May 30, 2003
Personal Aircars Inevitable?

NASA scientist Dennis Bushnell tells Technology Review that electronic technology advances in GPS, auto-pilot and other areas will allow unskilled people to pilot aircars.

The technology of personal VTOL transportation is "expanding and will soon be exploding," says Bushnell, with at least a dozen individuals and groups in the United States now competing to produce a safe, dependable aircar. The U.S. Army and Navy are developing aircar-type vehicles for military applications, and a NASA researcher has also been working on a design. Most of the action seems to be in the United States, though at least one foreign company—Urban Aeronautics in Israel—is also in the race.

The companies currently trying to design vertical take-off and landing vehicles for mass use may be premature in their efforts given the current state of materials technology. But materials advances using nanotechnology should eventually enable the construction of flying craft that are much lighter and stronger. Also, powerplants with higher thrust-to-weight ratios should also eventually be constructable due to coming materials advances.

The other key area of enabling technologies is in electronics and computing. The amount of decision-making load that would need to be off-loaded from the human operator would of course have to be far greater if people who are not trained pilots are to operate personal aircars. Certainly the capacity of computers will continue to advance quite rapidly. The challenge will be to develop software sophisticated enough to recognize a large range of operating conditions and dangers and to react appropriately.

Check out Moller International's Moller Skycar. Roadable Aircraft International (RAI) is at an earlier stage of development but their concept drawings look interesting.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2003 May 30 03:15 PM  Airplanes and Spacecraft


Comments
Richard Allen Strong said at April 25, 2005 4:55 PM:

The StrongMobile family of automatically-transformable integrated automobile-airplanes have been the subject of preliminary design studies, wind tunnel tests, and full-size mock-up construction. The primary initial market is envisaged as frequent regional travel that is quicker, quieter, safer, and economical. The design uses an automobile-style lifting body with ducted fan aearopropulsion and conventional road propulsion. The wings, tailplane and rear end transform at the push of a button. Current activity is focussed on surveying potential users for detailed requirements.

c ester vitamin said at February 6, 2006 12:13 AM:

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have flown aeroplanes said at December 4, 2007 11:32 PM:

Check thrust to weight ratios after adding heavy duty bearings to transform ducted fan direction, tailplane geometry, and anything else in an automobile style body which is heavier than a Piper Warrior style body. The serious physics appraisal is that everyone wants an aircar, and nobody can make a good one. (and I mean "can" in the sense of will it ever be possible)

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