Where The Hell Are The Flying Cars? It's The 21st Century!

Mighty_Emperor

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#1
Flying cars got a passing mention in the Blade Runner thread:

http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=157&highlight=Skycar

from where I plundered anome's posting for the title of the thread ;) but I thought it deserved a thread of its own as we launch ourselves into the brave new world of people flying cars (am I the only one who is worried about this? - its bad enough letting people drive them on the ground!!).

-----------------------
Anyway back to the news:

Tue 31 Aug 2004


Flying cars nearly ready for take-off

DUNCAN FORGAN


Key points:
• Flying cars seen as a way out of congestion chaos
• Californian company builds prototype Skycar
• Problem of how to police new sky motorways remains unclear

Key quote:
"We’re trying to think through all the ramifications of what it would take to deploy a fleet of these" - Dick Paul, Vice President Boeing research
Story in full:
WE ALREADY have amphibious cars that can take us over land and sea and jet packs that allow us to take off like a spaceman.

Now some of the world’s leading engineers are trying to advance the technology of travel further by developing cars that can fly.

The new vehicles are seen as becoming necessary, with motorways growing more clogged, and commuters prepared to travel further.

California-based company Moller International has built a prototype of its Skycar. The streamlined vehicle - think sports car meets the hovercraft Luke Skywalker drove in Star Wars - is designed to make vertical take-offs, fly around 700 miles and drive short distances.

Jack Allison, who retired as a vice-president at Moller but still works there, said Skycars were expected to start at about
Tue 31 Aug 2004


Flying cars nearly ready for take-off

DUNCAN FORGAN


Key points:
• Flying cars seen as a way out of congestion chaos
• Californian company builds prototype Skycar
• Problem of how to police new sky motorways remains unclear

Key quote:
"We’re trying to think through all the ramifications of what it would take to deploy a fleet of these" - Dick Paul, Vice President Boeing research
Story in full:
WE ALREADY have amphibious cars that can take us over land and sea and jet packs that allow us to take off like a spaceman.

Now some of the world’s leading engineers are trying to advance the technology of travel further by developing cars that can fly.

The new vehicles are seen as becoming necessary, with motorways growing more clogged, and commuters prepared to travel further.

California-based company Moller International has built a prototype of its Skycar. The streamlined vehicle - think sports car meets the hovercraft Luke Skywalker drove in Star Wars - is designed to make vertical take-offs, fly around 700 miles and drive short distances.

Jack Allison, who retired as a vice-president at Moller but still works there, said Skycars were expected to start at about $1 million and require pilot’s training.

It’s not clear when they’ll be available, but Mr Allison says more than 100 people have put down a $5,000 deposit.

Major corporations are trying to take the concept on to the mass maket.

Boeing is already thinking far ahead. The company has created a miniature model of a sporty red helicopter/car hybrid that is helping the aerospace giant to understand what it would take to make flying cars.

Lynne Wenberg, the senior manager on the project, said the goal was to make a flying car that cost the same as a luxury vehicle, was quiet and fuel-efficient and easy to fly and maintain.

Boeing is especially interested in the broader problem of figuring out how to police the airways if thousands of flying cars enter the skies. No-one wants to be cut off, tail-gated or buzzed by a student driver at 1,000 feet.

"The neat, gee-whizz part [is] thinking about what would the vehicle itself look like, but we’re trying to think through all the ramifications of what it would take to deploy a fleet of these," said Dick Paul, a vice-president with Boeing’s research arm.

Dutch researchers believe they are less than two years away from developing a machine which will be at home on the roads and in the air, while satisfying the legal requirements of both.

A three-year feasibility study at Delft Technical University has convinced entrepreneurs that with a budget of £10 million, the Aerocar could be ready for production by 2006.

The machine is expected to deliver a top speed of around 140mph in the air and 70mph on the road. In the air, the car would function as a gyrocopter, using a conventional propeller to provide thrust and helicopter-style rotors for lift.

It would need about 50 metres to take off in, but could land in a much shorter space.

After landing, the rotors and propellers would automatically fold away, and the machine would use the same engine to drive its wheels.

A flying car would follow a long line of transport innovations. This year, a British firm, Gibbs Technologies, unveiled a high-speed amphibious vehicle, the Aquada. Retailing at about £150,000, it can do 100mph on the road and 35mph on water.

It hit the headlines in June when Sir Richard Branson beat the record for crossing the English Channel in an amphibious vehicle. The Virgin chief sped from Dover to Calais in 90 minutes.

It was believed that jet packs would become a common transport method when they appeared in the Sixties. Military supplier Bell Airspace developed the first prototype in 1958, a jet haversack donned by Sean Connery’s James Bond in the 1965 film Thunderball. So far, attempts to develop one have failed..

Another invention which failed to convince the public was the Sinclair C5. With its three wheels, low driving position and top speed of 25mph, it was a laughing stock.
million and require pilot’s training.

