BLADE RUNNER | WARNER BROS

Flying cars have been a staple of sci-fi for many decades. They’ve long been promised and predicted, even by Henry Ford in 1940. For the record, I don’t count cars with wings that require a runway as flying cars. They are just light-aircraft that can be modified to drive on the road. There have been two major problems with making this a reality.

The first of these problems is propulsion. Jet engines would indeed work, but the danger factor is too high, not to mention the fuel costs and maintenance. They are just not practical for the average person.

The other problem is three axis control. Cars have one axis, they turn left or right. Known as yaw in flight. With this one axis of control over 1 million people die every year, giving people three would be catastrophic.

Until recently it would be reasonable to think flying cars would never become a reality. However, it looks as though both problems have been solved simultaneously with the research into autonomous drones. It is now conceivable that a vehicle based on a drone, perhaps with four arms and up to 8 rotors, with autonomous piloting, could ferry passengers on designated autonomous flight paths. These could be described as personal transport drones (PTDs).

Collisions would be near 0 due to each PTDs having full knowledge of flight conditions and the locations of all other PTDs in the local area. They could then wirelessly charge back at their landing pads. Uber could be a company to look at this once their land taxi service is solidified, but it’s more likely another start-up will make headway with this before Uber (such as The EHang 184 ).

However widespread use of flying cars (or PTDs) will still sit firmly in the future until the 2040s. The tech will be available and full demoed in the 2020s, but the legal side and public trust will take a lot to overcome. Given this timeframe, they are more likely to be used on Mars due to the terrain and lack of road infrastructure. Lift with rotor blades on Mars is something to be considered. The gravity is less, but so is the air density. If this can be overcome Mars may be a pioneer of PTD technology by 2050.

Personal Transport Drone (PTD)
Personal Transport Drone (PTD) | The EHang 184

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