Fifty-seven years ago, Hanna-Barbera first aired its futuristic cartoon series The Jetsons about a family living in 2062. Back then, George Jetson’s flying car seemed like pure fiction. But more than 100 companies are now developing flying vehicles called electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, which they plan to market far earlier than 2062. Even Uber has developed an eVTOL project called Uber Air, the BBC reported.
So far, eVTOL prototypes cannot fly very far. They have a battery life of only about half an hour and a maximum speed of 68 mph. Some companies are experimenting with adding wings to stretch the distance up to 185 miles.
But even if engineers can improve battery life and speed, they have a lot of work ahead. The vehicles would need places to take off, land, and recharge. Engineers could construct vertiports, but they would bring air traffic and the risk of accidents to the surrounding community. The aircraft would require new airspace management systems. Skeptics note that the lightweight vehicles might not perform well on windy days and could pose a danger in bad weather.
But eVTOL manufacturers remain optimistic. They say the quiet aircraft won’t need a runway and will provide a safer mode of transportation than helicopters or passenger jets with more complex designs.
Uber Air told the BBC that such services will become “an affordable form of daily transportation for the masses, even less expensive than owning a car.” —J.B.