It’s not clear when they’ll be available, but Mr Allison says more than 100 people have put down a ,000 deposit.

Major corporations are trying to take the concept on to the mass maket.

Boeing is already thinking far ahead. The company has created a miniature model of a sporty red helicopter/car hybrid that is helping the aerospace giant to understand what it would take to make flying cars.

Lynne Wenberg, the senior manager on the project, said the goal was to make a flying car that cost the same as a luxury vehicle, was quiet and fuel-efficient and easy to fly and maintain.

Boeing is especially interested in the broader problem of figuring out how to police the airways if thousands of flying cars enter the skies. No-one wants to be cut off, tail-gated or buzzed by a student driver at 1,000 feet.

"The neat, gee-whizz part [is] thinking about what would the vehicle itself look like, but we’re trying to think through all the ramifications of what it would take to deploy a fleet of these," said Dick Paul, a vice-president with Boeing’s research arm.

Dutch researchers believe they are less than two years away from developing a machine which will be at home on the roads and in the air, while satisfying the legal requirements of both.

A three-year feasibility study at Delft Technical University has convinced entrepreneurs that with a budget of £10 million, the Aerocar could be ready for production by 2006.

The machine is expected to deliver a top speed of around 140mph in the air and 70mph on the road. In the air, the car would function as a gyrocopter, using a conventional propeller to provide thrust and helicopter-style rotors for lift.

It would need about 50 metres to take off in, but could land in a much shorter space.

After landing, the rotors and propellers would automatically fold away, and the machine would use the same engine to drive its wheels.

A flying car would follow a long line of transport innovations. This year, a British firm, Gibbs Technologies, unveiled a high-speed amphibious vehicle, the Aquada. Retailing at about £150,000, it can do 100mph on the road and 35mph on water.

It hit the headlines in June when Sir Richard Branson beat the record for crossing the English Channel in an amphibious vehicle. The Virgin chief sped from Dover to Calais in 90 minutes.

It was believed that jet packs would become a common transport method when they appeared in the Sixties. Military supplier Bell Airspace developed the first prototype in 1958, a jet haversack donned by Sean Connery’s James Bond in the 1965 film Thunderball. So far, attempts to develop one have failed..

Another invention which failed to convince the public was the Sinclair C5. With its three wheels, low driving position and top speed of 25mph, it was a laughing stock.
http://news.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1020002004
 
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#2
As Gridlock Grows, Scientists Look at Adding Lanes in the Sk

As Gridlock Grows, Scientists Look at Adding Lanes in the Sky

August 29, 2004

By ALLISON LINN
AP Business Writer

SEATTLE (AP) -- It's a frustrated commuter's escapist fantasy: literally lifting your car out of a clogged highway and soaring through the skies, landing just in time to motor into your driveway.

Researchers stress that the ultimate dream -- an affordable, easy-to-use vehicle that could allow regular people to fly 200 miles (322 kilometers) to a meeting and also drive 15 miles (24 kilometers) to the mall -- is still probably decades away.

But engineers at NASA, Boeing Co. and elsewhere say the basis for a flying car is there. People have been building, or trying to build, such vehicles for decades.

The problem is, those ideas have generally required both a lot of money and the skills of a trained pilot. And melding cars and planes hasn't always been very successful.

"When you try to combine them you get the worst of both worlds: a very heavy, slow, expensive vehicle that's hard to use," said Mark Moore, who heads the personal air vehicle division of the vehicle systems program at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

The goal isn't just to create a neat gizmo: These vehicles will become more appealing -- and necessary -- as highways and airport hubs grow more clogged, and commutes more distant.

At NASA, the first goal is to transform small airplane travel. Right now, really small airplanes are generally costly, uncomfortable and loud and require months of training and lots of money to operate; that makes flying to work impractical for most people.

Within five years, NASA researchers hope to develop technology for a small airplane that can fly out of regional airports, costs less than $100,000 (euro83,192), is as quiet as a motorcycle and as simple to operate as a car. Although it wouldn't have any road-driving capabilities, it would give regular people the ability to fly short distances.

To make flying simpler, NASA is working on technologies that would automate more pilot's functions.

In 10 years, NASA hopes to have created technology for going door-to-door. These still wouldn't be full-fledged flying cars -- instead, they'd be small planes that can drive very short distances on side streets, after landing at a nearby airport.

In 15 years, they hope to have the technology for larger vehicles, seating as many as four passengers, and the ability to make vertical takeoffs.

It will probably take years after these technologies are developed before such vehicles are actually on the market. And Moore says it will take about 25 years to get to anything "remotely 'Jetsons'-like,"' a reference to the futuristic cartoon that fed many flying car fantasies.

Researchers at Boeing in Seattle are already thinking that far ahead: They've created a miniature model of a sporty red helicopter/car hybrid that is helping the aerospace giant understand what it would take to make flying cars a reality.

Lynne Wenberg, senior manager on the project, said the goal is to make a flying car that costs the same as a luxury vehicle, is quiet and fuel-efficient and easy to fly and maintain.

