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Fairly Realistic Flying Car Offered for 2009 Delivery 276

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the promises-promises dept.
An anonymous reader writes to tell us about yet another promise of a flying car. The Register is reporting on the latest from Terrafugia Inc called the "Transition" which is a combination car and airplane that runs on unleaded gas. The idea is that it's a car that you can drive to the nearest airstrip and, with the touch of a button, convert to an airplane, fly to an airstrip close to your goal, then convert back to a car to reach your ultimate destination. Of course, how many times have we been promised flying cars only to suffer in perpetual disappointment.
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Fairly Realistic Flying Car Offered for 2009 Delivery

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  • by InvisibleSoul (882722) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:06PM (#20929667)
    ...when cars fly.
  • by goombah99 (560566) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:08PM (#20929693)
    Plus it's a converted Datsun, comes with a golden gun/cigarette lighter, and a midget bartender.
  • by SpiffyMarc (590301) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:08PM (#20929699)
    Where are the flying cars?

    It's the year 2000.

    Where are the flying cars?!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by techpawn (969834)
      What if a German scientist said to you "I have invented the flying car and I'll give it to you under one condition"?
    • by russ1337 (938915) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:19PM (#20929867)
      I can recount the story of a guy (air force pilot under training) at the RNZAF Base Wigram in Christchurch, New Zealand who, after quite a few late night beers decided to drive to the service station (US=gas station) to buy a meat pie (US=Pot pie).

      Only thing is that he had no transport other than his (own personal) airplane. So he wanders out to the ramp, jumps in, and taxi's his aircraft past the main gate onto the road and to the gas station just outside the Base..

      Of course this was back in the day when 'it wasn't so bad to drink and drive', and i'm sure he did a bit of a 'rug dance' in front of his CO on Monday morning... but went onto a rather successful career.
      • by russ1337 (938915) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:22PM (#20929905)
        Ah... just checked with someone that knows the guy... that was PLTOFF Murray in his Midget Mustang .... 1988.

        So flying cars, no. Driving airplanes... yes.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Ted Stevens (1166671)

        and i'm sure he did a bit of a 'rug dance' in front of his CO on Monday morning
        I'm not sure what that means, but I'm assuming it has something to do with "don't ask, don't tell?"
      • I recall the time some cops in Albuquerque (New Mexico, that's in the USA :-) who decided they were so much in a hurry to get some Krispey Kreme doughnuts they took an unscheduled diversion in the helicopter, landed in the car park to buy some, and flew off. No reports of their specific punishment, but I'll bet they were in deep doo-doo!!

        don't believe me? here's the story [seclists.org]
        • by david.given (6740) <dg AT cowlark DOT com> on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @03:55PM (#20931351) Homepage Journal

          My parents live in a little village in Scotland called Lochcarron. A few years ago, there was a flourishing salmon farming industry (now collapsed, alas). There were hatcheries in the lochs in the mountains, and fully fledged farms in the sea lochs.

          When the hatchlings in the mountain lochs got large enough, they got ferried down to the sea lochs. This happened by helicopter, presumably for speed. So, at the appropriate time of year, they'd hire in a helicopter and pilot who would spend a week or so flying around moving the young salmon.

          Where did the pilot live while doing this? In the Lochcarron Hotel, of course. Where did they leave the helicopter? In the hotel car park, of course.

          In a parking bay.

          The helicopter was small enough that it would park very neatly in a double bay. It would always be parked in the one in the corner, and the helicopter landing skids would always be exactly 20cm from the curb in both directions. There'd usually be some cars lined up next to it, too, with the rotors hanging over them. It would leave in the morning, and come back in the afternoon. I don't know where it got refueled --- I doubt you can get Jet A1 from the local garage.

    • Cmdr. Sisko should set his watch ahead a few years... it's 2007, nearly 2008.
  • Masks! (Score:4, Funny)

    by PolyDwarf (156355) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:09PM (#20929709)
    Can I get my own cool Spectrum mask?
  • by rah1420 (234198) <rah1420@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:10PM (#20929713)
    when you need him? Bring us Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang! [imdb.com] Now THERE's a flying car.
  • Phew (Score:5, Funny)

    by niceone (992278) * on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:13PM (#20929771) Journal
    Phew, being "fairly realistic" is pretty high up my list of desirable features for any air transportation I use.
  • 50s? Ha./ (Score:2, Informative)

    by iknownuttin (1099999)
    Current technology could, however, offer something a bit more exciting than the ordinary light aircraft which have been flying almost unchanged since the 1950s.

