back to article Added green burden could ground flying cars for good

Regular readers of the Reg will be familiar with the many obstacles that lie between us and our long-desired flying cars. Unfortunately, rather than any boxes being ticked off on the checklist, it rather appears as though yet another has been added. More and more, people seem to expect their already difficult enough flying car …


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  1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Pete Silver badge


    Forget any idea of a personal vehicle that requires an engine to maintain it's position - they're just too unsafe for the average Joe. (Don't believe me? take a look at the parlous state of some of the cars you see on the road.)

    When a car dies, once any forward motion has been disipated you can just get out and walk - no chance of that with an aircraft. The closest you can get is with some kind of neutral bouyancy vehicle - so long as you don't try to get out, naturally.

    You would, of course, need some way to manage the uptrust, so that a single individual can pop over to the shops - and still "fly" back with an extra payload of shopping, or so you don't go floating off into the stratosphere on you way to work on Monday, after taking the family and mother-in-law for a sunday float down to the seaside.

    However, the whole idea is doomed to falure - you think petrol shortages bite. Wait until the world runs out of Helium!

  3. Grant
    Dead Vulture

    It matters now.

    "Let's not hang another millstone round the flying car's neck before it's even born. Let's get it working first, or at least get the roadable light aircraft working first - and make it green later, when doing so would actually matter."

    Let's not hang another stone around the planets neck. Let's not get production up large enough so it's fuel consuption actually maters and it has an industrial lobby, then try and fix it. Fix the problem before mass production not after mass production. I don't care if you want your new toy, I want an ocean that is not giant carbonated drink.

  4. storng.bare.durid
    Thumb Down

    Safety issues...

    Flying cars are not a good idea when you think about it.

    If people can't be trusted to drive simple cars which are a lot easier to control and do not fall out of the sky when they lose power...

    What about flying cars?

    I vote no flying cars till if and when we get anti-gravity technology like those cars in that film "Fifth Element".

    And even then, our wonderful friends in the US may deem them too much of a potential terrorist risk.

  5. Joe Cooper

    Moller skycar

    This reminds me of that wanker with the skycar that he's been pimping for the past 30 years. It's always electric. That's how you can tell it's bullshit. It's just a buzzword. People expect futuristic things to be electric so it must be electric.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    The biggest hurdle

    Since the vast majority of people who commute to work have serious difficulty managing a road going car which only has a 2D plane to work in, a move to a flying vehicle is completely nuts unless all control is removed from the driver.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Czech republic?

    I was pretty sure that Pipistrel was from Slovenia. The .si domain should be a clue...

  8. Timothy J. Schutte

    Flying Cars???

    Most people can barely navigate their vehicles in two dimensions--giving them flying cars would be catastrophic!

  9. Charles Manning
    Dead Vulture


    Worse still, the classic flying cars have no wings and thus the glide ratio of a brick. This glider thing could glide, but it won't handle queuing/gridlock very well.

    One of the hardest part of making this work is getting all the traffic control systems in place. 3D gridlock, speed cameras etc... It isn't just the cars, it's the whole transport system that needs to be figured out to make flying cars viable. Does every driveway need to be a runway?

    But by far the hardest thing in making this work is the human factor. Technology uptake is no longer limited by technological advancement. These days we can make all kinds of stuff. The limitation is our ability to adapt and use these technologies, We already know that 2D cars are at the limit of what we can handle so imagine the problems with 3D cars. Teenager wankery and doddering grannies in 3D would boost transport casualties significantly. Thankfully the plummet should be terminal making for less people in hospital.

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  11. Peter Lenz

    But what will this mean for...

    What does this mean for the Hoverboard? Will they still be invented before the 2015 deadline and if not what does it mean for Back to the Future 2?!

    Mine is the one with the Mr. Fusion logo...

  12. JohnG

    I wouldn't drive around London... something that is light and flimsy enough to fly.

  13. Miami Mike

    Flying car-nage

    Only way this is ever going to work is by starting with everyone going for a ride in the brain boost machine from Forbidden Planet. THEN we might be able to have a chance at surviving flying cars.