Boeing is especially interested in the broader problem of figuring out how to police the airways -- and prevent total pandemonium -- if thousands of flying cars enter the skies. No one wants to be cut off, tailgated or buzzed a little too closely by a student driver at 1,000 feet (300 meters).

"The neat, gee-whiz part (is) thinking about what would the vehicle itself look like, but we're trying to think through all the ramifications of what would it take to deploy a fleet of these," said Dick Paul, a vice president with Phantom Works, Boeing's research arm.

Smaller companies are working on flying car technology as well. Davis, California-based Moller International has already built a prototype of its Skycar. The streamlined vehicle -- think sports car meets the hovercraft Luke Skywalker drove in "Star Wars" -- is designed to make vertical takeoffs, fly around 700 miles (1,126 kilometers) and drive short distances.

Jack Allison, who retired as a vice president at Moller but still works there regularly, said Skycars are expected to start at around $1 million (euro831,922) and require pilot's training. It's not yet clear when they'll be available, but Allison says demand is already there: More than 100 people have put down a $5,000 (euro4,159) deposit.

While researchers are already working on some level of automation to make flying small planes easier, the ultimate goal would be to have a vehicle that is considerably smarter than what's available today.

Ken Goodrich, a senior research engineer at NASA, said one concept under discussion is technology that runs in "h" mode, which stands for "horse." The idea is that a horse, unlike a car, is more likely to try to avoid other objects and may even know how to find its way home.

But Goodrich said he's not sure that the fantasy of the flying car ever would or should become a reality. He questioned whether having flying/driving vehicles throughout the country might end up being too noisy, disruptive and impractical.

"You'd have to look at all aspects of it, how it would integrate in greater society and affect our quality of life," he said.

http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/04/08/ap_083104.asp
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
#4
I'd say it was more feasible in the short term to have everyone's car controlled at a central point. Simply punch in your destination and sit back. No road rage, no speeding, optimized traffic flow, near zero accidents, less stress, never get lost.
Giving some of the assholes on the road a flying car is laughable.
 

Kondoru

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#5
I dunno about you, I want a device that precludes the neccesity for travel anywhere.

(ah, she has one, right in front of her.)

I dunno about flying cars, I have my very own Moller International T shirt!
 

wembley8

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#9
Call me a skeptic, but Moller have been around for about 40 years making the same claims.

There are one or two issues about safety, air traffic control and noise to be addressed, plus the non-trivial one of economics.

Sure, we've had rocket belts and jet packs for 40 years, but nothing has ever come of them, and for good reason.

How about quiet, safe, eco-friendly cars instead?
 

Kondoru

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#10
I like my car as it is. Its roomy inside, a small engine so its economical and theres plenty of space to work under the bonnet. no compter junk so if it goes wrong i stand a chance of fixing it myself. it is prone to wet but that is easily fixed with WD40.

And I like my food as it is too, thank you.
 

wembley8

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#11
>i'm still waiting for those pills that were supposed to completely replace a meal.<

Why? I believe it's quite possible, but there's no market. Basically you'd be swallowing pot noodle without the water...
 

KeyserXSoze

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#12
More on "Skycar"

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3676694.stm
Flying cars swoop to the rescue
As motorways become more and more clogged up with traffic, a new generation of flying cars will be needed to ferry people along skyways.
That is the verdict of engineers from the US space agency and aeronautical firms, who envision future commuters travelling by "skycar".

These could look much like the concept skycar shown in the picture, designed by Boeing research and development.

However, such vehicles could be some 25 years from appearing on the market.

When you try to combine them you get the worst of both worlds: a very heavy, slow, expensive vehicle that's hard to use
Mark Moore, Nasa Langley Research Center

Efforts to build flying vehicles in the past have not been very successful.
Such vehicles would not only be expensive and require the skills of a trained pilot to fly, but there are significant engineering challenges involved in developing them.

"When you try to combine them you get the worst of both worlds: a very heavy, slow, expensive vehicle that's hard to use," said Mark Moore, head of the personal air vehicle (PAV) division of the vehicle systems program at Nasa's Langley Research Center in Hampton, US.

But Boeing is also considering how to police the airways - and prevent total pandemonium - if thousands of flying cars enter the skies.

'Gee-whiz'

"The neat, gee-whiz part is thinking about what would the vehicle itself look like," said Dick Paul, a vice president with Phantom Works, Boeing's research and development arm.

"But we're trying to think through all the ramifications of what would it take to deploy a fleet of these."

Past proposals to solve this problem have included artificial intelligence systems to prevent collisions between air traffic.

Nasa is working on flying vehicles with the initial goal of transforming small plane travel.

Small planes are generally costly, loud, require months of training and lots of money to operate, making flying to work impractical for most people.
But within five years, Nasa researchers hope to develop technology for a small plane that can fly out of regional airports, costs less than 0,000 (£55,725), is as quiet as a motorcycle and as simple to operate as a car.

