The Jetson's flying car is closer to reality now that the Air Force is partnering with pioneers in the flying car field. Researchers will test and evaluate the technology in Springfield for military and commercial purposes.
eVTAL, or electric vertical take-off and landing, is the official term for flying car. Beta Technologies and Joby Aviation are two of the commercial companies the Air Force will work with at the Springfield-Beckley Airport beginning in January. That's where the government is building a charging station.
It's also helping them obtain important FAA licenses, evaluate commercial applications and determine whether eVTAL could be an effective vehicle for rescuing stranded personnel on the battlefield.
"Our interest here in the military is how could we use this type of capability?" Executive Director of the AFRL Jack Blackhurst says. "Think of a downed airman out in an adversarial field somewhere that we're trying to rescue this individual. Could this flying car be used?"
It's the job of Col. Nathan Diller to get the project off the ground. He's the director of AFWERX, which focuses on connecting the Air Force and commercial partners.
On the day before Diller spoke with WVXU, he was on the phone with the FAA until 9 p.m. and then at 7 a.m. the next morning talking to NASA. Diller, based at the Pentagon, is focused on logistics.
"We have to fly and the AFRL airworthiness team took the necessary steps over the last couple fo weeks. We expect to fly starting in January. We're going to fly in all kinds of locations and conditions but in a way we're able to do it in a safe manner," he says.
The flying car industry, projected to be multi-billion in 10 years, is pleased the military is involved. "The number of investors that are reaching out to our partner companies based on the feedback that the Air Force was actually looking at seriously, that we are taking our experts and going through this technology with a fine tooth comb," Diller says.
The Wall Street Journal wrote about the partnership earlier this month.
Springfield is no stranger to technology. WVXU has been reporting on its efforts to test a radar for UAS beyond line of sight.
The beyond line of sight radar and the flying car technology mean money for southwest Ohio. The Dayton Development Coalition is excited. Elaine Bryant is executive vice president of aerospace and defense for the Coalition.
"Really, this opportunity with the Air Force, with this AFWERX Agility Prime Initiative, has really added more fuel to this flame and accelerated the pace of an industry that might have otherwise taken a little bit longer," she says.