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A flying car is a hypothetical personal aircraft that provides door-to-door aerial transportation (e.g., from home to work or to the supermarket) as conveniently as a car and without the requirement for roads, runways or other specially-prepared operating areas. Such aircraft lack any visible means of propulsion (unlike fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters) so they can be operated at urban areas, close to buildings, people and other obstructions.
The flying car has been depicted in fantasy and science fiction works such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Jetsons, Star Wars, Blade Runner, Back to the Future Part II and The Fifth Element as well as articles in the American magazines Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, and Mechanix Illustrated.
The flying car was a common feature of science fiction and futuristic conceptions of the future, including imagined near futures such as those of the 21st century. For instance, less than a month before the turn of the millennium, the journalist Gail Collins noted:
Here we are, less than a month until the turn of the millennium, and what I want to know is, what happened to the flying cars? We're about to become Americans of the 21st century. People have been predicting what we'd be like for more than 100 years, and our accounterments don't entirely live up to expectations. (...) Our failure to produce flying cars seems like a particular betrayal since it was so central to our image.
As a result, flying cars have become a running joke; the question "Where is my flying car?" is emblematic of the supposed failure of modern technology to match futuristic visions that were promoted in earlier decades.[notes 1]
Several challenges to a practical flying car exist.
A practical flying car would have to be capable of taking off, flying and landing throughout heavily populated urban environments. However, to date, no vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicle (VTOL) has ever shown to demonstrate such capabilities. To make such an aircraft would require an aircraft with a propulsion that is quiet to avoid noise pollution, but is not visible[clarification needed] so it could fly safely in urban environments. Additionally, to lift such an aircraft off the ground would require very powerful engines or turbines with extremely high tolerances. Many type of aircraft technology have been suggested, such as ducted-fan and tiltrotor, but previous designs have suffered from aerodynamic problems; ducted-fan aircraft tend to lose their stability easily and fail to pass the speed of 30-40 knots, and the tiltrotor V-22 Osprey, like all forms of transportation, has suffered accidents and incidents.
Due to the requirement of propulsion that is both small and powerful, the cost of producing a flying car would be very high and estimated by some as much as 10 million dollars. In addition, the flying car's energy efficiency would be much lower compared to conventional cars and other aircraft; optimal fuel efficiency for airplanes is at high speeds and high altitudes, while flying cars would be used for shorter distances, at higher frequency, lower speeds and lower altitudes.
Although statistically flying is safer than driving, unlike commercial planes, flying cars might not have as many safety checks and their pilots would not be as well trained. Humans already have problems with the aspect of driving in two dimensions (forward and backwards, side to side), adding in the up and down aspect would make "driving" or flying as it would be, much more difficult. In mid-air collisions and mechanical failures, the aircraft could fall from the sky or go through an emergency landing, resulting in deaths and property damage. In addition, poor weather conditions, such as low air density, lightning storms and heavy rain or fog could be challenging and affect the aircraft's aerodynamics.
In Back to the Future part II Doc Brown invites Marty and Jennifer in his modified flying car DeLorean time machine and time travels to the year 2015 where flying hovercars are flying all over the place.
Flying cars can be in the republic city of Coruscant
"Spinner" is the generic term for the fictional flying cars used in Blade Runner, set in futuristic-cyberpunk Los Angeles of 2019. A Spinner can be driven as a ground-based vehicle, and take off vertically, hover, and cruise using jet propulsion much like Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft. They are used extensively by the police to patrol and survey the population, and it is clear that despite restrictions wealthy people can acquire spinner licenses. The vehicle was conceived and designed by Syd Mead who described the spinner as an "aerodyne"—a vehicle which directs air downward to create lift, though press kits for the film stated that the spinner was propelled by three engines: "conventional internal combustion, jet, and anti-gravity" Mead's conceptual drawings were transformed into 25 working vehicles by automobile customizer Gene Winfield. A Spinner is on permanent exhibit at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle, Washington.[dead link]
In The Fifth Element, set in 2263 New York City, flying cars are used as main mean of transportation. The production design for the film was developed by French comics creators Jean Giraud and Jean-Claude Mézières. Mézières wrote the book The Circles of Power, which features a character named S'Traks, who drives a flying taxicab through the congested air traffic of the vast metropolis on the planet Rubanis. Besson read the book and was inspired to change the Dallas character to a taxicab driver who flies through a futuristic New York City. The costume design was created by French fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier.
