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Flying Cars or Personal Air Vehicles (PAV's)
Flying Cars, some times known as Personal Air Vehicles are the ultimate machines for attracting a wide range of eccentrics chasing this particular rainbow. Maybe I am showing my true colors here or maybe the PAV's time is approaching.
The Flying Car Concept
The idea of the flying car is that you could park your flying machine in your garage or outside your house with the wings folded, just like your existing automobile. The main difference is that you jump in and off you go. No roads to deal with as the PAV can move in three dimensions so you avoid all traffic and can go directly as the "crow flys" to your destination, just like the Jetsons.
All this is to ignore two key stumbling blocks:
Many people have come up with a huge and imaginative array of Flying Car designs, none of which have made a mark in the market.
A basic pilot's license requires a huge number of hours of instruction and even that training only enables you to fly in good weather and empty airspace. Obtaining a full instrument rating that enables a pilot to operate in low visibility and in highly congested skies, is a much bigger undertaking.
The proposed solution to the need for high levels of training preventing mass market adoption of the flying car is a technological solution. An advanced autopilot and instrumentation system is envisioned that takes over the details of flying the vehicle, so called "synthetic vision".
In this way, a pilot in cloud or fog never has to learn how to fly the aircraft manually or without visual cues using a selection of counterintuitive dials all the while being directed through very busy air traffic lanes, some moving at 500 mph, by a human ground controller over a voice radio channel.
"Synthetic vision" systems imagine a display showing the terrain below, other aircraft in the sky and virtual skyways in the sky to follow just like roads on the ground. The pilot or even the PAV would fly itself down these skyways and might even land itself automatically.
The big hurdles
The Pace of Development
NASA's Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) is still very much in the conceptual stage but did get as far as a proof of concept in 2005...
The pace of development in Electric Drive and Computing power might change all this in the very near future. Electric Drive allows extremely fine motor control and low cost computing power now allows for most modern automobiles to have in car navigation at very low price points.
Combine these two technologies and suddenly the concept of the Flying Car is not as crazy as it sounds...
I suspect the key to getting air mobility is not to take too huge a leap forwards by trying to make a flying car in one step. If we were to add electric drive to ultra light aircraft to enable Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) and combine that capability with navigation and electronic gyroscopic controls, we make an important step forwards toward the flying car...
http://cafefoundation.org - The $250,000 annual prize might spur some innovation.
AAV (Autonomous Air Vehicles) to lead the way for road less transport.
Were the real innovation might come from is the AAV (Autonomous Air Vehicle) arena. The idea of a "Roadless" logistics system is being explored by many folks like http://www.matternet.net in Africa using quadcopters, or Lockeed Martin in Afghanistan with airships, Dyna lifter for relief work http://www.dynalifter.com and various others like the http://www.discoveryair.com who are using airships to provide heavy lift in Canada's remote regions.
Light and VTOL Aircraft
Navigation and Air Traffic Control
Composites and Propellers
Home Built's and Powered Chutes
VTOL and UAV's
Engines and Propulsion
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