Flying Cars: History and the Controversial Issues

Flying Cars: History and the Controversial Issues

About 60 to 70 Years ago, when it was asked by people to tell ‘How the future will look like?’ They would answer, that the cities will be very futuristic. There will be hoverboards and cars flying in the sky. The term flying cars will become a reality. But unfortunately, nothing like that has happened. 

The roads and cities aren’t filled with hoverboards and cars flying in the sky. But the attempts to invent the actual flying car have been going on ever since 1917. The most recent attempt was made in Slovakia and we can finally say that this attempt has successfully resulted in the term ‘flying car’ becoming a reality. In this article, we will discuss the history, the present, uses, and issues of flying cars.  

History of Flying Cars

The term flying car seems pretty futuristic. But the attempts have been going 100 years ago. Let’s discuss those attempts one by one.

Glenn Curtiss’ Autoplane:

1917 saw the first attempt at building a flying car or perhaps a roadable airplane. It was named the autoplane and was designed by Glenn Curtiss. It was given the title ‘Limousine of the Year’. 

But was this flying car able to fly? It is said that when they tried to fly it, it lifted off the ground but unfortunately couldn’t fly properly. So this autoplane turned out to be a failure. 

Waldo Waterman’s Aeroblie:

After this, we get to 1933, when the US Air Commerce Bureau conducted a competition, called the Flivver competition. They challenged people to design an airplane that would cost less than $700 to build. 

Many models were submitted in this competition and one of these was the aeroblie designed by Waldo Waterman. This was an airplane that looked like a car. It was able to take flight but never went into production because they were going through times during the great depression. There weren’t enough funds to produce it. 

Robert Edison Fulton’s Airphibian:

What could be called the first successful attempt took place in 1945 when American inventor Robert Edison Fulton built an airplane called ‘the airphibian’. It looked like a proper airplane but the only difference was that the front of it could be detached. It would take about 5 minutes to convert the airplane into a car. The resulting car looked like the front of the airplane. 

For its era, this airphibian was quite innovative and it got a flight certification from the Civil Aviation Authority. But the problem was that, because of the compromises in the design, it was neither a good airplane nor was it a good car. To add to it, in 1945, there were financial problems due to World War II. And this company was unable to find any investors for this airphibian. 

Henry Dreyfuss’ Convaircar:

Then came the convaircar designed by an industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss in 1947. This looked like a car stuck with an airplane on it. Airphibian, at least, looked like an airplane completely. But this looked as if a car got stuck to an airplane by mistake and is now flying with it. It would also take 5 minutes to convert from an airplane to a car. And by converting, it meant detaching the airplane part and keeping it aside. And then it could be used as a car. 

It was a great idea for its time but only on its third test flight, this convaircar crash. The pilot checked the reading on the meter and thought there was enough fuel and he could continue flying, though the car had enough fuel, there was very little in the airplane’s tank, and it led to an unfortunate crash. After this crash, people lost confidence in it. And the investors backed out. 

Taylor’s Aerocar:

The problem with all these attempts was that they took a car and an airplane and they tried to combine them, as they were but a true flying car would be the one that could transform from an airplane to a car not that both of them should be combined. 

So Moulton Taylor was the first person who decided to work on the design of the airphibian and attempted to make the wings of the airphibian foldable. He thought that when it was used as a car, its wings could be stored behind the car. This came true in the year 1949. They got the certification, and the approval for mass production but the problem was that they needed at least 500 orders before mass production could begin. But there weren’t enough people interested in it. They couldn’t get the orders and the deal had to be canceled. Funds were scarce but perhaps a bigger problem was the lack of technological advancement. 

Flying Cars of 21st Century

But today neither do we lack and the technology has moved by leaps and bounds. So the recent attempts to build a flying car have been amazing. They are truly futuristic. 

The Jetson One Flying Car:

In October, two years ago, a Swedish company called Jetson Aero presented their Jetson 1 to the world. It resembles a drone more than a car because of the way it flies, which leads one to refer to it as an extra-large drone. It is driven around by someone who rides inside of it. It’s a single-seater vehicle. It had its first successful flight too. It is so compact and small that it can land on your roof and can take off from your neighborhood garden as well. 

To make it lightweight, its frame is made of aluminum. And it weighs only 86 KG. You don’t need a driving license to fly it since it is categorized as homebuilt. The co-founder of Jetson 1 has said that they are promoting it only as a ‘fun activity’. He claims that it’s fun to fly it. You can guess the origins of the name of the company, Jetson. If you recall, The Jetsons used to be a cartoon show a while ago. The futuristic aircraft used by the Jetsons to travel looked somewhat like the Jetson one. They thus attempted to imitate the style and were inspired by it. 

