Some days I wish my Nissan could fly

By Joseph Normandin

Posted by John McHale

Yesterday I read a story in USA Today on inventors racing to be the first one to successfully build and market a flying car.

The article -- "Inventors are sure cars can fly" -- was written by reporters Chris Woodyard and Sharon Silke Carty.

Woodyard and Carty tell how entrepreneurs behind the different aircraft prefer the term "roadable aircraft" to flying car -- saying the latter term makes them appear kooks.

It's an interesting read, detailing "a three-wheel flying motorcycle" one inventor built in his garage to a two-seat car that flies.

One of the inventors discussed in the article, Paul Moller, was covered in anarticle from the April, 2001 issue of Military & Aerospace Electronics . He's the founder of Moller International. In the article he said hoped that the military might get behind flying automobiles because they are free from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifications.

Alas, that is no longer the case as we have detailed in our publication and website since 2001. Designers of military aircraft that fly through civilian airspace have been required to meet certain FAA certifications -- DO-178B and DO-254 -- in electronic payloads.

Yet, if a company could get funding from DARPA or another agency to develop such an aircraft it might be easier to transition the technology to the consumer market. Not just multi-millionaire consumers either.

Possibly an unmanned roadable air vehicle, or URAV, would be a start.

I know, I know the last thing we need is another acronym, but there are so many autonomous platforms in development why not one that flies and drives? Is there already one in development? I don't recall any Future Combat Systems variants with such capability.

In the article from our 2001 issue Moller said he sees unmanned flying taxis being some of the first roadable aircraft.

Woodyard and Carty's article says that some entrepreneurs plan to start delivering their flying machines as early as 2010. They report that one -- the Terrafugia Transition -- already has 50 orders at a "projected price of $194,000."

That's pretty pricey. The article says that not all of the orders are from billionaires, that some retired couples with disposable income are interested.

Yeah, it may not be exclusive to billionaires, but it definitely rules out journalists...

Come to think of it what about the ancillary costs? How much is gas for these machines? Are any being developed with alternative fuels?

When we finally get a roadable aircraft how many feet in the air will the road be? Where will the toll booths be located?

I suppose we will not need a landing area on our roof, since we can just go wheels down and park it next to the lawn mower.

Should we raise the driving age for flying cars? Teenage insurance rates will be ridiculous. I remember how much my parents' car insurance went up when I was 16 and all I was driving was a Pontiac 6000.

The USA Today article reported that the first patent for a flying car was filed 90 years ago in 1918. I think it may take at least half that amount of time before we look up and see Hondas, Harleys, and Hyundais filling the night sky.

Yet, all the naysaying and negative feelings toward flying cars seem to fade away when I'm sitting in Red Sox traffic wishing I could take my car up and buzz the ballpark...

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

January 2014
Volume 25, Issue 1
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