Flying Cars Surge Forward

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Flying Cars Surge Forward

Ever since, automobiles and aviation emerged at the dawn of the 20th century, enthusiasts have dreamed of safe, affordable “flying cars” which could reduce trips that take hours on the ground to minutes in the air, thereby improving productivity and reducing congestion.  In those early days, aircraft pioneer Glenn Curtis and automobile magnate Henry Ford both put forward prototypes of flying cars, but neither the technology nor the consumers were ready for this solution.  

Since then, The Jetsons introduced the flying car idea to impressionable young Baby Boomers and inventor Paul Moller built several liquid-fueled prototypes of his so-called SkyCar between 1963 and 2000.  Meanwhile, the Trends Editors tracked the convergence of avionics, propulsion, regulations and public perceptions that would be required to create an industry eco-system for what we called the “Personal Aviation Vehicle” (or PAV). 

But, despite incremental advances on key components of the system, overall progress seemed glacial and it was easy to dismiss this nascent industry as nothing but “a sci-fi fantasy.” 

Then, that all began to change when a NASA engineer named Mark Moore published a landmark whitepaper just four years ago.  That “intellectual spark” triggered an explosive chain reaction of innovation that now seems poised to transform the way we commute for the first time since the Interstate Highway boom of the 1950s.

Suddenly, after decades of failed projects and false starts, a new class of vehicles and supporting infrastructure is finally emerging that could turn these dreams into reality by transforming the way people and cargo are moved within and between cities. These aircraft are known as Electric (or hybrid-electric) Vertical Take-Off and Landing vehicles (or eVTOLs).  Unlike other modes of transportation, they don’t require roads, waterways, rails, bridges, tunnels, runways, or even liquid fuel.  And unlike helicopters, they are designed to be low-cost, quiet, simple-to-operate, nearly crash-proof and relatively low-maintenance.

Nowhere was the accelerating progress on clearer display than at the Uber Elevate 2019 conference held June 11th and12th in Washington, DC.   For those not fortunate enough to attend in-person, the conference was live-streamed and archived on YouTube.  (Follow these links to experience all 19 hours from: June 11 and June 12.)  Participants included Airbus, Embraer, Boeing, Bell, AT&T and a wide range of well-funded new ventures from around the world...

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