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TECH TALK Figure 3: Terrafugia Transition (Image Credit: Terrafugia)


EHang is a Chinese company that has been involved in drones for many years, and had announced a pilotless air taxi vehicle last year (beating Uber to the punch). The Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) recently announced a partnership with EHang to jointly promote and introduce the EHang 184 autonomous quad-copter electric drone into Dubai, where the city aims to build the world’s most intelligent transportation system. The EHang 184 has already been flying at the test site of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA), as well as performing flight tests over coastal and desert terrain. This PAV will be able to carry one passenger with a maximum weight of 220 pounds for a distance of 31 miles on one charge and at a top speed of 100 mph. It can be argued that Dubai will be in the lead to allow the use of PAVs, with everyone else playing catchup, as they plan to introduce this in summer 2017 as a VIP sky shuttle service. Note that Dubai will also be the first location to deploy a Hyperloop transportation system, with a route to Abu Dhabi. A company founded by MIT


graduates is working on two flying cars, the first being the Terrafugia Transition. It is essentially a car with folding wings and they are taking orders now). The Transition is the world’s first ‘practical’ flying car, and is a folding-wing, two-seat, roadable aircraft which will require a sports pilot’s license. It will use premium unleaded automotive gasoline, fit in a standard single-car garage, and have a


22 DOMmagazine.com | july 2017 Figure 4: Terrafugia TF-X (Image Credit: Terrafugia)


projected range of 400 miles in the air with a top flight speed of 100 mph. The conversion time between flight and drive modes will be less than one minute. The Transition will be equipped with a full suite of automotive safety features, including airbags, pre-tensioning load-limiting seatbelts, a crumple zone, safety cage and more, in addition to a full vehicle parachute. The second product they are working is called the TF-X and it is not as far along. The TF-X is projected to be able to take off and land vertically from a level clearing of at least 100 feet in diameter, and projected pricing will be in the high- end luxury car range. This will be an all-electric vehicle, but it still many years from reaching fruition. A new German startup named Lilium stated that it recently completed a series of “rigorous flight tests” on its electric VTOL flying car (the Lilium Jet). The two-seater prototype, controlled remotely by a pilot (this is a similar approach taken by EHang), has performed a successful in-flight transition from hover mode to wing-borne forward flight. The Jet can travel more than 300 kilometers (186.4 miles), with a top speed of 300 kilometers per hour, is powered by 36 electric jet engines mounted on its wings via 12 moveable flaps. Lilium is backed by the European Space Agency. The startup is now developing a five-seat model of the Jet for on-demand air taxi and ride-hailing services. Projected launch date is in 2019. The last one that we will mention


here is Toyota, which recently entered into the flying car market by supporting a Japanese startup named Cartivour which is working on a drone-like vehicle named the Skydrive. This vehicle will soar 10 meters (33 feet) above the ground at speeds up to 62 mph. The SkyDrive will be able to take off from public roads, so this aims to compete with the Terrafugia Transition flying car. This startup has around 30 aerospace and automotive personnel working with drone expert Masafumi Miwa from Tokushima University. Their goal is to have the car flying by 2018 and have it in commercial use in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, so it can be used to light the Olympic flame. Not much information is available at this time, but with Toyota joining the effort, they may be able to kickstart their effort even more. There are various other efforts for flying cars, drones and rotor-driven aerial vehicles, and assuredly a few projects which have kept a lower profile to fly under the radar (pun intended).


FLYING THE EVER-MORE


CROWDED SKIES Flying drones and cars might be one way to alleviate the ever-growing traffic gridlock that much of the world faces. It is becoming more difficult to add roads in any urban environment for many reasons, so urban planners have only three real choices: mass transit (perhaps the Hyperloop or related efforts to move people more quickly), smart highways with autonomous cars taking over from human drivers, and air transport. Due to costs, society might relegate the masses to ground-based mass transit and traffic gridlock, while those with greater resources will be able to afford flying machines (along with obtaining flying licenses for some of these solutions, or, let remotely-piloted services guide their journey and not bother with


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