    The level of skill required to drive a car is abysmal - take a look at the results from driving standard 2D surface vehicles. Mostly, 2D drivers only need to have a pulse (although that might be optional) and be able to find their car keys.

    Flying an airplane in 3D takes a LOT more skill and care than driving a car. 99% of the w*nkers on the road today wouldn't survive the first two minutes in a flying car or even a conventional airplane. It is utterly beyond their "skill" and concentration level. It requires 50 to 60 hours of training just to earn a basic private pilot license, and that's for simple aircraft in good weather. It takes another 200 hour or so before you're really any good at it.

    For flying cars to be possible, it will be necessary to take the driver out of the loop almost completely. The entire input from the driver should be to tell the vehicle the destination. After that, autonomous systems would have to start the engine(s), aviate and navigate, and land at the destination. I see multiple, redundant computers, some on-board to operate the systems, and some centralized to handle traffic flows, route around obstacles and weather, etc.

    Unless we want to pave the entire world with landing strips, the vehicle needs to have vertical takeoff and landing capability. Additionally, if the cruise speed isn't significantly higher than standard ground vehicles, the whole thing is a waste of time. So we need a mostly automatic vehicle, connected to a complex central command and control infrastructure, and the vehicle needs to be able to take off and land vertically, then transition to a cruise speed of say 250 mph (The V-22 Osprey - and its painful teething problems - comes to mind), and be able to do so for at least three to four hours, when loaded totally haphazardly by someone who has absolutely no idea what they are about . . . and did I mention that this vehicle is going to need quite a bit more attention and maintenance than is "lavished" on the average car? ("If it starts, its OK to drive!")

    And it has to be green, too.

    Sorry, guys, ain't gonna happen. (Someone please prove me wrong, but I'm not holding my breath.)

  14. Chris G

    Fly/drive test

    Whilst I agree with a lot of the commentary here that the average joe is not to be trusted with even an ordinary car, it is wrong to use that as a reason to stifle research. The first thing that would happen if such a thing became a real possibility is that all the relevant authorities would come up with a new pilot/drivers test, followed rapidly by a means of gaining maximum revenue, so millions of flying cars in our air overnight is hardly going to be likely. Plus, as somebody else mentioned there is a real risk that the `war against terrorism´ would put an almost instant stop to anything that could give people as much freedom as a flying car could.

    However, advancing research is always a good thing, sooner or later the means to power personal aviation will be a reality, when the problem of powering a flying volkswagen or mini is overcome it would be useful to have sorted out the other problems as well. what a bunch of killjoys! Probably the same people who hate it when a fast bike overtakes them in a traffic jam.

  15. Colin

    @ The biggest hurdle

    Just like modern aircraft then?

    Future Aircraft will have three things in the cockpit.

    A computer, a human and a dog.

    The computer will fly the plane.

    The human will feed the dog.

    And the dog will bite the human if the human tries to touch the controls of the aircraft.

  16. AndyC

    Minoritory report...

    Bring on the automatic pods and highways, although with hopefully bettter door locks...

    Skull and Bones because that is what should have happened to the small guy riding the pods at high speeds going from horizontal to verticle and jumping all over the place... silly man...

  17. Chris C

    Forget about it

    Flying cars are, and have always been, a stupid idea. They might be good eye/brain candy in sci-fi movies and books, but they're an awful idea in reality. Anybody who expects air travel to still be relatively safe once many of the current road drivers take to the sky in PAVs is an idiot, plain and simple. The only reason air travel is safer than road travel right now is because of the relatively few "vehicles" in the air at any given time. Don't forget, we already have air travel accidents. And that's with "drivers" who have been professionally trained and actually know what they're doing, and "vehicles" that already fly themselves.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ya dreaming.

    Apply the advanced air traffic control systems to cars, electronic separation and braking etc and we could have safe roads. Leave the skies for the birds for christs sake.

  19. Anteaus
    Black Helicopters

    Good for fun but probably not for commuting.