    More like the 30s!

  • by Pinkfud (781828)
    This idea was never practical for the simple reason that the average driver can't be trusted to fly an airplane. Now that we live in the age of "Homeland Security", it's doubly unlikely that any government will allow "unknown flying objects" buzzing around.
    • by phil reed (626) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:23PM (#20929913) Homepage
      Hell, the average driver can't be trusted to drive, let alone fly.

      What's worse, you'd probably see some idiot "driver" flying 300 miles with his right turn signal on.

      • by rolfwind (528248)
        Airplanes are to the point where flying, landing, and taking off can be achieved by the computer automatically (if the parameters of the take-off and landing strips are known).

        I could see this idea take off (pun intended), but it would require a massive computerized infrastructure signaling take-offs and landings. Your local suburb could have a central strip and every aspect would have to be automated to make it efficient.

        The only other thing that I could see as semi-viable would be small, zeppelins that a
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by popmaker (570147)
      Yes! Drug-trafficking, immigration, etc. These things would become totally unmanagable. And what about stupid teenagers that run out of gas in the middle of the atlantic? But even though the technology wouldn't be publicly available, that is not to say that it won't be useful for some purposes. Furthermore, who needs justification for cool technology to exist?
    • by HTH NE1 (675604)

      Now that we live in the age of "Homeland Security", it's doubly unlikely that any government will allow "unknown flying objects" buzzing around.
      Indeed! Next thing you know you'll have people flying cars into parking structures.
    • by vidarh (309115)
      I know RTFA'ing isn't fashionable, but go RTFA anyway. Who said anything about "average drivers"?
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        I know RTFA'ing isn't fashionable, but go RTFA anyway. Who said anything about "average drivers"?

        Well, scary enough is the fact that they've not set the bar very high ...

        The only extra touch is that a Transition® is intended to qualify as an FAA "Light-Sport Aircraft", which means a somewhat less onerous regulatory regime. A "Sport pilot" licence is easier and cheaper to get than an ordinary private pilot's licence, requiring only 20 hours logged; and there are breaks on maintenance, medical checks etc

        • by imsabbel (611519)
          Over here, you have to log more than 20h to get your _driving license_.

          For a plane, thats a joke.
          • Dude, I solo'd a Cessna 172 with 15 hours of flight time with an instructor. Sure, it didn't mean I had my license, but once you solo you can fly by yourself with only a small amount of restrictions.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by clarkkent09 (1104833)
      How is this different from small Cesnas and what not that are buzzing around now, except that it folds up and drives you home from the airstrip? I don't think there would be problems with the licensing, its just another small plane. It won't be average drivers that will be flying this thing, you'll still need a pilots license as well as a drivers license.
      • by bcattwoo (737354)

        How is this different from small Cesnas and what not that are buzzing around now, except that it folds up and drives you home from the airstrip? I don't think there would be problems with the licensing, its just another small plane. It won't be average drivers that will be flying this thing, you'll still need a pilots license as well as a drivers license.
        Plus, $150K to spend on your flying car. With a top speed of 115 mph, it hardly seems worth the bother anyway.
      • I think safety is the key concern with the practicality of the flying car. Comparing a flying car to a Cesna or an ultra-lite plane is a pretty scary comparison in my mind. While the airline industry in general (you know the big jets that fly you from New York to California, etc.) has the best safety record out of all of the forms of transportation (you know the whole, more likely to die on the way to airport than on your actual flight saying), the track record for small airplanes is not so stellar. I've
        • by berashith (222128)
          so you see all the bad drivers being permanently removed as a bad thing ?
          • I see removing all of the bad drivers while taking me and the rest of the good drivers down with them a bad thing. The reason people hate drunk drivers so much is not because they could hurt themselves, it's because they could hurt other people.
  • Realistic? (Score:4, Informative)

    by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:19PM (#20929875)
    This is not a 'flying car'. Yes, it may go on the road, and may actually fly. But it does neither well. Very impractical for actual driving with those blind spots, and if you're flying, why are you hauling a heavy roadable drivetrain around?

    550lb total payload. -120lb gas, -200lb pilot + 150lb passenger = 80lb left. What...you were eplanning on bringing a little luggage?
    • Those two things (flying and driving) tend to be somewhat exclusive.

