronic payloads.
Yet, if a company could get funding from DARPA or another agency to develop such an aircraft it might be easier to transition the technology to the consumer market. Not just multi-millionaire consumers either.
Possibly an unmanned roadable air vehicle, or URAV, would be a start.
I know, I know the last thing we need is another acronym, but there are so many autonomous platforms in development why not one that flies and drives? Is there already one in development? I don't recall any Future Combat Systems variants with such capability.
In the article from our 2001 issue Moller said he sees unmanned flying taxis being some of the first roadable aircraft.
Woodyard and Carty's article says that some entrepreneurs plan to start delivering their flying machines as early as 2010. They report that one -- the Terrafugia Transition -- already has 50 orders at a "projected price of $194,000."
That's pretty pricey. The article says that not all of the orders are from billionaires, that some retired couples with disposable income are interested.
Yeah, it may not be exclusive to billionaires, but it definitely rules out journalists...
Come to think of it what about the ancillary costs? How much is gas for these machines? Are any being developed with alternative fuels?
When we finally get a roadable aircraft how many feet in the air will the road be? Where will the toll booths be located?
I suppose we will not need a landing area on our roof, since we can just go wheels down and park it next to the lawn mower.
Should we raise the driving age for flying cars? Teenage insurance rates will be ridiculous. I remember how much my parents' car insurance went up when I was 16 and all I was driving was a Pontiac 6000.
The USA Today article reported that the first patent for a flying car was filed 90 years ago in 1918. I think it may take at least half that amount of time before we look up and see Hondas, Harleys, and Hyundais filling the night sky.
Yet, all the naysaying and negative feelings toward flying cars seem to fade away when I'm sitting in Red Sox traffic wishing I could take my car up and buzz the ballpark...