Here’s a flying car with a difference – it actually looks like a car:
The first details of the “CityHawk” were released yesterday, although it’s based on a design Israeli aerospace company Urban Aeronautics has been kicking around since 2013.
Urban’s subsidiary Tactical Robotics announced at the end of 2013 it had successfully test flown the “AirMule”, which was special because its rotors, vertical and horizontal, were safely enclosed.
Not only do they give the craft VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) ability, they’re considered safe enough for it to do so in places where other aircraft aren’t.
For a couple of years, the stealthy and agile AirMule was considered a mostly military project and is now known as the “Cormorant”. But this weekend, Urban Aeronatuics took the wraps off a stylised verson.
CityHawk uses the same VTOL enclosed fan technology, patented as “Fancraft”. As you can see from the picture above, there’s still some work to be done on the design side of things to bring it out of the 80s.
It will carry four people, one as a pilot, but like the Cormorant, will likely rely mostly on autonomous technology.
Here’s a teaser of it in action at the testing field:
And here are the current crop of major players vying to get into the air first.
Protoype tested in China, waiting for FAA approval before flying in the US.
The Martin Jetpack:
In production for more than 25 years, has missed its “late 2016” deadline for production and suffering from board politics.
The Larry Page-backed Zee Aero:
“Shrouded in secrecy” but basically looks like a tiny plane.
The eVolo Volocopter:
A production model is slated for 2018.
Airbus Project Vahana:
Production version “ready by 2020”.
Production version will be ready by 2025.
And later this week, AeroMobil will take the wraps off its V3.0 at the Top Marques car show in Monaco:
It’s been 30 years in development, but still needs somewhere to extend its wings in order to take off and land.
It can be refueled at a regular petrol station and looks like it’s on track for orders to be taken this year, at a price in the vicinity of $300,000.
But while it’s great to think about the idea of flying to work, there are also plenty of reasons why it’s not as simple as it sounds.
Bill Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford, has a point when he says “most people can’t drive in two dimensions, let alone three“.
And Elon Musk, the most influential disruptor in the auto industry, thinks underground is a more realistic answer to above ground, for a very simple reason – noise and wind.
None of the above have any answer to those problems. Imagine the sound of 2000 flying cars rushing to work overhead every hour and you’ll understand why just about every demonstration video you see of them is set to some kind of stirring soundtrack.
1000 drones would be bad enough, let alone 1000 car-szied drones. Here’s what the AirMule really sounds like:
Urban Aeronautics say the CityHawk is at least “five years away” from any real-life use capability.