I know the engineers would throw a fit but I'd find a way to add a parachute to this craft similar to Cirrus. As of 2016 the parachute has saved 131 lives.
So yes the parachute is obviously a net positive but let's not just go slapping it on every new airframe that gets developed.
Indeed. The Diamond DA40 (without chute) arguably has a considerably better safety record than the Cirrus (with chute). Engineering decisions (even if they concern life-or-death questions) still involve tradeoffs.
The Volocopter is designed to have a ballistic rescue chute, if I understand correctly; but for such a relatively new technology (without autorotation capability) that might be the right decision.
The successor to the Osprey will hopefully be something like this, not the mechanical nightmare of that tilt-rotor. Each engine on the Osprey can power the other rotor in an emergency. The mechanical linkage for that is a nightmare.
There's a reason for that: takeoff (and landing for VTOL) require much more power than level flight, especially with a VTOL design where all of the lift comes from the engines, and gasoline engines get a lot heavier with power than electric motors. On a conventional plane, you are carrying that huge/heavy engine around for the entire flight, just for the power during takeoff.
Electric motors are a lot lighter for a given power level, but on the other hand, the "fuel" for electric motors (i.e. batteries) is a lot heavier than gasoline, limiting endurance.
So some sort of hybrid mechanism that blends the advantages and disadvantages can make a lot sense, despite the extra cost/weight of a hybrid powertrain.
What remains to be seen is how they interface with the existing aviation regulatory framework. They even hint at this in the video, with the "making this useful to society" line, and what looks to me like regulatory allowances from NZ.
I'm fairly certain that they know powered lift isn't compatible with dense urban environments, so don't expect a Fifth Element situation in NYC anytime soon. :) I'm super curious to see what the use case ends up being. My money's on super short haul, like Mountain View to Oakland sort of distances, with numerous small, dedicated taxiports similar in scale to ferry terminals.
In the SF area, there's not a ton of use for it, but perhaps a fast hop from Treasure Island to the Embarcadero (feeding into BART) would make the proposed redevelopment of Treasure/Yerba Buena island more attractive (as of right now, it's hard to imagine thinking it was a great idea to live some place where you had to take the Bay Bridge to get literally anywhere).
Going mostly over unpopulated terrain would limit (not eliminate, just limit) both safety and noise concerns.
Small archipelagos would be an obvious use case, but I wonder how it compares cost and convenience wise with using a boat.
Few areas come to mind immediately that fit that criteria. (The only one that came to mind personally as a "maybe" was the small Pacific coastal communities stretching up British Columbia up through Alaska, that are mostly served by water taxi now. I don't see an advantage even there initially.)
One other possibility I see for this if there are significant advantages to this over helicopters in certain situations, it might compete with services currently provided that way. (EG: Could this replace a helicopter air ambulance? Is there differences (engine volume comes to mind) that it would be desirable to replace helicopters with this for the tourism market? Etc.)
Airstrips are low-throughput, you could imagine that VTOL air taxis could offer a lot more individual vehicles in the same geographic footprint. And they're much faster than ferries. They could potentially fly over shipping lanes that make bridges difficult due to height restrictions, and underwater tunnels are expensive.
If going over a natural area, people might have fewer environmental concerns about flying air taxis over it than building a rail or road line through it.
Some areas I could see it being vaguely plausible are: Kitsap Penninsula or Vashon Island to Seattle. The various islands of NYC. The various islands of Hong Kong. Between Copenhagen and Malmo. I'm sure there are more.
I don't think this would add up to a $20B business or anything, but it's unclear to me that Page cares about that.
Not to mention flying across the bay. There are lots of commutes that involve going north or south, then crossing a congested bridge, then north or south again. Those could be replaced with a straight shot.
BTW for context re: maintenance, on a light aircraft such as a Cessna 172, you must conduct a 100 hour/annual inspection. This would be a deep inspection by automotive standards. This involves taking the cowling off and doing compression tests on each cylinder, for example. The recommended engine Time Before Overhaul is 1800 hours I believe. Removing some of those costs would be a boon to a transport operation that requires high-uptime operation.
 More complete list here: https://www.cessnaflyer.org/images/PDF/annual_inspection_che...
I'm also not immediately seeing how this would not require a pilots license - more likely a helicopter license, though this is easily debatable.
So perhaps not billionaires, but millionaires to be sure.
I could easily be wrong, but the aircraft they were displaying looked like a 2 seater, not 4.
Edit: they're working on both concurrently, it seems: https://kittyhawk.aero/
A traditional car achieves about 1 mile/kWh. An electric car achieves 3 miles/kWh, since the electric drivetrain is much more efficient. An electric plane might achieve around 2 mile/kWh. So, worse than an electric car, but better than a conventional car.
