|The Flying Car Could Arrive by 2015|
April 22, 2010, Rob Kuznia -- HispanicBusiness.com
When the first sequel to Back to the Future predicted we'd be driving flying cars by 2015, it felt like a stretch.
DARPA Looks to Make a Flying Car
April 19, 2010, Ryan Fleming
The Defense Department agency DARPA is developing the Transformer (TX) vehicle, the world's first true flying car.
It is about time. After years of disappointment at the distinct lack of jetpacks and hover boards that our starry eyed childhoods promised us, the world might finally be ready to develop a real flying car, via the military.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has asked the Pentagon for additional funds to help develop the Transformer (TX) vehicle for use with military personnel in combat situations. For those unfamiliar with DARPA, it is an office in the Department of Defense that is responsible for attempting to create pretty much everything you have ever seen in a sci-fi movie that has some military applications. Artificial Intelligence, cyborg limbs and laser guns are all listed in its 2011 budget . Seriously.
While there have been a few pretenders over the years, most of the previous “flying cars” were simply very small planes or gliders that either required a runway, or assistance from another vehicle to achieve flight, not to mention very specific instructions on how to fly the vehicle. The Transformer TX would be designed for vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), and operated by anyone that can drive a car with no special training. Just like the cars in Blade Runner.
This isn't DARPA's first foray into the automotive industry. It has hosted several competitions to encourage auto makers to develop robotic automated cars, capable of driving themselves. The competitions failed to produce a working robotic system that would act autonomously, but it did help to make significant advancements in the on board computer systems of cars that are on the road today.
The Transformer TX would be designed to carry four troops with full gear, and have a range of 250 miles on a single tank of fuel. It is being designed with combat in hostile terrains in mind – especially places where roadside IED mines have become a real threat.
“TX will enable enhanced company operations of future missions with applicable use in strike and raid, intervention, interdiction, insurgency/counterinsurgency, reconnaissance, medical evacuation and logistical supply,” the official solicitation stated.
If the TX is a success and a practical, working model does become common, the consumer market can't be far behind. It has seemed to be a given that one day, cars would break away from their gravity prisons, if for no other reason than flying cars are awesome. Add in always growing road congestion, increasing premiums on available space and competition in the auto field to find the “next big thing”, and sooner or later a flying car would emerge. And again, flying cars are awesome. Despite the fact that even the world's largest automaker, Toyota, has the occasional car that can't brake (paired with the horribly ironic inability to stop accelerating), the technology for a safe flying car is available, but it is not yet practical for widespread manufacturing. So it might still be awhile before the fight for downtown parking becomes three dimensional.
Although there has been no indication from DARPA of any intent to release the technology to the public, it seems inevitable. After all, the Humvee began as a military vehicle before reaching the private sector. The proposed price tag also presents a problem. At the current estimated price of $55 million, even the wealthiest athletes and oil tycoons would be hard pressed to find room in the garage for the TX.
Assuming the AI in the DARPA labs does not become self aware and kill us all, the first prototype models could begin to terrorize pigeons and other winged animals in 2015.
Automated Air Traffic Control System Enables Fewer Pilots, Flying Cars
By Stuart Fox Posted 01.05.2010 at 6:06 pm
For the FAA, it's not the flying that keeps regular joes out of the sky. It's the landing and the navigating. Dealing with air traffic control is so attention consuming and complex that large planes require multiple crewmen, and single-pilot planes have significant restrictions and where and when they can fly.
However, a new flight management system (FMS) created by GE may automate so much of the navigation and landing that commercial flights could use only a single pilot, and the rest of us could get cleared to use flying cars.
The system, originally developed to operate military UAVs, recently began trials in the US. In the tests, GE operators give flight control instructions to the pilot, who then inputs the instructions into a computer, rather than adjusting the flight of the plane with joysticks and throttles. So far, the computer controlled plane has navigated air traffic situations more deftly than a human pilot could ever manage.
Eventually, air traffic controllers on the ground will input the instructions directly into the computer, freeing the pilot of nearly every task other than keeping the plane level and on time.
With so many difficult aspects of flying relegated to the computer, the skills needed to pilot an aircraft drop significantly. With fewer, and less difficult, tasks needed for flight, this FMS could lower the bar for safe flying to the point where it would require no more training than teenagers currently undergo in drivers ed.