So this Jetson 1 cannot be termed as a proper flying car because it cannot run on the roads. 

Flying Cars: History and the Controversial Issues

 

 

The Klein Vision’s AirCar:

There’s another company in Slovakia which presented their Aircar to the world last year. It’s a flying car in true essence. It is very clear, that to build such technology, we need skillful engineers and an out-of-the-world innovation. So what’s special about this aircar? It completed its first intercity flight successfully last year, traveling from Nitra Airport to Bratislava Airport in Slovakia. Slovakia transport authority gave it clearance for takeoff. It received the certificate of Airworthiness. All the safety standards are also obeyed by this flying car.

Flying Cars: History and the Controversial Issues

‘No Special Fuel is Needed’

The initial hovering automobile that truly has a flying car appearance is this one. They used a BMW car as a base and have attached wings to it. This is the initial time the automobile has attempted to release its wings. No special fuel is needed to fly it. The petrol that you get at the petrol station is enough to fly this car. This car can reach a height of 8000 feet and it can fly at a speed of 190 Km/hr. A maximum of 2 people can sit inside the car. And to transform, it takes only 3 minutes. Everything transforming it is automatic. It looks like a normal car on the road almost. 

The only certain thing is that to fly this you would need a pilot’s license. It needs a proper runway to take off. This Aircar has completed more than 200 takeoffs and landings. So there’s no doubt that it is a successful flying car. It’s said that its price will start from $500,000 ranging to $1 Million depending on the model you want to buy. The company believes that this aircar will replace helicopters in the future because its engine is much more efficient than that of helicopters and airplanes. It means that a fully electric Aircar can be possible. It will be good for the environment.    

Uses of Flying Cars

The most important question to arise here is ‘What’s the need for a flying car?’ The uses and potential advantages of a flying car are as follows: 

  • Emergency Services: It could be used for emergency services such as ambulances, fire engines, or police.
  • Easy to use: It would be easy to use than the helicopters. And there’s no need to build separate infrastructure for them. 
  • Flexibility: Flying cars are very flexible. They can set off and touchdown from any place. We will get end-to-end connectivity here. 
  • Environmental Impact: The environmental impact can also be reduced drastically as flying cars are much faster and they’ll consume less energy as well. 

Controversial Issues of Flying Cars

The main controversial question about flying cars is ‘Do we really need it?’ Let’s compare it with road cars and look at all the issues related to flying vehicles.

  • Driving License: Nowadays, cars have become very common in almost every country of the world. Everyone needs to take a driving test to get a driver’s license. But despite that, many people drive irresponsibly. There are a lot of accidents. So many people die in traffic accidents around the world.
  • Serious Accidents: If people can’t learn to drive properly on the roads, will they be able to learn to fly properly? It will be 10 times more difficult. It’ll have 10 times more scope of causing accidents. If an accident does occur in mid-air, it would be much more deadly and that’s a very serious issue.

‘Flying cars, a bad idea?’

  • A solution to this problem can be automated flying cars like the automated road cars. But Tesla, who made the automated road cars states that ‘flying cars are a bad idea.’ According to Elon Musk, when there are a lot of cars in the sky, there will be a lot of accidents and consequently, an accident in the mid-air will be very severe.
  • Parking Problems: Normally, when your car has any problem while traveling, you park it on the side of the road and check it. But if your car breaks down in the sky, where would you park it?
  • Bad Weather Conditions: These problems would become even worse during bad weather. In the case of big planes, they are strong enough to bear it but a vehicle like a flying car will be unable to bear it.
  • Traffic Lights System: After this, there is also a safety problem. If thousands of cars fly in the sky, a new system of traffic lights will need to be put up. Since the cars will be flying in all directions, there’s a dire need for traffic lights.
  • Noise Pollution: Then comes the problem of noise pollution. If you have flown any small drone, you’d have noticed the loud sound while flying it. These noise problems will also occur while flying the cars. These problems exist in Jetson 1 and Aircar too. 

Conclusion

Now finally concluding. Let’s say all the above problems are solved, the final problem to arise here would be the cost of it. After so many innovations, the final price of the flying car would come out. And will it be practical for people to buy it? Now the aircar costs around $1 Million. If the cost isn’t affordable, it would be very difficult for it to be truly successful. If the traveling prices of buses, trains, and airplanes are much lower than the flying cars then the flying cars would never be successful. 

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