Urban Air Mobility (UAM) - Are Flying Cars Ready for Take-Off? Benefits and Challenges of Personal, Autonomous Vertical Take-off and Landing Aircraft by Firms Including Uber, Bell, and Terrafugia
Advances in lithium-ion battery technology, computing power and electric propulsion are providing companies with the tools they need to turn science fiction into science fact. This is the first congressional hearing dedicated to the topic of flying cars. More
This excellent report has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction - this is not a print replica, and thus it is suitable for all devices. For decades, flying cars have been the object of our imagination. They represent aspiration, innovation and the freedom of exploration. The entertainment industry has popularized the concept in everything from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to The Jetsons, from Star Wars to Back to the Future. Our focus today is on Urban Air Mobility (UAM), a concept that can include delivery drones and personal air vehicles as well as cars that can both be driven and flown. (That's different than flying down the highway at high speeds.) Advances in lithium-ion battery technology, computing power and electric propulsion are providing companies with the tools they need to turn science fiction into science fact. This is the first congressional hearing dedicated to the topic of flying cars. One company, Terrafugia, says that their vehicle could be available as soon as next year. It's called the Transition and can drive like a car, fit into a standard garage, and be flown in and out of over 5,000 local airports. And Uber has a bold timeline to make air-based on-demand transportation available to the public in five years.
Companies like Bell are working to design and build the vehicles that will operate on the network envisioned by Uber. Traffic and gridlock challenges are better overcome by cars that fly rather than drive. Flying cars also have the benefit of enabling emergency vehicles to reach their destinations faster and provide more mobility options for those who cannot operate a car.
Stuck in a traffic jam, who among us has never dreamed of riding a flying car and coming out of that traffic and going—leaping ahead of everybody? Well, it might be on the way. What some of us could only dream of after watching episodes of The Jetsons might actually happen sooner than we think. Indeed, we will hear today many companies believe that we are in the threshold of revolutionary changes brought about by a new generation of vehicles. A multitude of concepts for vertical takeoff and landing vehicles, many of them fueled by recent advances in lightweight electric propulsion and storage capacity, are being proposed with the goal of providing convenient urban transportation. Washington, you know, can really use this, too, especially where I have to go and come from home. If proven to be safe, such concepts could result in changing the way goods are delivered and people move around. In turn, the innovation generated by UAM may result not only in creating new jobs but also enhancing the productivity of workers in existing jobs. But as with any new technology, there are challenges to its implementation. This calls for thoughtful examination. A panel established by the National Academies found in 2014 that, increasingly, autonomous aircraft pose serious questions about how they will be safely and efficiently integrated into the existing civil aviation structure. As defined by the panel, a fully autonomous aircraft would not require a pilot. The aircraft would be able to operate independently within civil airspace, interacting with air-traffic controllers and other pilots, just as if a human pilot were on board and in command.
Contents: Testimony of Dr. Jaiwon Shin, Associate Administrator, Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, NASA * Testimony of Dr. John-Paul Clarke, College of Engineering Dean's Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology * Testimony of Dr. Eric Allison, Head of Aviation Programs, Uber * Testimony of Mr. Michael Thacker, Executive Vice President, Technology and Innovation, Bell * Testimony of Ms. Anna Mracek Dietrich, Co-Founder and Regulatory Affairs, Terrafugia * Answers to Post-Hearing Questions
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