Imagine a flying car. Does it look like a fancy sports car with foldable wings? Or a Jet Ski-like craft that seems to float above water?
These aren’t make-believe.
That sports car/plane combo is called the AeroMobil Flying Car. The latest model — which can be ready to fly in less than three minutes — was previewed recently with a promised arrival of 2020. The vehicle zooming above water has a name, too: the Kitty Hawk Flyer, an all-electric creation expected by year’s end.
These are two of more than a dozen present-day plans.
What’s driving this sky-high frenzy?
“Technology has changed,” says Dorothy Cochrane, a general-aviation curator at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. “The ultimate design of a flying car is going to be so much different than what people were trying to do for years.”
After all, soaring automobiles are almost a century-old fantasy.
What’s different now, says Cochrane, is that today’s creations use lighter materials than metal, don’t rely on heavy engines and are more high-tech.
Even so, there are roadblocks. The Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates the nation’s air traffic, would need
to figure out what to do with them. They’re also expensive. The AeroMobil Flying Car will sell for more than $1 million, making it more of a status symbol than a practical way to travel.
But that’s not to say that flying cars will always be limited to people with a lot of money. Just think, less personal gadget and more flying taxi.
The app-driven car service Uber wants to create an on-demand network of electric vehicles that can take off and land vertically (called VTOLs) that could be used for regular daily trips, such as going to work. Early versions would use pilots before advances in technology allow them to operate themselves. Tests would start in 2020.
That is, if the machines exist.
By presenting this goal, Uber hopes to motivate inventors to, well, invent them.
And although past dreamers needed to continually persuade supporters to help pay for their projects, that’s not necessarily so for today’s crop. Creators of the Kitty Hawk Flyer, for instance, have gotten support from Google co-founder and billionaire Larry Page, who has given money to flying-car projects for the past seven years.
“It was easy just 10 years ago to say, ‘Never going to happen,’ ” Cochrane says. “Now I’m not going to say that anymore.”
What: Look at early attempts at flying cars, such as the Fulton Airphibian and Waterman Aerobile.
Where: National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly, Virginia.
When: Daily 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
How much: Admission is free. Parking is $15.
For more information: A parent can call 703-572-4118 or visit airandspace.si.edu/udvar-hazy-center.