Uber is just one company interested in ‘flying cars’
Here are five others hoping to ride the skies as early as next year
Uber made a huge hire to advance its flying-car plans.
Mark Moore has left his position as an advanced aircraft engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center to join Uber’s flying-car project, dubbed Uber Elevate, Bloomberg first reported Monday.
Uber isn’t pursuing a flying car, per se, because it isn’t being designed to fly and drive. Instead, Uber, like many other companies, is looking to build an electric, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft for shorter urban commutes. Moore published a white paper outlining how electric VTOLs could work in 2010.
But competition is mounting when it comes to the flying-car moonshot — here are five other companies working on their own VTOL aircrafts.
1. German company eVolo wants to make its multicopter the future of urban mobility. Called the Volocopter, it has 18 rotors and can fit two people.
The Volocopter is powered by six batteries that allow for 20 minutes of flight, but eVolo is working to get that up to an hour. The company has begun manned testing in Germany and aims to roll out a production model in 2018.
The final version of the Volocopter will be able to reach 62 miles per hour. It has more than 130 independent computers on-board that could allow it to fly autonomously later on.
2. Airbus is developing a single-person VTOL under its Silicon Valley arm A³ as part of its Project Vahana. The aircraft will be autonomous and can carry a single passenger or cargo.
A³ CEO Rodin Lyasoff said in a Medium post that it will fly a full-size prototype before the end of 2017. Zach Lovering, who oversees Project Vahana, told Business Insider that the group plans to have a production version ready by 2020.
The electric aircraft will have 8 rotors and will be able to achieve an altitude of about 1,000 feet. It will be fully self-piloted, though it will also come with autonomous tech like radar and lidar to detect obstacles.
Airbus is also designing a flying taxi system, named CityAirbus, that would have multiple propellers and resemble a small drone. Multiple people would be able to book a ride on the flying taxi system via an app.
Airbus wrote on its website that the CityAirbus taxi would first be operated by a pilot, but that a fully autonomous version would be released once regulations are in place. However, the flying taxi wouldn’t land and pick you up from wherever. You would have to go to the “nearest helipad” for a lift after booking a seat.
3. Chinese drone company EHang is working to get its giant, taxi drone in the air as soon as federal regulations will allow it. It can carry 220 pounds, cruise at 62 mph, and fly over 11,000 feet.
The EHang is another Uber-like system in that passengers would enter their desired location and the drone would then fly on its own.
A prototype of the EHang has been tested in China, but the company is still working to get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to begin flying in the US.
4. Terrafugia is building a car that can take off, fly, and land autonomously — but you would still have to drive it manually.
The plug-in hybrid has a range of 500 miles, and it can take off vertically so you don’t need to be on a runway for lift-off.
Passengers can simply enter their desired location and it will fly on its own. The company has said a production version will be ready by 2025.
5. Google co-founder Larry Page is funding secretive startup Zee.Aero to build a VTOL aircraft.
A prototype of the aircraft, pictured above, was spotted in the wild in October.
Witnesses in Hollister, California reportedly saw the vertical take-off plane hover about 25 feet above the ground, land, and then hover again. There are few other details about the secretive project.
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