VIDEO: THE ELECTRIC, FLYING AUTONOMOUS UBER ' THE VOLOCOPTER MAKES ITS FIRST TEST FLIGHT!Date: 2017-10-05
Inventors have finally returned to designs of jet packs and flying cars and, in all honesty, they sound even more exciting than the autonomous future on the ground that automakers are promising us!
Several startups are taking different approached to small vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, and a number are already conducting full-scale tests – unmanned.
One of these flying-car-future hopefuls is this German Volocopter, which recently made its first public demonstration and carried out an unmanned test of its prototype craft in Dubai. Powered by batteries, the Volocopter is essentially a scaled-up passenger drone with a helicopter-like cockpit for two occupants and 18 separate propellers arranged around the overhead hoop!
The craft's two-hour charging time gives it a 30-minute flight time at a cruising speed of about 30mph and a maximum speed of almost 60mph. The craft itself is smaller and lighter than most helicopters and has a smaller footprint.
During its test flight in Dubai, the Volocopter took off, reached a height of 650 feet and hovered around for about five minutes.
According to the company, the production versions will fly autonomously along point-to-point routes that will be selectable by passengers who will be able to summon the craft via an app – it's the real-life flying taxi!
This means that these drone crafts will not have a pilot (saving quite a bit of labour costs) and will be able to operate along a network of specially designed heliports.
The ultimate goal for the company is to offer an Uber-like flying car experience and service, even if there are no pilots – though if Uber's autonomous research is anything to go by, Uber plans on doing the same.
While the VTOL technology used in the Volocopter appears to be perfectly realistic, we're a little skeptical about the company's plans for autonomous operation – given where autonomous driving tech is at the moment.
To be fair, there are fewer obstacles in the air. However, the few obstacles are pretty serious, like power lines. In addition, even the most modern of helicopters still require a lot of skilled human decision-making – the practical differences between an electric VTOL craft that users many small rotors and a classic helo are few.
Volocopter isn't the only one developing new types of electric VTOL craft – Lilium tested its two-seat e-VTOL Eagle craft only a few months ago, a plane/VTOL hybrid that uses small jets to take off vertically and then transitions to winged forward flight. The Eagle prototype provides a top speed of 186mph and promises around 190 miles of range on full charge.
Either way, the world has been ready for a flying car future for quite some time and is certainly ready for an electric car future.
Even if we're a little cautious about whether or not the world is ready for an autonomous electric flying car just yet.
What do you think?