16 November 2008

Flying Cars Forming Up At Starting Line

Under the radar, the flying car is finally on the taxiway, preparing for takeoff. From Terrafugia's folding wing Transition to Pal-V's gyrocopter, to DARPA's PAVT, engineers are zeroing in on technologies that are reliable enough, inexpensive enough, simple enough, and safe enough for average citizen pilots to fly.
Darpa says its Cessna-sized combo vehicle should be able to cruise at 60 mph on land, and 150 mph in the air. It should be able to stay aloft for two hours on a tank of fuel. "The challenge," the agency says, "is to define the major components of such a vehicle that would be suitable for military scouting and personnel transport missions, yet are small enough, inexpensive enough, and easy enough to operate that it can be widely used."

To make the flying car work, Darpa believes, makers will have to use "morphing wings" to ease the transition from road to sky; "optimized disk loading" propulsion, "for the combined fly/drive mission"; and strong flight control software. Darpa isn't making an enormous commitment to the flying car, just yet. This is a project aimed at small business; contracts of this type are typically under a million dollars per year. But maybe, with a small Pentagon push, the flying car dream could finally clear the ground. _Wired
Yes, people are getting tired of the hype over flying cars--since nothing ever seems to come of them. And that is exactly the moment when breakthroughs happen, when they are least expected. Breakthroughs cannot be scheduled by a publicist, politician, or journalist.

The mere existence of a safe, affordable, reliable flying car is one thing. But what would it really mean for society at large? Think about it.

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