Although it would not have any road-driving capabilities, it would bring this form of travel within the grasp of a wider section of people. Technology would automate many of the pilot's functions.

This Small Aircraft Transportation System (Sats) would divert pressure away from the "hub-and-spoke" model of air travel.

Hub-and-spoke refers to the typically US model of passengers being processed through large "hub" airports and then on to secondary flights to "spoke" airports near their final destination.
:cool:
 

Kondoru

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#13
Funnily enough, I do know a guy who uses a plane for everyday life.

He lives on Alderney and goes shopping in france.

But he needs a car at the airfield.
 

MagusPerde

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#14
Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back when (about... 1990ish?), my dad knew this guy who invented a flying car. I mean really, he was in the news and stuff. Can't remember his name. Anyway, it wasn't what you normally think of when you think futuristic flying cars; it was a car with this convertible sort of trailer, which could, after some hard work, be connected to the car and basically the whole thing turned into a sort of airplane. Of course this was not something anyone wanted to make available to the general public. But this guy had a pilot's license and he was able to fly it a bit, and it worked.

I don't know if this guy's still involved in that sort of thing (he's probably dead), but honestly, I don't think I want people flying their cars. They can't even ****ing drive right.


[EDIT:] Okay, here's the guy: http://www.fiddlersgreen.net/AC/aircraft/Aerocar/info/info.htm
 

MagusPerde

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#15
Hey, check it out, you can Purchase A Skycar!!!!

Hmmm... "Moller International is accepting deposits to secure delivery positions for our M400 Skycar until after the Skycar has flown from hover to full aerodynamic flight and returned (transitioning flight)." Yeah, I like to throw my money away! Say, I'm accepting deposits towards my purchase of Microsoft.
 

Mythopoeika

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#17
The problem with Moller's Skycar is that it doesn't seem to have done a 'maiden voyage' across land (but I might be wrong).
It's only ever done tethered flights.
They need to demonstrate it flying from one city to another, and get lots of press to show that it works.
 

KeyserXSoze

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#18
Old predictions come to light

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/041007/344/f44lg.html

Forgotten chips film gets TV airing
A long-forgotten short film to mark the launch of oven chips 25 years ago will finally get a nationwide airing this weekend.

Food manufacturer McCain made the film in 1979 when the chips, then an innovation, first went on sale.

The film featured former Blue Peter presenter Valerie Singleton speculating about what the future may hold.

It was only designed to be screened internally to staff at McCain as a way to mark the launch and never received a wider audience. But while preparing to celebrate the 25th anniversary of oven chips, the company was reminded of its existence

It launched an appeal in the local newspaper in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, where the product is made, for anyone who had a copy of the film buried away.

Their wishes came true when a former employee at the McCain plant in the town came forward.

The three-and-a-half minute film has been digitally remastered and will be shown in its entirety during the commercial break of Coronation Street on Sunday.

Naomi Tinkler, from McCain, said: "No-one in 1979 could have predicted the bizarre story of this film's loss, re-discovery and how, 25 years later, it would finally make its TV debut."

Ms Singleton said: "I was extremely surprised when McCain contacted me as I'd totally forgotten about making the film.

"It's really strange seeing this lost footage of myself from a quarter of a century ago."
I think the film contains street interviews, asking people in 1970s what the future will be like. I bet someone will mention SkyCars! Perhaps anyone who gets to watch can kindly report back? :)
 
A

Anonymous

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#19
escargot said:
Slightly off-thread, I have a book here which claims to explain how to convert car engines to power boats. Hmmm, looks easy.
... not really unussual to do that tho more popular in the 70/80's... its ok if you dont mind haveign a lot of inflamable petrol in your boat..tho i understand they do gas coversions now too.
 
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#20
Flying taxi vision for commuters

Flying taxi vision for commuters
Commuters could soon be taking flying taxis to work instead of waiting in line for a street cab, experts suggest.
British developers Avcen say Jetpods would enable quick, quiet and cheap travel to and from major cities.

The futuristic machines will undergo proof-of-concept flight tests in 2006 and could be ready for action by 2010.

As well as taxis, which would use a network of specially-built mini runways, there are military, medical and personal jet versions as well.

London-based Avcen say Jetpods would be able to travel the 24 miles from Woking, Surrey, to central London in just four minutes.

And because it could make so many trips, fares for a journey from Heathrow to central London could cost about £40 or £50.

'Whizzing around'

Unlike big passenger jets, the Jetpod would fly at no more than 500 to 750ft and would cruise at 350mph - slower than an airliner, but faster than a propeller-driven light aircraft or civilian helicopter.


People shouldn't think that these things are going to be whizzing around crashing into each other
Mike Dacre, Avcen

Each Jetpod should cost under one million US dollars (£542,388).
Avcen managing director Mike Dacre said: "We see it as very much as a 'park and fly' concept. You drive to a pick-up site, get on the aircraft, and off you go.

