This past Tuesday, Boeing Co. completed the first test flight of a flying car that is designed to fly passengers over busy and congested city streets. The test flight shows a small glimpse into the future of transportation in which Boeing and other companies are hoping to change and shape as we continue moving forward.
Conducted in Manassas, Virginia, Boeing said that the test flight of the vehicle prototype included a controlled takeoff, hovering and landing.
The Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV) is 30 feet long and will have a 50 mile range using it electric drivetrain. While it does not sound like much, the distance is plenty to travel from one side of a big city to the other side and back. Aurora Flight Sciences, which was bought by Boeing in November 2017, developed the machine.
Aurora is a partner of Uber’s Elevate program, which has a goal of operating air taxis in Dallas and Los Angeles by the year 2023. Determined to lead the field of air mobility, Uber is promising to begin flight demonstration next year 2020.
By using the vehicles developed by its partners, Uber’s Elevate hopes to operate a network of commercial vehicles and to provide the service from atop large buildings. In order to get a ride in Los Angeles, you would use the Uber app, choose air taxi and then take the elevator of the nearest building with a landing pad to the top. You would then board and then be taken to another big building close to your destination. Each vehicle would allow up to 4 people. Once flights become autonomous, Uber says the flight pricing would be the same as UberX ride.
Bell, another partner of Uber’s Elevate, are currently working on similar machines that can be piloted by humans. By having an actual pilot, it can help to ease FAA concerns.
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), earlier this year in Las Vegas, Bell showcased their own flying prototype. The black, glossy machine featured six ducted fans mounted on the top of it, five seats (including pilot), weighs 6,000 lbs, and can travel up to 150 miles. The concept has yet to take flight. As Bell has a history of developing VTOL flying machines, though, they have likely thought through all details of making it a reality, which they say is possible.
A competitor of Boeing, Airbus, is also . The company revealed its flying care prototype last year, which spent 53 seconds off the ground using its own power. The Airbus team in Silicon Valley has used the last year to refine the prototype’s aerodynamics modeling. Such aerodynamics can be challenging when the machine is covered with fans. Seen as a crucial element of safety and reliability, the team has also been working the machine’s autonomous system.
All projects are still not even close to the stage of experiencing a trip in one. While there still is a long wait, these companies are taking the flying taxi model in a very serious manner. As we move even more into the future, we may be one day saying those words Doc said to Marty in ‘Back to the future’, “where we’re going, we don’t need roads”.