      The whole blind-spot thing can be overcome with inexpensive cameras (people already do this on SUVs and trucks), though. As for passengers and cargo, as a personal conveyance device 80lbs really isn't bad. You're not going to go pick up fertilizer or concrete at the Home Depot in this thing. 80lbs of cargo is more than most people take on a week vacation, and if you're that worried about bringing back souvenirs there's always UPS.
      • As for passengers and cargo, as a personal conveyance device 80lbs really isn't bad.

        Bring 2 backpacks of 20lb each (camera equip, lunch, and a couple changes of clothes), and now you're flirting dangerously close to the absolute limit. Don't run into any bad weather.
    • I'm left wondering if a smaller motorcycle or a Vespa-style street scooter could have a designated cargo spot in a small plane without raising the weight too high. Lightweight plane? Fine, haul a lightweight ground vehicle with you.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by silas_moeckel (234313)
        I had a friend with a small plane years ago that did exactly that a couple small scooters it in the back cargo compartment very nicely.
    • by Scaba (183684) <joe AT joefrancia DOT com> on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:50PM (#20930323)

      you were eplanning on bringing a little luggage?

      Dude, that is sooo 1999. We now call it iPlanning

    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      Pretty much. It will be a bad car or a bad plane or most likly both.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by HarvardAce (771954)
      I understand the desire for a true flying car like in the Jetsons (one that really hovers/floats). I don't really understand the desire for a hybrid car/airplane. Many other /.ers have pointed out the drawbacks of having a hybrid car/airplane, including the fact that very little of the equipment required for flight or driving would be shared. Would having a hybrid car/airplane be cost/time efficient compared to having a separate car and airplane?
      The way I see it, a hybrid car/plane would likely be aro
    • by Kjella (173770)
      Whatever... have you tried taking short flights?

      Most of the time is spent getting to and from the airport (tram + airport express, bus + picked up by my parents back home), waiting in line through safety control, waiting to board, waiting to get off, getting my luggage and so on and so forth. Actual flight time is 50 mins, in practise it takes me at least three hours door to door. I could drive but we're talking 6-7 hours, which is quite long plus you have to actually drive. If I could throw my luggage in t
      • have you tried taking short flights?

        Yes, but I try not to.
        A 'flying car' is not a car, but rather an airplane that happens to be (marginally) able to be driven on the public roads. For flight, it would require lots of the same stuff as a standard light aircraft. You can't just take an eye test, get your license, hop in and buzz around the block.

        Of course, it depends on how many kazillion such a thing would cost,

        Lots and lots.

        operating cost

        Lots and lots. Certified aircraft require licensed me
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dgatwood (11270)

          I'm with you. This doesn't seem that viable as an automobile, nor all that great as an airplane, though I guess it would be better than paying hangar fees if you already fly a small airplane....

          As for a flying car, the whole "air strip" thing ruins it for me. An ultralight homebrew helicopter can take off anywhere and can be driven without a pilot's license. If your main goal is to have a flying vehicle to replace your car for typical trips, that would be a much better choice. Besides, small aircraft

  • by MrToast (789068) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:22PM (#20929903) Homepage
    This won't ever become mainstream without a serious amount of automated control. We already have enough problems driving in two dimensions. I can't even begin to imagine driving in three.
    • by nuzak (959558)
      The FAA's Personal Aviation program mandates full automation. You take it to a pad, tell it where you want to go, and the rest is up to the flight control network to get you there.

      Yeah, that software. I'll admit their requirements on avionics are top notch, but I'm not sure I want the clusterfuck that's been pretty much every replacement for the aging air traffic control system in charge of hurtling me to my destination.
  • by krilid (1171645) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:23PM (#20929923)
    This looks very similar to the AeroCar on display at the Seattle Museum of Flight. http://www.airventuremuseum.org/collection/aircraft/Taylor%20Aerocar.asp [airventuremuseum.org] From what I recall the AeroCar actually came close to serial production back in the 40s-50s, however was ultimately dropped.
  • by BlackPignouf (1017012) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:28PM (#20929981)
    Submitters, please either bring us crapload of algae/hybrid/electrical/fuel cell/ethanol/biodiesel/thyme-powered car stories, OR X-wing/SUV/flying-car ones, but not both. It justs doesn't make sense to prone energy-efficiency on one hand and use barrels worth of oil for stupid stuff on the other. Thank you.
    • This is slashdot. The population is diverse.

      Thinking of "submitters" as a homogeneous mass of nearly-identical units is the kind of category/magical thinking characteristic of the old-line media. That's one of the reasons they're dying off as the internet rises.