"But people shouldn't think that these things are going to be whizzing around crashing into each other. They'll be following set routes.

"Jetpods are meant to be a workhorse, a taxi cab in the air, for on-demand free-roaming traffic."

The craft would be able to use strips of land about 400ft long, a tenth of the length of a conventional runways.

Twin turbojets

Its twin turbojets would produce up to 20 decibels less noise than the latest engines currently in service.


Seating five passengers, they would also have over-wing engines, which help cut down noise.
A system of nozzles that directs part of the thrust down through the wings further reduces noise, and provides the aircraft's STOL (short take-off and landing) capability.

Mr Dacre said the idea was for each aircraft to fly along its own 'corridor' in and out of a city from designated pick-up points outside.

"We know that cities like Moscow, Tokyo and New York are crying out for something like this, and there's nothing remotely like it around at the moment," he said.

Avcen has funding available to develop and trial the aircraft, but will need further investment, The Engineer magazine reported.

Another possible addition to the Jetpod fleet is an unmanned model designed with the ability to hover.

It could be used to carry out rescues or repairs while being controlled by operators 300 miles away.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk/3990329.stm

Published: 2004/11/07 14:47:40 GMT

© BBC MMIV
 
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#22
The PALV - a new vehicle hoping to lead a revolution in personal transportation


14 October 2004 What happens if you cross a gyrocopter with a car and a motorbike? The PALV is the answer, a personal air and land concept vehicle designed to solve the increasing congestion in our cities and highways. On the ground, the slimline, aerodynamic 3-wheel vehicle is as comfortable as a luxury car, yet has the agility of a motorbike, thanks to its patented cutting-edge 'tilting' system. The single rotor and propeller are folded away until the PALV is ready to fly. Once airborne, the PALV flies under the 4,000 feet (1,500 m) floor of commercial air space.

The PALV is highly fuel-efficient and powered by an environmentally certified car engine. It runs on petrol like a conventional car and can reach speeds of up to 200 km/h both on land and in the air.

The company claims the vehicle's straightforward autogyro flying technology means that the PALV is economically and technically feasible in comparison to other forms of air travel.

Unlike a helicopter, which offers VTOL, the company claims the PALV has a "Very Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (VSTOVL) capability", which means it does need a short take-off and landing strip. Accordingly, it can be driven to the nearest airfield or helipad and, because it flies below 4,000 feet, in many countries it can take off without filing a flight plan.

The autogyro technology means that it can be steered and landed safely even if the engine fails as it descends vertically rather than nose-diving. Lift is generated by the forward speed produced by the foldable push propeller on the back.

At less than 70 decibels it is much quieter than helicopters due to the slower rotating of the main rotor.

A licence to fly the PALV is more accessible than one for a helicopter or plane because of the regulations controlling autogyro craft.

What makes the PALV attractive is the convenience of fully integrated door to door transportation, providing smooth transition from road to air without having to change vehicle.

John Bakker, a Dutch entrepreneur working closely with Spark design engineering and other partners, is developing the PALV. The concept was inspired by living in one of the most world's most densely populated countries.

The project is seeking funding on the basis that with further development, this hybrid prototype can pave the way for an affordable and feasible transportation alternative. The aim is to enable driving and flying combined in one vehicle that could cost little more than an executive saloon car.

---------------------------
For additional information contact Spark Design

Technical data

Top speed: >200 km/h Max airspeed: 195 km/h Rotary engine Power output: 213 hp 0 - 100 km/h: < 5 sec Min airspeed: 30 km/h Length: 4 m Max tilting angle when cornering: 30¡ Take off distance: 50 m Width: 1.2 m Estimated fuel economy: 30km/litre @ 100 kmh Min landing distance: 5 m Height: 1.6 m Range: 600 km air, 550 km road Weight: 550 kg Fuel: 95/98 unleaded
www.gizmag.co.uk/go/3323/
 

James_H

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#23
check out the first few skycars on the moller website: truer man-made flying saucers I never did see.
 
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#24
American dreamers

Imagine a plane parked in the drive. The sky car is, perhaps, taking off. Jonathan Glancey in Virginia sees aviation history in the making

Thursday June 16, 2005
The Guardian

I put my foot in my tank and I begin to roll
Moanin' sirens, it was the state patrol
So I let out my wings and then I blew my horn
Bye-bye New Jersey, I become airborne
You Can't Catch Me, Chuck Berry, 1956

The idea of flying cars, airmobiles, personal aircraft, skycars or Chuck Berry's New Jersey highway "Flight de Ville" is pretty much as old as powered flight. If only the Wright brothers' Flyer could have been crossed successfully with Henry Ford's Model-T, then the United States might have taken collectively to the air around the time of the first world war.

It never quite happened this way, and probably just as well: imagine the number of accidents that might have occurred. Then double, treble or quadruple them. Flying is a science, an art and a skill. Aircraft need to be well constructed and dutifully maintained. Pilots must be level-headed when skies around them darken or spin. They must cope with engine failures, seized-up landing gear, winds that hound them off course. They must know where they are, and certainly how high or low they are flying and whether up or down and in what direction.