Some background: A car has aerodynamic and roll drag. At typical speeds (50 mph), they're of approximately the same magnitude. A plane has aerodynamic (parasitic) drag, similar to a car, but no roll drag, but instead an additional aerodynamic drag, the so-called induced drag, that is concomitant with generating lift. At typical speeds (higher than a car though), they're also approximately the same magnitude.
With lots of simplifications, one can thus say that one basically trades roll drag for induced (=lift generating) drag.
EDIT TO ADD: Link, the economics section starts on page 81 or so: https://www.uber.com/elevate.pdf
"These examples for car and VTOL have only considered the energy required to cruise at a
specific speed, and doesn’t include the additional energy required to get the vehicle to cruise
for either the car (acceleration) or VTOL (takeoff). "
They know exactly why this figures are missing.
If we take the performance section for the Cessna 172 N, for example, we see that it burns 8.4 gallons per hour at a (speedy) 75% power cruise. It takes 10 minutes to climb up to 6000 ft, and burns 1.9 gallons. In cruise, it would burn 1.4 gallons in that time. So, the climb requires about a third more.
So, given that PEVA (personal electric VTOL aircraft) would likely cruise at fairly low altitudes, and the climbing constitute only a small part of a flight, say a quarter, the total extra fuel consumption would be a fairly minor increase on top of the quoted numbers.
Note also that cars tend to accelerate and brake much more than aircraft tend to climb and descent.
One thing that often gets neglected when talking about aircraft range is the fuel requirements - you need to have enough fuel to get to your destination airport, decide not to land there, go to the next best airport, and potentially sit in a hold for a while before actually landing. This is especially hard on electric aircraft since they're already energy-strapped. I'm guessing that the 62 mile figure includes destination+alternate+reserve fuel.
I wonder how long they've been working on Cora
And clearly they have built multiple aircraft (I haven't found N-numbers for all of them yet).
Are we going to dump a massive amount of heat into the environment if flying vehicles become as popular as ordinary taxis ?
Previously the only way to get to these remote areas is via light aircraft and helicopters. “Flying doctor” and nurses weren’t uncommon. (Our midwife used to fly in, deliver a baby and fly back home for tea.)
Public transportation, especially long distance ones, are poor. (Comparing to Switzerland and China.) Dunedin is only 100 miles away from Queenstown but it usually takes us 4:30 to 5:00 to get there by car.
So if you see this news from these perspectives, you’ll see why it’s so cool and why the downsides aren’t that bad at all.
Electricity would certainly make them at least little bit quieter.
But the fact that it can be done in one day should give you a hint as to the breadth of the South Island of NZ. Something like this would especially benefit our isolated West Coast, or if it can safely land in mountainous areas would be of great use in hunting.
Here in the UK we have the Coast to Coast walk. It's 192 miles. The record is 39 hours and a bit, so just under two days. That shouldn't give you any hint at all that the country is that narrow everywhere though, just as the race in NZ doesn't.
And while you may now see the advantage in remote areas, do not forget that when you get faster out you get in faster and the amount of people (and hence general noise) will increase so much. If a commute of one hour is acceptable for most people, its just the range those people live in that increases. And even if traffic is not that dense, some 100 dB noise every 2 minutes can be as annoying as a busy street nearby.
I always have the feeling that people always just look what they could do if they had this kind of technology and not what other people might do with it.
If flying taxis work great for New Zealand’s use cause, are you really opposed to developing it because it won’t work in your country? What an odd way to think about technology.
In terms of cities the simple solution is to prevent these from landing outside of designated areas.
At some point you have to accept the laws of physics.
Perhaps I'm nitpicking but its worth noting that Haast Pass was opened in '65 and Dunedin to Queenstown takes 3.5 hrs without breaking the speed limit.
But yeah, flying cars would be a boon for many parts of Nuw Zulund
Current rules on helicopters are OK, since they are very expensive to purchase and operate, but drop those an order of magnitude and I don't think that will be the case.
Apart from ecological concerns, there are also social trade-offs: flying cars may allow you to get to work. But they do not facilitate the social interaction that comes from strolling down Main Street, having a coffee, and interacting with people you may meet.
So, the simplest solution would appear to be some road improvements, rather than noise pollution for the people who enjoy the quiet enjoyment of rural areas
That's a sample size of one, but I suspect at least a few other people will agree if they're ever in need of medical care. People are fickle; they say they want quiet when tourists are rummaging around, but don't even care about a helicopter landing in their backyard when there's a doctor on board.
See their launch video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeFxjRMv5U8 where they specifically mention how quiet it is (and the noise profile in the video indeed seems not annoying at all).
It’s hard to say if it’s noisier than a car, but I wouldn’t say it’s quiet at all.
