Flying Cars

CarimageDavid Albert in n+1:

Flying cars come in two types. Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) cars were originally to be adaptations of the helicopter. But the high-speed rotors on helicopters are too likely to slice someone’s head off, given day to day use, and anyway your average chopper is just too delicate and complex to be used daily. So while the helicopter will always remain ideal for reporting on land-car traffic jams, spiriting victims of land-car crashes to the hospital, and filming land-car thieves for sensationalist television broadcasts, it will never become the Chevrolet of the future.

In the past decade, two other VTOL designs have begun to look feasible. They are perfect foils: one from an Israeli company with a sober business plan and links to heavy hitters in the aerospace industry and military, the other a West Coast company headed by Paul Moller, whose other interests include a company that sells “life extension” almond butter.

Urban Aeronautics, based in Tel Aviv, has been developing a concept first explored by the US military in the 1950s. And the design for their X-Hawk is only modestly more inspiring than a Merkava tank—it’s similar to a 1960 De Soto but not so pretty. Usually shown in banana yellow, the X-Hawk is essentially two eight-foot fans set horizontally with the payload on a flat sled in between.

You can literally step from the 25th-floor into your X-Hawk, just don’t look down. Initial plans are for rescue and combat operations in close urban environments, and the company has already made a sale to an Israeli hospital. They predict the X-Hawk will enter the personal vehicle market within twenty years.

If the world wants a flying penis car, on the other hand, Paul Moller’s M400 Skycar is it.