These things might seem obvious, yet even the most experienced pilot occasionally loses it. Vertigo can strike unexpectedly. Flying through dense banks of dirty clouds can trick the mind's eye when everything looks like nothing and down is up and up down. And what would you do if a block of ice got stuck in your Pitot tube?

Ah, but if you could stretch to a Moller International SkyCar equipped with the latest Nasa-developed Sats (Small aircraft transportation system) technology, such scaredy-cat concerns would surely vanish quicker than a Saturn rocket. Nasa's "highways in sky" computer navigation system promises to turn the sci-fi dream of a popular flying car into digital-age reality. Imagine clambering aboard with the nuclear family (or not) into your Ferrari-red Moller, opening the garage door of your Mon Oncle-style home - by remote control, of course - pressing a button or two, heading on to the freeway and, Jiminy Cricket, vaulting into the azure blue on trips to Wal-Mart, Dairy Queen and Taco Bell, and back home in time to catch a repeat of The Jetsons without a single hair turning grey in the process.

So when the American magazine Engineer said that a Sats event scheduled for Sunday, June 5 at Danville Regional Airport, Virginia, might "one day be viewed as one of the most significant milestones in aviation history", it was time to take to the air.

Across the Atlantic, on board a chicken-or-fish jumbo, I studied the Engineer. "Sats uses finely tuned GPS satellite technology", it read, "to allow plane-to-plane communication and provide cockpit displays showing the precise location of every aircraft in a flying zone. It will remove the need for expensive ground-based equipment, and enable large numbers of planes to operate safely around a small airport. Sats also makes it possible for one pilot to operate as safely as two by programming in pre-determined flight paths."

I dreamed happily of weird and wonderful experimental sky cars flying into and out of Danville. And, of zooming about in one aloft in the Confederate sky like some 21st-century rodeo jock. It wasn't exactly like this at Danville. As a retired real estate developer and Cessna pilot - who had flown himself in for the occasion - told me: "I don't think we're gonna see these things flying for another quarter-century; I can't figure out whether I think that's a good or a bad thing. Will flying ever be the same when anyone can just get in, turn the key and go anywhere they want?"

Early motorists must have thought much the same thing. Fine when the roads were the plaything of playboys and tomboys at the ship-like steering wheels of thunderous Deusenbergs, Oldsmobiles and Mercer Raceabouts, but what would the roads be like when every Tom, Hank or Sally could afford to drive?

I had to hide my disappointment that there was no Moller SkyCar flying, or waiting to be flown, at Danville. For, whatever the true stage of development of the Moller M400 SkyCar, this is a lovely looking VTOL (Vertical take-off and landing) machine designed, Mercury willing, to take four people on journeys of 750 miles at 315mph at around 20mpg and at up to 32,000ft.

To date, though, the prototype can only take to the air when tethered from a tall crane. What if, at this early stage of development, one of the three computers, 24 microprocessors or 25,000 "lines of machine language software code" on board the M400 should fail? Down would come Moller, SkyCar and all.

Nasa, meanwhile, has a number of Personal Air Vehicle (PAV) projects on its computer screens, but, to date, none has been built. Avcen, a London-based aviation company, is developing the Jetpod, a five-seater flying taxi, that, presumably, will be programmed so as to be unable to fly "south of the river" late at night.

I pick up a Moller brochure at Danville. "No traffic, no red lights, no speeding tickets. Just quiet direct transportation from point A to point B in a fraction of the time. Three-dimensional mobility in place of two-dimensional immobility. No matter how you look at it, the automobile is only an interim step on our evolutionary path to independence from gravity. That's all it will ever be."

Yet, there is still, as the experience of Danville proved, a giant step between the reality of an ultra-reliable, faster-than-the-wind Chevy Corvette and a dream-like Moller SkyCar.

Dr Paul Moller, a Canadian-born inventor, engineer and university professor, first took to the sky in an aircraft of his own making in 1966. Three feet into the air, to be precise. That was the operational ceiling of the Moller XM-2 flying saucer. The XM-3 of 1968 managed a further seven feet. Things were looking up for Moller then, if slowly, yet all I could see looking up from the ground at Danville were familiar Cessnas and Pipers. Not a single SkyCar. No soft whirr of the twin-rotor engines Moller has developed from Outboard Marine Corporation's snowmobile motors, no thrum of seven-bladed, variable speed fans, no demonstration of the emergency parachute system that would see the SkyCar safely down to Earth in the event of engine failure.

Mind, you, if such a demonstration had been advertised, a laconic grandfather in a stetson suggested, personal liability lawyers would have easily outnumbered would-be SkyCar owners at Danville. "They're just waiting for things to go wrong. First accident with a SkyCar and the lawyers will be down on Moller like a pack of hyenas." He tells me that folks tell him that Dr Moller has jetted through three wives and $250m over the past 40 years, but has yet to get the SkyCar convincingly onto the road or into the sky.

