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Flying Cars

Who remembers the Jetson’s show which aired in the 1960s? George and Jane whirled through the air with nary a care while Elroy and Judy stayed at home with Astro. Is that the kind of flying we’re talking about here? No

Known as eVTOL, or "electric vertical takeoff and landing," vehicles, Uber developed the first “flying taxi” in 2018. A combination of a helicopter and a drone, Uber Aviation product chief, Nikhil Goel said, "Our goal is to radically improve global mobility.” Goel mentioned the all-electric flyer can achieve speeds over 300 kilometers (200 miles) an hour with a range of 100 kilometers (60 miles) on a battery charge.

"We fly a lot so we can prove to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and the public that these aircraft are safe," he said.

Uber’s idea was to begin marketing these as simply another form of ride share to customers beginning in 2023. In 2020, however, Uber handed off their venture to a start-up company, Joby Aviation, and invested $75 million in the project. The two companies will partner on the Uber Elevate when it becomes available.

A company in southern China has developed the XPeng X2, a flying taxi for two. Powered by eight propellers and a battery, its top speed is 80mph-pretty decent.

Dubai, a city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates known for luxury shopping, ultramodern architecture and a lively nightlife scene, would like to be among the first to adopt the eVTOL. Resorts there would like to use flying vehicles to travel from one luxury resort to another.

For approximately $8,000 down you can buy a flying vehicle from the Swedish company, Jetson. Full price is approximately $98,000. Jetson claims their flying vehicle can travel at about 63mph and takes just minutes to learn how to fly. Two joysticks are provided in its cockpit-one to control the height of the vehicle and the other to control its direction. Jetson says that with a few minutes of training and the help of a computer, anyone can learn to fly it easily. Bonus: It is ultra lightweight, so a pilot’s license is not required to fly the vehicle in the United States.

"I think flying cars have the potential to eliminate a lot of time and increase productivity and open the sky corridors to transportation," said Chao-Yang Wang, r Chair of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Electrochemical Engine Center, Penn State. He went on to explain that unlike airplanes, which use horizontal types of landings, EVs land vertically in the exact spot you need to be. That takes up a lot of battery life, he explained.

Obviously, the long and the short of it seems to be that it will be a while before we must worry about metal falling on us from the sky. While Sweden may be ready to roll on into the friendly skies, the rest of us are not quite there yet. KK

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