Outside of time travel and teleportation, the technology I am most often asked about is flying cars.
Unlike teleporting and travelling through time, it seems that we have the practical components we already need. We have cars. We have planes and helicopters. Surely it is just a matter of combining some existing devices and we have a flying car?
Many people in history have thought exactly the same thing. We have just passed the 118-year anniversary of the first flight by the Wright brothers and, after that momentous 59 second first flight, it only took 14 years before Glenn Curtiss unveiled his Autoplane.
With three wings and a propellor at the rear of the car it was the first recorded attempt at a flying car. It failed.
In 1937 Waldo Waterman modified a Studebaker with detachable wings. It had promise, but Waterman could not find any financial backers.
In 1946 the Airphibian took the opposite approach to previous attempts.
Instead of adapting a car to fly, he adapted a plane to drive. It could fly at 190km/h and drive at 80km/h and to convert between road and air took five minutes. But a lack of finance again killed this project.
The ConvAirCar showed promise in the 1940s, but a crash in early testing saw confidence quickly plummet.
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The list goes on. The Avrocar; Aerocar; Skycar; SkyRider; CityHawk; Aircar ... all had one thing in common - they over-promised and under-delivered.
Now, after more than a century of attempts, the first ever commercially available flying car can be yours today. Well, not quite today. Production forecasts for 2022 are already sold out, so if you order today you can have one in 2023!
Calling it a flying car may actually be stretching it slightly. It has no ability to drive on a road. Personal Electric Aerial Vehicle (PEAV) may be somewhat more accurate.
The point is that you can use it just like a car. Take off from your driveway at home and land in the car park at your local supermarket to pick up the bread and milk.
Take off from your driveway at home and land in the car park at your local supermarket.
The Swedish company behind this is called Jetson (thank you Hanna-Barbera) and they aim to make the skies available to everyone.
Well, once again, not quite everyone. With a required $30,000 fee on order and an additional $100,000 required at time of delivery, I can't exactly see everyone rushing out to buy one.
Ignoring the price for a moment, the most important aspect for most people will be safety. With a claimed five minutes of training required to fly the Jetson ONE, technology is obviously a major part of the safety solution.
LIDAR is used to track the terrain and avoid obstacles. The four motors and eight rotors are designed so that it can fly safely with the loss of one motor. The flight computer has triple redundancy and it can hover handsfree.
The ONE is made from carbon-fibre and aluminium and the safety cell is inspired by racing cars.
If all else fails and you are flying at the maximum height of 450 metres above the ground and realise that you forgot to charge the battery, a rapid deployment parachute will allow you to float safely to the ground.
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There are some limitations though.
It is designed to accommodate only one person. The maximum speed is 100km/h and the flight time is only 20 minutes.
OK, so we have some way to go yet before we can really call this a replacement for the family car, but one step at a time.
Tell me if you dream of one day owning a flying car at email@example.com.
- Mathew Dickerson is a technologist, futurist and host of the Tech Talk podcast.