Even if and when SkyCar does fly untethered, will Sats, the computer system it needs to make it an aircraft that anyone can fly after "just two hours' training", really work? I looked in on a number of whizzy computer screen presentations, but as an old-school, seat-of-the pants pilot, I want to look at the sky, stars, cloudscapes, contrails and the Earth dancing around me. I get easily bored with computer screens, and especially so when no one can or will satisfactorily explain how exactly Sats will connect effectively with thousands of SkyCars whizzing about over malls and trailer parks sometime in the next 25 years.

I got the feeling that Sats and personal aircraft fans are like guileless members of some perfectly innocent religious sect. They want to believe that a car can fly, that Sats will perform daily miracles for them.

Some of us will have dreamed of pulling back gently on the steering wheel of the car we're driving on a fast road heading towards the crest of a hill and imagining it lifting into the sky and over the traffic ahead. Is this a dream many of the people attending this event at Danville might have shared? A number of those I chatted to admitted to being dreamers; they were neither pilots, nor did they ever expect to win their pilot's wings through conventional training.

I spoke to Dave Unwin, editor of Today's Pilot. Dave has flown something like 150 different aircraft. Does he think the SkyCar is anything more than an act of faith? "I'm sure we'll have sky cars of one sort or the other in 40 or 50 years' time, even less if the political will and money was there," Unwin says. "But, I've looked long and hard at the Moller SkyCar and don't see how it'll have the power needed for VTOL operation nor how it will fly with so little in the way of control surfaces.

"Computers will be able to do a lot, but not everything. Anyone can make a flying saucer in their back garden with a couple of lawn mower engines if all you plan to do is get the device hovering a few feet in the air, but building a proper VTOL sky car is something else altogether." So, not entirely convinced? "No."

Sats, though, will be useful whatever happens to Moller's SkyCar and other personal aircraft. Dave Unwin is an enthusiast. "The system is brilliant and it's just about all there." It promises that the US's 3,000 or so small, and underused, regional airports will be able to handle frequent, all-weather flights by creating a sophisticated computer navigational link between light aircraft and control towers. This could be invaluable one day when roads seize up with the sheer weight of traffic and if air taxis, and even sky cars, become a common sight.

My Sats brochure lists the four key things the system offers:

1. Automated flight-path management systems that allow higher volume operations at airports that don't have towers or terminal radar

2. Guidance and display systems to allow pilots to land safely in low-visibility conditions at minimally equipped airports

3. On-board graphics and data displays to improve single pilot performance

4. Assessment of the effects of seamlessly integrating a large number of Sats aircraft into the national airspace system.

There are a number of times when I would have dearly liked to have had the second item installed in an old aircraft heading for an uncertain airfield. Sats would certainly make conventional flying much safer even if we don't all end up part-exchanging the family Ford for a Moller M400. And, yet, despite Sats, several of the technologies displayed at Danville were well established rather than futuristic. Munro and Associates, from Troy, Michigan, for example, exhibited designs for a $70,000 personal plane powered by a $3,500 Corvette V8.

In some senses, the Danville show was positively nostalgic, looking back to an age when sci-fi comics and B-movies suggested that we might all be Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, or Dan Dare jetting about in a sky car. Or vaulting into the air by means of trusty jetpacks strapped to our jumpsuits.

The earliest recognised design for a sky car was, I think, the Curtiss Autoplane, as early as 1917. Shown that year at the Pan-American Aeronautical Exposition, New York, it never flew. Waldo Waterman's 1937 Studebaker-powered Arrowbile did fly, and five were built, yet somehow the business never quite took off. In the 1950s, Ford began serious research into flying cars but came down to land when the Federal Aviation Administration pointed out that known forms of air traffic control would be wholly inadequate for the volume of take-offs and landings a cheap Ford sky car would encourage.

The prototype ConvAircar crashed in 1947 and that was just about the end of the game until 1956, when Mott Taylor's Aerocar, one of which still flies, proved that it could be done. A front-wheel drive fibreglass-bodied car powered by a Lycoming aero-engine towed a trailer housing folded wings, tail and rear-mounted propellor. The 65mph car could be converted into a 110mph aircraft in five minutes. It flew and flew well. Yet, the market wasn't ready for it, and even when Ford expressed an interest in working with Taylor, the invasion of the US by cheap Japanese cars in the early 1970s and the ensuing oil crisis put paid to the affordable flying car.