In 1926, Henry Ford displayed an experimental single-seat aeroplane that he called the "sky flivver". The project was abandoned two years later when a distance-record attempt flight crashed, killing the pilot. The Flivver was not a flying car at all, but it did get press attention at the time, exciting the public that they would have a mass-produced affordable airplane product that would be made, marketed, sold, and maintained just like an automobile. The airplane was to be as commonplace in the future as the Model T of the time.
In 1956, Ford's Advanced Design studio built the Volante Tri-Athodyne, a 3/8 scale concept car model. It was designed to have three ducted fans, each with their own motor, that would lift it off the ground and move it through the air. In public relation release, Ford noted that "the day where there will be an aero-car in every garage is still some time off", but added that "the Volante indicates one direction that the styling of such a vehicle would take".
In 1957, Popular Mechanics reported that Hiller Helicopters is developing a ducted-fan aircraft that would be easier to fly than helicopters, and should cost a lot less. Some estimated that in 10 years a four-place fan would cost like a good car. Hiller engineers expected that this type of an aircraft would become the basis for a whole family of special-purpose aircraft.
In 1956, the US Army's Transportation Research Command began an investigation into "flying jeeps", ducted-fan-based aircraft that were envisioned to be smaller and easier to fly than helicopters. In 1957, Chrysler, Curtiss-Wright, and Piasecki were assigned contracts for building and delivery of prototypes. They all delivered their prototypes, however Piasecki's VZ-8 was the most successful of the three. While it would normally operate close to the ground, it was capable of flying to several thousand feet, proving to be stable in flight. Nonetheless, the Army decided that the "Flying Jeep concept [was] unsuitable for the modern battlefield", and concentrated on the development of conventional helicopters. In addition to the army contract, Piasecki was developing the Sky Car, a modified verision of its VZ-8 for civilian use.
Urban Aeronautics' X-Hawk is a VTOL turbojet powered aircraft announced in 2006 with a first flight planned for 2009. It was intended to operate much like a tandem rotor helicopter, but with ducted fans rather than exposed rotors. The requisite decrease in rotor size would also decrease fuel efficiency. The X-Hawk was being promoted for rescue and utility functions. As of 2013, no flights had been reported.
The Moller Skycar M400 is a prototype personal VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft which is powered by four pairs of in-tandem Wankel rotary engines, and is approaching the problems of satellite-navigation, incorporated in the proposed Small Aircraft Transportation System. Moller also advises that, currently, the Skycar would only be allowed to fly from airports & heliports. Moller has been developing VTOL craft since the late 1960s, but no Moller vehicle has ever achieved free flight out of ground effect. The proposed Autovolantor model has an all-electric version powered by Altairnano batteries.
On May 7, 2013, Terrafugia announced the TF-X, a plug-in hybrid tilt-rotor vehicle that would be the first fully autonomous flying car. It has a range of 500 miles per flight and batteries are rechargeable by the engine. It is expected to hit the market in 2015.
Complaints of the non-existence of flying cars have become nearly idiomatic as expressions of disappointment in the failure of the present to measure up to the glory of past predictions.
The December 30, 1989 Calvin and Hobbes comic strip depicted an early instance of the "Where are the flying cars?" idea:
|“||Hobbes: "A new decade is coming up."|
Calvin: "Yeah, big deal! Hmph. Where are the flying cars? Where are the moon colonies? Where are the personal robots and the zero-gravity boots, huh? You call this a new decade?! You call this the future?? HA! Where are the rocket packs? Where are the disintegration rays? Where are the floating cities?"
A 2001 IBM television commercial featured Avery Brooks (know for his role as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Captain Benjamin Sisko ) complaining "It is the year 2000, but where are the flying cars? I was promised flying cars. I don’t see any flying cars. Why? Why? Why?"
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