While taking off and landing, I expect it to be very noisy and cause a lot of wind.
With work, the landing and takeoff could be very fast - maybe just a couple of seconds until it starts to get up to speed and can use the quiet wings rather than noisy tiny propellers.
Then we’d need to start investing in active cloaking methods :)
I would love to see it in action and get to fly around myself. Fun times. But imagine a million of these in the air at the same time like you would have over LA or the Bay Area.
The technology for quiet drones exist (blade design) it’s just that companies don’t give a fuck. Maybe with regulation...
Have you lived in a city before?
I go out to the street, and all I hear is cars passing by.
I go into my apartment, and I hear the drone of my A/C. When it shuts off, the drone of the exterior A/C of a nearby building starts up. Then one couple below me start yelling at each other. A dog starts barking across the street behind my house. A subway car rumbles by below me. Later, a freight train blares in the distance.
And you think a little "whrrrrr" above my building for 6 seconds is going to register??
I know many of my next door neighbors and luckily don't have any habitual yellers or badly trained dogs near to me. Early morning garbage trucks once a week and gardeners leaf blowing in front of leafless condos is the biggest noise problems. Cars are not so noisy as the narrow street keeps most people driving under 25 mpg. I can hear the freight trains as they pass through Jack London square, but that is a couple of miles away. Maybe I have just stumbled upon a high density urban setting that somehow is not so noisy compared to others. Have you walked around Paris? There are lots of quiet streets right in the middle of the city.
Maybe a million of these flying around the Bay would be fine and I'd love to see them work and then tested out for noise. I sure hope they are so quiet you would not notice them. Traffic congestion is making living in the Bay Area much more unpleasant than it could be.
Almost entirely because of how car ownership is structured now. People most often buy 4dr cars and only use 1-2 seats 90% of the time.
A subscription-based self-driving fleet car system would change this dynamic where you only order a 4dr+ car/SUV/van for a ride when needed.
Otherwise a small 2dr electric vehicle without a large front motor will likely be the default in the future.
On-demand cars will be great for the environment and efficiency of highways...
Not to mention there has been some talk about self-driving cars linking up like trains on freeways to conserve energy and better utilize space at very high speeds.
Linking up cars sounds great! Maybe we could make the cars electric. And we could create escape hatches to walk between them. We could make them shorter so the car is essentially a seat. And then we could make them 100% subscription based and shared so you never take them away. I think I might just have reinvented trains!
Our obsession with automobiles borders on insanity. Yes, the last mile is hard to do with public transit but for high capacity, high cost thoroughfares trains win every time.
That's a great point that I hadn't yet considered. In terms of finite energy resource demand it's not as big of a deal when the average car both smaller and electric. But in terms of traffic and related resource utilization this will ultimately become a far more common phenomenon, even possibly in the top 1-2 most frequent scenarios as driverless cars attempt to reach a new client or drive to the closest automated charging port.
I'd be curious to see the traffic/resource impact of such a hypothetical scenario. Although I anticipate some smarter people than me are already calculating these costs. At least I hope so!
The current method of funding roads with fuel tax won't work any more, and it doesn't make sense for the taxpayer to pay for roads if they barely use a car and take public transport. I am optimistic this method of taxing cars will make public transport much more attractive, especially in peak, and encourage off peak driving. This will be especially important for empty cars - they don't care about congestion so without a tax would fill up the road for extremely unimportant tasks.
This also gives the option of different rates if the vehicle is empty or not - I have no idea if an empty vehicle should be charged more or less, but it's good we have time to think through these things!
I am interested how the politics of this will work out - in Sydney the government often builds toll roads when rail would be more appropriate as they can privatise roads and get additional income. This leads to the government building more freeways to the airport when we already have a fast train there (which has a huge station access fee as a result of a previously botched public/private partnership).
If you really need to have all new transportation systems be public trains to feel good about building it, then, yes, there will be public trains in these tunnels.
200kph close packed cars would be nice, though you have to deal with:
- Close packing which definitely needs autonomous driving. I want something we can build in 2018.
- Merging at 200kph in tunnels. Those on and off ramps are expensive to dig.
- Load balancing between on/off ramps. If everyone wants to get off the same exit at 200kph I don't know where the load goes when you have to transition to 50kph traffic. Are you going to disallow exiting from an off ramp if it's at capacity and would slow down the tunnel? Where do these people get off?
- Where do you park all of these cars? That's a hell of a lot of downtown parking! How much does downtown land cost per square metre, multiplied by the area of the sum of cars in the city?
Trains solve all these problems, and more importantly are here right now! It's not a technical problem, it's a political one.
I don't understand the obsession with all these far off possibilities that might be better than rail.