      Here on the internet the population really is diverse.

      Heck: The same individual is often "diverse" from hour to hour. B-)
  • Will it come with OnStar?

    Look out below!
  • I find it interesting they're claiming it'll run on plain old unleaded fuel.

    Especially since aircraft tend to run on a higher grade of fuel because they need all of the energy they can muster to actually achieve flight.

    I'm gonna need to see a working prototype before I think anyone has achieved VTOL on unleaded fuel and in a package which can both safely fly and drive. To date, the military with very big budgets hasn't always been able to make VTOL work.

    Until then, this is just an "artists rendition" of so
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by russ1337 (938915)
      Who says it's VTOL?

      This one has wings that fold out and takes off and lands conventionally - hence the bit about finding a runway...
      • by russ1337 (938915)
        To reply to my own comment.... FTFA:

        "The Transition isn't a PAV; it's a normal light aircraft which can fold its wings at the touch of a button and become a car, and which runs on unleaded.
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Who says it's VTOL?

        You sir, are exactly correct. When I read the first paragraph of TFA, I saw ...

        In such a machine you could simply jump into your car outside your house, quietly lift off vertically, fly somewhere even in bad visibility and congested airspace, and set down again equally vertically.

        and misinterpreted the nature of the beast.

        You are absolutely correct, there is nothing VTOL about this machine at all. My bad. =)

        Cheers

        • by russ1337 (938915)
          No probs!!

          Those guys at the Register are pretty good at letting you think you're reading one thing while it actually says something different....

          I always read their articles with a 'what are they really saying', and usually read someone else's article on the same topic to see how much FUD/exaggeration they crammed in there...

          I still agree with your premise that their pushing sh*t up hill with a very small stick....
          • by gstoddart (321705)

            I still agree with your premise that their pushing sh*t up hill with a very small stick....

            Well, it wasn't my original premise ... but, I like yours better and it's much more succinct. We'll go with that one. :-P

            Cheers
    • Well, I am glad to see the grand tradition of not RTFA is still alive after ten years. It is not VTOL. I has foldable wings and classifies as a Light-Sport aircraft (one up from a super light) with low velocity (high lift) horizontal take off and landing. A good old fashioned paved private air strip will suffice. Still stinks in areas around cities.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by icebrain (944107)
      Standard avgas is 100 octane low-lead, to mitigate detonation in traditional engines (Lycoming, Continental, etc). Most of these older engines haven't changed much since the 30s.

      A lot of the newer, smaller engines, like Rotaxes and Jabirus, can run on automotive unleaded gas (often 93 octane). The older engines often can too, though you have to be careful as ethanol can eat up seals in the fuel system and give you a very bad day. This is getting more popular as gas prices rise

      We're also starting to see a
    • common mod (Score:2, Informative)

      by zogger (617870)
      It's a common mod to make a little cessna fly on regular gas. Ya, they fly better with avgas, but they can fly perfectly fine with car gas. I'm sitting right this second about 400 yards away from a 172 that gets flown all the time with such a mod.
    • I'm gonna need to see a working prototype before I think anyone has achieved VTOL on unleaded fuel and in a package which can both safely fly and drive.

      Um, its a folding-wing light propellor driven aircraft with a road drivetrain to allow you to drive to a runway from your home on regular roads, convert to an aircraft, and take-off and fly to your destination runway, land, fold wings, and drive on the road to your final destination. Its not VTOL. Its not a jet. Its not time machine. Its not lots of things,

    • It's doable from and energy standpoint, but auto gas often has a higher vapor pressure than avgas. This thing will possible (probably?) need beefier fuel pumps than a typical aircraft to avoid vapor lock situations.

      The real problems, as I see it, will be intergrating two disparate systems and organizing two fundamentally different control sets (flying and driving) from a single cockpit.

      A few people have also commented on the 550 lb payload, that's actually fairly reasonable for a light plane.
  • alternately (Score:3, Interesting)

    by farker haiku (883529) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:28PM (#20929999) Journal
    Ecogeek [ecogeek.org] is reporting that you can get a car that looks like an airplane and gets close to 300 mpg. It also starts selling next year. The car in question is pretty sexy - you can preorder one [aptera.com] at this extremely annoying web page.
  • The article says its top speed in the air is 115 mph. That's too slow.

    Also, the carrying capacity is very limited with a capacity of 2 people or 1 person with luggage. 2 people with luggage is a much more acceptable figure.

