Can You See Yourself In A Flying Car?

Apr 29, 2019

You could ride in a flying car as early as 2023 as long as you have the nerve and the money. Uber appears to be leading the pack of about a dozen developers. Research is also happening in Greater Cincinnati. UC students are designing their own model and hope to win $1 million in a competition.

Engineering students Hayden Morgan and Heath Palmer hold up a 3-D model of their first prototype. They are already on their third.

It's a quadcopter with a triangular shaped wing in the center. It takes off vertically like a helicopter and then flies horizontally like an airplane. No runway is needed.

(from left) Senior electrical engineering student Heath Palmer holds a 3D model of the flying car, Aerospace Engineering Professor and advisor Shaaban Abdallah, and senior mechanical engineering student Hayden Morgan.
Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU

Morgan says, "Our ideal range is thirty minutes, so maybe a trip to the grocery store or maybe a recreational flight, something quick. It's not going to be for taking your friends for a night on the town. It will be for quick trips."

He says they also hope to have a green side with zero direct emissions.

A recent study from the University of Michigan and Ford questions just how green short flights can be. It suggests longer flights would make the significant energy needed to take off worth it.  The study compared flying cars to traditional non-flying cars.

According to the study, when carrying one pilot for 62 miles, flying cars would have 35 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions versus non-flying cars. If flying cars carried one pilot and three passengers it would be 52 percent lower. But when short trips in the flying cars were compared to electric vehicles on the ground they were not as efficient.

A Loveland company already has a working prototype and is taking downpayments for its $200,000 personal helicopter. This is a demonstration of SureFly's vehicle in May, 2018.

UC's Palmer says, "It will start off being affordable for really rich people then over time it will come down to the middle class ......."

Axios reports Uber spent $457 million in 2018 on its Advanced Technologies Group and other initiatives like Uber Elevate. Uber says, "Our initial efforts through Uber Elevate focus on shared air transportation between suburbs and cities, with the goal of ultimately addressing air transportation within cities."

Uber looks to test models in Dallas and Los Angeles and be up and running by 2023.