I'm just as big a fan of Elon Musk as the next person but Hyperloop has given a lot of ammunition to opponents of rail. "Hyperloop/The Boring Company is coming so we shouldn't build efficient metros that are already implemented in Japan/China/Europe and reduce reliance on cars and foreign oil."
Yes, automatic driving only in these tunnels. Current tech in a Tesla Car (and some others) would already be able to automatically drive in a tunnel today with very short spacing, no problem. Here in 2018.
"Merging at 200kph in tunnels. Those on and off ramps are expensive to dig."
Yes. Tunnels are expensive. They are getting more expensive to dig. Thus the Boring company. This is the biggest problem with a tunnel system, but tunneling for trains is not cheaper.
"Load balancing between on/off ramps."
An automatic car can know if an off ramp is going to be full. Pay extra(congestion pricing, progressives love that) to exit or take one before or after.
"Where to park"
Automatic electric car goes back home until Miller Time or is rented to other people for the day.
Rail is not a point to point system. This is the problem. How are you getting trains to within a 5 minute walking distance of everyone's home in LA and can go direct (no train transfers) to a 5 minute walk to anywhere else they want to go. Not likely. With this system, being a 5 minute drive to the nearest tunnel entrance and then the connected tunnel system puts you out with a 5 minute drive to your destination. This would be possible.
The great thing about cities are the people. Being able to have a huge set of people that people can interact with and have long term relationships with. Groups formed by these people. I think it would be cool to have a city where most people can have a piece of land to grow things on and also have the possible interaction and long term relationships with >10 million other humans.
It's a physical impossibility, no congestion pricing will make more supply.
If it's 8:30am on a weekday, and you have a large suburban area serviced by a tunnel exiting in a much smaller downtown area, how will there ever be enough exits?
Have you seen how crowded a European train station is at peak hour? All these cars would have to go somewhere.
Some back of the napkin maths in an ideal scenario:
200kph = 55.5556ms tunnel, 1 lane, 3 metre windscreen to next windscreen distance (car length + distance in between).
55.556 / 3 = 18.51 ish cars/second
= 66,636 cars per hour.
This site  says LA's average off peak average speed is 26.8mph. Super rough estimate.
This graph  says 26.8mph gives you ~1800 cars/hour/lane.
So that's 37 downtown lanes per one lane of 200kph Boring Tunnel traffic.
37 lanes are 3.7m wide, so that's 137 metres wide!
Sydney's current trains take 28,000 people per hour  in the real world, in 2018, driven by humans, with humans exiting stations. Put in 2 - 3 train lines underground, which is say 6 metres wide, chuck a station on top with escalators pumping people in and out, and people can walk through the city. Put a park on top.
Sydney Central Station has 27 platforms, 10 underground. That's like 280,000 people per hour on the underground lines by those dodgy estimates, or 5 x 200kph 3 back to back traffic lanes (not tested yet), or 185 lanes of 26mph traffic which is ¾ of a kilometre wide! And it was built in 1906 out of sandstone! There are ~ 5 CBD stations in Sydney. A 925 lane wide road sounds like fun. And its here in 2018 and it costs me AU$1.50 to use.
Cars don't belong in cities. Cars belong in the suburbs, which is where they can drive you to your train station. Tokyo's Shinkansen was opened in 1964 and went 220kph. If the train is more than 1 minute off the timetable you get an apology letter for your employer. They took the original trains out of service in 2008. The USA is so behind.
As I said, transport isn't a technical problem, it's a political one.
The future is here (high speed rail), it just isn't evenly distributed yet.
But those wankers on bikes with loud pipes are still the noisiest.
In conclusion I'm not that bothered by flying cars. If you want to reduce noise in my area, get electric bikes on the road.
go to Bogota and tell me you think taking a helicopter around the city is rare.
Ekranoplans where around for a while. Uses ground effect to fly quite fast and efficiently. Imagine we made a solar wing, instead of propellers, use water propellers to push for extra efficiency. Anyone wanna do the math?
Do I have to take a normal taxi to the airport or an elevator to the top floor of the nearest high rise to get a ride?
But how many of those criteria do you think that even Page could get, simultaneously? Two, maybe three? Flying cars are known for being a somewhat difficult engineering problem; that they've been hard enough to prevent partial solutions may turn out to have been a blessing.
And it's not like there aren't other solutions to transportation issues, either.
I think this is an industry worth growing, but hopefully it won't become too mainstream. Not sure we want thousands of these flying above our heads every day. I like Musk's underground transit plan a bit more.
Also, can it lands in the streets? is that safe ?
By the time the vehicle has left the tube it's high enough where noise at ground level cannot be heard.
Something with blades could also carry less juice (or none) and glide to its destination.
Why don't they even try to accelerate and bring relevant technology to the masses?