Might Sats and SkyCar bring it back? Are inventors such as Paul Moller nuts to even bother when none of us really wants the sky (a) clogged and (b) clogged with pilots who ought not to be flying so much as a hostess trolley in their front room? But, as Mott Taylor, the man who did make a car fly, said: "If it weren't for us nuts, you'd still be reading by candlelight."
www.guardian.co.uk/life/feature/story/0 ... 55,00.html

From feathers to jetpacks

A short history of personal flight

Jonathan Glancey
Thursday June 16, 2005
The Guardian

Icarus

Daedalus, an architect and inventor, murdered his brilliant apprentice, Talos, before fleeing to the court of King Minos on the island of Crete. Here he designed the labyrinth to contain the Minotaur, the offspring of Queen Pasiphae and a white bull. When Daedalus helped Theseus to slay the Minotaur and to run off with the princess Ariadne, he and his son, Icarus, were imprisoned in the labyrinth. With Crete surrounded by Minos's fleet, the only escape was by air. Daedalus fashioned wings from wax and feathers, and off the pair flew. Despite his father's warnings and perhaps thrilled by the sensation of flight, Icarus flew too close to the domain of the sun god, Helios. His wings melted and he died, falling into the sea. It is possible that Daedalus and Icarus escaped on fast Greek boats that appeared to "fly" across the water, but the story of flight by the world's first personal aircraft is the one that stuck, and continued to inspire dreamers and inventors right up until the Wright brothers, and even beyond.

Aerocar, by Moulton "Mott" Taylor, 1956

The Aerocar flew and flew well. Powered by a Lycoming aero-engine, it could cruise at 65mph on the road, towing a trailer in which its wings, tail and propeller were stored . These could be attached to the car in five minutes.Hey presto, a light aircraft , capable of cruising at 100mph at 12,000ft, and with a range of 300 miles. Taylor's Aerocar Incorporated produced a prototype and four more examples. In 1961, the radio station KISN, in Portland, Oregon, bought one for traffic reporting. Various deals to mass-produce the Aerocar fell through. Taylor was only too well aware of the fact that, for many reasons, car and aircraft design were incompatible. It didn't stop him trying. In an earlier life as a US Navy officer, he had been involved in the development of the prototype cruise missile.

Bell Rocket Belt, 1958

The rocket belt, or jetpack, was first seen in the 1920s comic strip Buck Rogers , but, aside from a few dangerous experiments, recorded on film, by German inventors trying to rollerskate and ice-skate with the aid of solid-fuel rockets on their backs, the first more or less workable self-operated design is credited to Wendell Moore, an engineer at Bell Aerosystems, in 1958. A stable flight at a height of 15ft was established that year, but further development for the US army using a 280lb-thrust peroxide rocket motor led nowhere. Test flights were taken over by another engineer, Harold Graham, who achieved free flight on April 20 1961. He flew for 13 seconds over a distance of 112ft at between seven and 10mph. Today, rare displays of rocket belts are just for fun at air displays , rodeos and other events where danger is a part of the mix.

Moller XM-2 SkyCar, 1962-4

The first attempt at the SkyCar was a 1:6 scale version of the flying saucer-style machine Dr Paul Moller was developing in his garden shed at Davis, California. The full-scale version was unveiled in 1964 . With two 2-stroke McCulloch drone engines, it was able to hover. It would be another 20 years before Moller's SkyCar began to fly more or less convincingly using lighter and far more powerful rotary engines. From 1989, the M200X made 200 successful, if brief flights . The Californian sky will never be quite the same without its flying saucers. Unless Martians really do fly them, and Moller was simply trying to restore one of their old models that had crashed. Moller's M400 is a very different kind of machine.
www.guardian.co.uk/life/feature/story/0 ... 05,00.html
 
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Anonymous

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#25
Dunno about you, but I just rev the old car up and hit speed bumps at 70mph - subjectively it feels like flying :twisted:
 
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Anonymous

Guest
#27
found a little article here: http://uttm.com/stories/2005/04/15/60mi ... 8454.shtml

Also, for those with great researching skills. I remember back in the mid 90's that Michael Jackson had invested in a flying car that was going under the name 'batmobile' - I seem to remember that the article was in new scientist, but my backcatelogue is now sadly no-more. It may very well have been an idea of one of the above mentioned companies, but in my drunken state I can't find a decent reference :oops:

The biggest problems with flying cars are clearly how to designate the flight paths and implement crash/recovery technologies. Personally, I dread to think what the insurance would be :D Also, can you imagine (for those in the UK) the nasty stick-on accessories that would become available in Halfords! Brrrrr PS. Bumper stickers: my other flying car is a stealth plane!....I feel a wave of nausea...excuse me :D
 

krobone

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#28
The other problem is when they crash - could you imagine one of them plowing through the roof of a hospital or school? Or into a crowd of people? :shock:
 

wembley8

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#29
Or worse - no need to go to all the trouble of hijacking a plane when you can just load your skycar with cans of petrol and pick which skyscraper to fly into.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
#30
Moral dilemma time :D would you rather have advances in technology or give into over represented fear and have things remain the same? In either case, terrorists exist and attrocities will be committed. Take the British view - live with the terror and don't let the buggers win by making you change your patterns. Fact of the matter is, you are not likely to be involved in a terrorist attack. However, if you are the kind of person who plays the lottery and believe that you have a reasonable chance, then I suggest a maths/stats course :lol:
 
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