    The autonomy is less than 500 miles in the air, not so great for interstate trips.

    The air mileage mileage, however is 25 mpg. That's good mileage.

    And it has a 120 gallons fuel capacity, not bad at all for a car.
    • by Gospodin (547743)

      The autonomy is less than 500 miles in the air, not so great for interstate trips.

      Depends where you live - if you're in the western U.S., Canada or Australia, it's not so great. In the eastern U.S. or Europe it's fine. 500 miles range can get me from NYC to Boston or DC easily, bypassing heavily-trafficked roadways.

      The air mileage mileage, however is 25 mpg. That's good mileage.

      Eh, it's OK. Per passenger-mile a 747 is better. :)

      And it has a 120 gallons fuel capacity, not bad at all for a car.

      Not bad

  • by yogibaer (757010) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:34PM (#20930077)
    Just imagine, driving a car from the street onto an airstrip, with several gallons of liquids in the tank and a trunk big enough to house a thermonuclear device. Why do you need a button for transfoming it into an airplane? Airport security will dismantle it anyway before allowing it onto the runway and I am sure for a couple of dollars extra, they'll reassemble your car as an airplane. Saves a lot in production cost, if you do not need all the fancy pneumatics, hydraulics and transforming gizmos...
  • GM announces the capability to stall cars via the OnStar system
    (here) [slashdot.org].
  • by butterwise (862336) <butterwise AT gmail> on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:41PM (#20930175)
    If the average person is 60 times more likely to die in a car crash than plane crash, what are the odds of dying in a flying car crash?
  • I can't wait to watch that high speed chase.
  • nada (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mugnyte (203225) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:48PM (#20930275) Journal

      The construction of a plane is nowhere nearly hardy enough for typical road use. If you end up hitting just a bit of potholes, speedbumps, etc, are you ready to that vehicle in the air? Hell, cars these days are build with crash bumpers that are supposed to take a 5mph bump without driveability-affecting damage - no planes have them. The undercarriage of a car includes some of the world's most advanced engineering tuned for stability, handling, suspension and road noise - which adds significant weight. A plane has a few wheels (one that turns) and struts, nothing so complicated - because its light and just durable enough for landing on the runway. TFA mentions drivetrain and wing storage as two other clashing designs, but there are several more (road worthiness, air worthiness, strength, durability, luxury, maintenance).

      It comes down to tuning for the target environment. A car is not a boat. A plane is not a car. Shoes are not wheels. Targeting two has predictable results: Everyone is let down.

     
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by HarvardAce (771954)

      Shoes are not wheels. Targeting two has predictable results: Everyone is let down.
      Judging by the popularity of roller shoes [wikipedia.org] -- I don't think I've been to a store/mall/public place without seeing several kids with them -- I'd have to disagree with you. I think your premise is true in general, but shoes/wheels is a very bad example of it.
    • by hurfy (735314)
      You have any idea how rough a landing some of those little struts can take ? Not so good on side loading but doable.

      That is not a problem. The car part will be.

      Don't they require airbags and a certain amount of survivablity in different crash situations now? Really doubt you can get all that under 1400 lbs. That is like half of a Mini Cooper isn't it ?!? My 1800 lb Opel has no airbags and would fail any kind of side impact standard, adding wings and a prop while shaving 400lbs seems pretty tough.

      Oh and a fe
      • You have any idea how rough a landing some of those little struts can take ? Not so good on side loading but doable.

        Yes they can take a good hit, but with a serious lack of car-level comfort. The ride on the ground in a light aircraft is endurable for the few minutes it takes to get off the ground. That same ride quality in a car trip of any length would be unacceptable.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:49PM (#20930291)
    From the latin, "terra" meaning "ground" and "fugia" meaning "flight into."
  • Let's get this out of the way: flying car [youtube.com].
  • The Weight Problem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @03:36PM (#20931061)
    Not likely to "fly", in any sense of the word.

    To be a capable and licenseable road vehicle, it needs to have things like Lights, Bumpers, Side-Impact protection. Not to mention meet pollution regulations. And um, pneumatic tires, wheels, a transmission, and capable brakes. Those all add a heck of a lot of weight. At least 500 pounds that an airplane does not need. So it's going to be a mighty lousy airplane. Carrying a useless 500 pounds at air-freight costs is not an economical way to fly.

