Flying cars now exist. What's next
mobility : Flying cars are becoming a reality
For a long time, flying cars were just a fantasy in science fiction films or in congested commuters. But now the first objects are about to be ready for series production, the first should be delivered as early as 2019. So-called flying taxis are even more important than cars, which can be transformed into flying devices with fold-out wings and rotors. And even if the new digital state minister Doro Bär recently had to take a lot of ridicule for talking about it, even companies like Daimler, Uber or Airbus now believe that air taxis could change mobility in metropolises in the future, like the S-Bahn or U-Bahn trains once did.
"A hundred years ago, city traffic disappeared underground, and now we have the technical means to get it into the air," says Airbus CEO Tom Enders, for example. Numerous companies are currently working on such new types of aircraft, the most advanced being Volocopter from Germany. Usually they are a kind of manned drone that can take off vertically with an electric drive. Various prototypes have already successfully completed test flights. The most important concepts at a glance:
The company Kitty Hawk, financed by Google founder Larry Page, has been working on an air taxi for a long time. It has now been shown to the public for the first time: it is being tested in New Zealand and commercial flights should also be possible within a period of three to six years. "We have an ambitious goal in New Zealand to be carbon-free by 2050," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the New York Times.
And since Kitty Hawk is fully electric, be part of it. The small electrical machines for two people can take off vertically and then fly like an airplane. The aircraft, named Cora, has twelve electric motors and should be able to fly up to 100 kilometers at a top speed of 177 kilometers per hour. Cora is supposed to fly autonomously. The head of Kitty Hawk is the native German Sebastian Thrun, who already led the development of self-driving cars for the research laboratory Google X.
The Dutchman Paul Dingemanse builds a flying car. In March he presented it at the Geneva Motor Show. The vehicle with the fold-out rotor can be ordered now at a price of 500,000 euros. If the approval comes, it should then be delivered to customers in the next year. They still have enough time to get the necessary pilot's license. The catch: Even if the flying car is approved, it cannot simply take off on the motorway. To do this, the owners have to take the runway of an airfield - and so it remains a gimmick for wealthy hobby pilots who, instead of switching to the car again, can park their private jet directly in their garage in the future.
Slovak engineers have been working on a flying car since 1989. Production of the fourth version is scheduled to start this year, and the Aeromobil will then be delivered to customers in 2020. Cost point: 1.2 to 1.5 million euros. It should achieve 160 km / h on the road and up to 360 km / h in the air. One tank of fuel should last up to 700 kilometers. The question, however, is whether and where the owners are allowed to move with them - because both a license for road traffic and the approval of the aviation safety authorities are required.
The Volocopter is reminiscent of a helicopter. But instead of a huge rotor, it is driven by a total of 18 small ones that are otherwise known from drones. It is built for two people, can go 100 km / h and can fly for about half an hour. The company from Bruchsal near Karlsruhe completed a test flight in Dubai last year. The first commercial test track could already be in place in two or three years. Investors include Daimler and Intel.
Alongside Volocopter from Germany, the Chinese are currently furthest in the development of air taxis. Ehang has already carried out a test flight in Dubai and hopes to offer an air shuttle service in the desert metropolis in the future. With eight rotors, the Ehang 184 can fly up to 100 km / h for almost half an hour. It is designed for one passenger who may weigh a maximum of 100 kilos.
Airbus is now also working on electrically powered vertical take-offs. In Donauwörth, the CityAirbus is being developed with Siemens, which is to carry up to four passengers autonomously in busy cities. The current status will be presented at the ILA at the end of April in Berlin. The prototype should then take off for the first time by the end of the year. In addition, the aircraft manufacturer in Silicon Valley is developing an air taxi under the name Vahana. A first test flight took place on January 31st in Oregon. The object hovered five meters above the ground for 53 seconds.
The Munich start-up Lilium is working on an electric jet. The company has prominent supporters: Skype founder Niklas Zennström, the well-known investor Frank Thelen from the TV show “Die Höhle der Löwen” and the Chinese internet giant Tencent have invested more than 100 million dollars in the project. The jet can take off vertically and therefore does not need a runway. With a range of 300 kilometers, it will be used on medium-sized routes between cities. At 300 km / h, it could also offer a shuttle service from Berlin Central Station to BER Airport in five minutes. The only question left is who is more available. Lilium boss Daniel Wiegand is currently assuming that it will be ten years before his jet can fly fully autonomously. In the variant with a pilot, however, it should start earlier.
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