Are Flying Cars The Next Big Thing?

June 2, 2015 | Author: Priya Verma

Not more than 40-50 years ago, personal computers were barely being conceptualized. And many were wondering if it would even be possible to have the need, capability and affordability to have any practical applications of these hobbyist machines. It was hard to imagine then, that they would, in such a short span of time, evolve into this revolution with such a broad spectrum of devices and become an inseparable part of our daily lives.

Today, we stand on the cusp of another revolution – personal air vehicles (PAVs) – cars that take an aerial approach to commute.

With the increasing congestion in ground based transportation systems - it is only natural to expect transportation to grow in the same direction that real estate has – upwards.

Of late, there is a great deal of interesting work being done in the area of personal air transport systems - low altitude flying, vertical take off and landing (VTOL), Frictionless vehicles, human machine interfaces (HMI) coupled with vehicle automation and control paving the way for unmanned flights/drones and making personal air travel a very real possibility in the near future as well as a much better and safer alternative to driving a car.

The constraints to realizing this dream are more of cultural and psychological nature. However the success and feasibility also relies on certain core technical breakthroughs:

Automated control systems – Not everyone can be a pilot; So the flying car industry cannot really fly without fully automated navigation and control systems. Basically, the need is to create a union of driverless car and drones.

Airspace Management – With several PAVs in the sky, there will need to be an organized system for managing the traffic, and having all vehicles at a particular altitude traveling the same direction would eliminate many problems. For example, all vehicles traveling at 1,000 ft altitude would be traveling due north, at 1,010 ft altitude 1 degree east of due north, 1,020 ft altitude 2 degrees east of due north, etc.

Low-impact vertical take-off – Having a runway every doorstep is not a realistic possibility. So the PAVs will need to take off and land vertically without blowing the leaves off of trees or shutters off your house.

Noise Check – No one will want to put up with the noise of several thousand flying vehicles if they all sound like airplanes today.

Specialized safety systems – To date both aircraft and airspace have been closely controlled by government organizations to ensure the safety of the public. Because of the sheer volume of vehicles and the lower caliber of individuals allowed to fly, additional safety measures will have to be in place. Safety technologies will include collision avoidance systems and drop-out-of-the-sky emergency airbags on the outside of vehicles.

Alternate Energy Sources- Harnessing the potential of alternate energy sources would be an absolute necessity to keep up pace with high energy demand of PAVs and also “greener” alternatives would play instrumental role in keeping emissions under control

Affordability – Not to mention, this one aspect will definitely drive the success of PAVs among the masses. This can only be achieved by economies of scale, and hence, can potentially be the most dynamic market segment for aviation and avionics manufacturers and service providers.

PAVs will save time and offer people mobility freedom, more definite arrival times, privacy and comfort that cars and airliners cannot rival. That’s why researchers call them “ultimate freedom machines”.

Just as the internet not only changed our mode of communication, it opened up new avenues, opportunities and markets. Similarly, moving to air travel will open doors to many unthought of possibilities that will change not just our mode of transportation, they will transform government, taxation, commerce, culture, patriotism and much more.

As with any new technologies, not all of the changes will be good. Most importantly PAVs will change our relationship with the sky, which, so far, is one of the few places yet relatively unspoiled and uncontaminated by human presence. As it has always been, it will be up to our upcoming generations to make sure that the technology we are inventing today can co-exist in harmony with our natural ecosystem.

PAVs will be pave the way for next big revolution – the real question is, are we going to just stand by and watch or drive the change?

Priya Verma

Priya Verma

Priya has been working with Honeywell as a Tech. Lead since March 2014. Prior to joining Honeywell, she was working as part of the Digital Printing Team at Samsung. Apart from technology, she has keen interest in the areas of alternate energy research with strong inclination towards photovoltaic and energy storage systems. She has completed her Master’s from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in Energy Systems and has contributed towards alternate energy and electric drives research.

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