    As a sport pilot, I see electric motorgliders having a lot to offer. They are already in production, and offer a silent means of self-launching, ideal for areas where noise complaints are likely. Next stage would be to combine the electric drive with solar-panels over the entire wing surface, giving free and green cruise-power in 'blue' conditions. (Which are the conditions when you typically can't soar) The limiting factor here is not technology (it exists already) but the very high cost of solar panels. The new flexible types may make a difference here.

    While these are great sport-machines for recreational flying, as for a flying car to replace the automobile, I don't see that as feasible with current technology. Fixed-wing aircraft need a lot of space for takeoff and landing, and are too wide to use a typical urban road for this purpose, never mind the safety aspects of having a plane land at ~60mph where kids are playing. That, and aircraft brakes are nowhere near as strong as a car's, they're not designed for emergency stops, so having planes and cars on the same roadspace would be asking for a prang. A runway in each housing-estate just wouldn't exactly be popular with the land developers in terms of the space it would use. 'Copters, while free from most of the above problems are too noisy, too expensive to run, and need a big parking-slot.

    Then, of course, anything short of a heavy jet has weather limitations which would restrict its use to certain days only, whereas a groundcar is usable in all but the worst weather.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    kilowatts per hour?????

    Can the people who write these things please catch on to the fact that there is no such thing as kilowatts per hour??? A kilowatt is a unit of rate - the same as mph - so it's the same as saying miles per hour per hour - it really pisses me off every time i see it! How are we meant to read an article and remotely respect what its saying when it has stuff like this???

  21. Mike

    In the future, no commutes

    What if in the future people rarely needed to drive cars to work, telecommuting instead or taking mass transit. That likelihood seems positively correlated to the price of oil. So you don't need a flying car to get groceries (bike instead) or to purchase large items (use UPS or FedEx).

    But to go long distances, its faster and safer to use some kind of computer controlled vehicle. One of the toughest things about aviation is the air traffic control, preventing collisions and managing when you're landing. If everything is effectively computer controlled and managed, general aviation is a lot more feasible.

    So forget about commuter planes, but I'll take a plane anyway.

  22. Ole Juul

    You want green?

    Anything cool has to burn a lot of gas or it just won't work. So forget going green if you want to have any fun. There is one system that might work though ... I've been contemplating the idea of using a large slingshot (UK=catapult) to get (some people) off to work in a hurry. You need one at home and one at work.

  23. Mark G Forbes

    Light sport planes are already almost there

    My light-sport trike flies at 40mph, lands at 30 in just a couple hundred feet, and could (with some effort) have its wings furled and operate as a road vehicle. But practically speaking, it's a non-starter. While I *could* land it on a local football field (either variant) I'm sure that if I did I'd soon be facing a local authority on some sort of charge. Commuting would be a pain due to the road/air transition time, and it's not road-legal anyway since it lacks brake lights (and indeed, brakes except for the front wheel) headlights, turn signals, bumpers, windshield wipers and all that clatter.

    I'd love to have a flying car. What I have right now is probably about as close as you're going to get. A powered paraglider lands in just a few dozen feet, packs up small and could be used for commuting...until you try to head home into a 20mph headwind. In a car, you don't even notice. On a PPG, you're going to spend a long time going nowhere, if you can even manage to get aloft. More likely you'll glance out the window and call for a taxi. Turbulence could ruin your day on a permanent basis, and it'll never be simple enough for the typical pear-person to handle.

    Padded flight suit and helmet on the end, mate.


  24. Tony Paulazzo
    Black Helicopters


    Wow, these are the sort of comments about the motor vehicle over coach & horse, the cinema over theatre, language over grunts. The human race does actually get more intelligent over time (recent behaviours excepted admittedly).

    Flying cars won't be the product of present tech, it'll have to be anti-grav (and don't any flat earthers say it's impossible) and fusion powered, so no, until scientists' and researchers get off their butts with internal combustion (a good idea 100 years ago - or whenever), and using up non renewable sources of energy it won't happen.

    Oh, and conspiratorial nutjobs reckon the major oil companies are sitting on the really good idea's until they've squeezed every penny they can out of natural resources. 3 billion profits (profits=money made-money spent)yet petrol's gone up by about 10p a litre in the same 3 months.

    What, you don't think these sharks have a plan for when the oil runs out?