    Then there are the FAA regulations, which are very strict, and hardly in conformance with the road regulations. Many very basic regulations about configuration are very hard to reconcile with the needs of an auto. The alternative is to license it as an experimental aircraft, which gives you some freedoms, but closes a lot of windows too-- making the plane difficult to insure, finance, and restricts its uses.

  • When my engine stops, either due to failure or me forgetting to add more gasoline, it stops. It stops on the road it was driving on. In general this isn't a dangerous proposition.

    However, when my airplane stops for similar reasons, it stops. It stops and it falls out of the sky, accelerating towards the Earth. I very likely die.

    I guess what I'm saying is if Ford starts making these, I won't be shopping those lots.
  • Realistic? (Score:3, Informative)

    by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @03:47PM (#20931235) Homepage
    The article spends most of the time talking about how hard it would be to create a flying car, and it includes a 3D rendering of someone's concept vehicle. Then, the last page has a quote from a non-existant company about how they will exist in 2009, even though the engineering required to build it isn't even known yet. The first page even links to an article about how NASA helped finance a flying car but there were no takers. I'll be driving a Moller Skycar powered by a perpetual motion device before this thing even makes it past a design review.
  • I can't wait!!

    Instead of "No Parking" signs everywhere, you'll see "NO LANDING" everywhere, including on the top of every building!!

    Where will the aliens park? :)
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @05:11PM (#20932467) Homepage

    There's no fundamental reason this thing can be built. It's a light sport aircraft with folding wings and good taxi capability. The wings just fold, which looks stupid in car mode but can be done without much trouble. They don't retract into the fuselage like one of the cooler-looking but unbuildable designs for flying cars. It's going to be a lousy car, though. Too fragile, and with all that sail area, hard to handle in a crosswind.

    There's probably a market for some kind of ducted-fan thrust vehicle usable in tight spots. Moller is unlikely to make his "Skycar" work, after forty years of failure. But someone else might. Such a vehicle needs turbine power, will cost as much as a jet helicopter, and will be a fuel hog. The military could use something they could drop down into an urban street. With helicopters, the rotor circle is too big for that.

    Interestingly, we're seeing small UAVs with those properties. Flying robots will be deployed before flying cars. The stability problem for small pure-thrust VTOL aircraft seems to have been solved.

  • Laughing at weather? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jmichaelg (148257) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @05:33PM (#20932771) Journal
    The article said The PAV could laugh at bad weather and controlled airspace too which got me to thinking about a couple of stories my father told me.

    We had a ranch in Northern Arizona and like a lot of ranches in that area, we had a private airstrip. A neighbor misinterpreted his newly minted instrument rating as permission to fly no matter what. He loaded up his family and took off near a thunderhead. The flight lasted just long enough to kill the entire family.

    Weather in Arizona can get particularly nasty, even when you're paying full attention. Once, my father inadvertently flew under a thunderhead and survived by pointing the nose at the ground and pouring on full throttle. Even still, he only managed to not gain any altitude while he traversed under the cloud.

    I think if these vehicles ever see the light of day, we'll see Darwin step up to the plate in a major way due to people 'laughing at the weather.'

  • by StikyPad (445176) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @07:00PM (#20933789) Homepage

    The nearest approach offered by current technology is the helicopter. Whirlybirds are noisy, dangerous, expensive and difficult to fly. They take up a hell of a lot of room, too, in the contexts both of airspace and manoeuvres near/on the ground. They aren't going to turn into flying cars any time soon.

    Jump-jets like the Harrier are even worse, in that they can't at present get airborne vertically with a useful load. Ducted fans sometimes seem to offer hope, but the idea has been around for a long time without much in the way of credible kit appearing.
    The solution is obvious: we merely need to increase the density of our atmosphere to increase buoyancy. The densest known gas, radon, is nearly 8 times more dense than nitrogen, so we pump radon into our atmosphere in quantity and eventually we'll have workable flying cars. Genius!
  • by BiggerIsBetter (682164) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @08:19PM (#20934483)
    These guys have got your "flying car" right here [pal-v.com]. It's a lightweight, streamlined tricycle design, with a Mazda rotary running on diesel/Jet-A and retractable stabilizer and gyrocoptor rotor blades. It looks like a pretty good attempt, and the HITS (highway in the sky) system (see here [cheltonflightsystems.com] for similar example) would certainly help the punters to navigate.
  • by asifyoucare (302582) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @10:55PM (#20935603)
    The rumor is that Microsoft has developed a flying chair, and that prototypes have been seen in Ballmer's office.

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