  25. Ashley McConnell

    Pipstral are Slovenian

    Not Czech: -

  26. Roxton

    I have a flying car.

    No jokes. My uncle manufactures them, and I've got a prototype because I helped to design it. Imagine a paramotor (wikipedia it if you don't know what that is), and then replace the backpack and fan with light car (about the size of one of the old Mini's) where the fan folds up out of the boot. . The wing is self-retractable and expandable, and you have to be going at thirty-or-so miles an hour for about 20 metres to take off. And safety isn't an issue, because if the engine breaks or runs out of petrol, then you've already got a parachute out, by nature of the wing. We're also working on something awesome motorbike-wise which works completely differently, but the military got interested and we've signed an NDA so I can't say anything about it here.

    But expect a working flying car before the end of the year.

  27. Mike Powers

    Lots of idiots in this thread

    Part-and-parcel of PAV development is advanced autopilots. The "human factor" that the elite snotheads here like to snigger about is entirely removed. You push the button for "WORK" or "GROCERY STORE" or "COMIC BOOK SHOP" and the thing takes off on its own, flies on its own, avoids other vehicles on its own, and lands on its own. It's a personal robot taxi.

  28. Martin Usher

    You've got this basic problem...

    You get into a plane, take off and go up to cruising altitude. What you've done is lift a tonne or so of stuff two or three kilometers off the ground, like climbing a mountain. When its time to land you then have to get rid of all that energy -- waste it.

    There's only one way that this problem has even been slightly addressed. In the early days of electric rail traction current supplied to the trains was DC, the hope being that the power generated by dynamic braking going down hill would help power a train going uphill. Todays hybrid cars try to do the same thing, but they, too, are imperfect.

    A sailplane is a fun way to get about but its not very practical. There's been one prototype electric sailplane but that's got the problem of lifting a wing full of batteries. Weight and sailplanes don't get on.

    Most Reg readers won't know anything about light planes. They make a subcompact car feel roomy and they have virtually no carrying capacity. They're not fuel efficient -- at today's prices its cheaper to go commercial than burn the AvGas.

  29. Daniel B.

    Flying vehicles

    I for one think that the Transition is a good idea, but not much as a short-commuter, but more like something for long trips. Given the gridlock on all roads entering/leaving Mexico City, flying cuts off about 1 hour or more, plus the added advantage of actually reaching your destination faster! And highway traffic is usually lighter than city traffic, so it isn't as bad as it may seem.

    Actually, for a true flying car to succeed I think that some kind of anti-grav drive would be needed, as this would basically render flying cars as easy to drive as current 2D cars. Though crashing on sykyways would be dangerous, especially when flying high!

    Maybe we should first go for those maglev pods from Minority Report, coupled with fast rail transportation :)

  30. Jamie Honan

    John Monnett's Sonex

    John Monnett of Sonex fame has been working with a brushless DC cobalt motor.

    John was in Sydney recently. He said that putting the batteries and motor in one of his gliders was 'too easy', and the real challenge was to use one in a more conventional plane.



  31. Chris G

    @ Roxton

    Please, please, I want the bike derivative, particularly if it is based on something like a Suzuki GSXR 750. So far the only thing that beats it for fun is sex, maybe a flying Gixer would slot somewhere in between. Or if it is made for two in tandem........

  32. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Kilowatts per hour?????

    I think one maybe talking out of ones lower aperture....

    Never heard of the term Kilowatt hour?

    Yours is the one on the floor...

  33. Herby

    Kilowatts per, etc... (@ Chris G)

    There is a BIG difference between "kilowatts per hour" (nonsense) and "kilowatt-hours" (actually 3.6 Mega Joules) which is a unit of energy.

    Kilowatt is a unit of POWER. Power multiplied by time is ENERGY.

    I don't know the exact term used in the FFF units system, but I'm sure someone will enlighten me.

  34. Terry

    Re: Kilowatts per hour?????

    It would appear that Mr Cowatrd was the one talking from his "lower aperture". The quote from the article was -

    "a light aircraft that would fly on a battery at 15 kilowatts per hour"

    And that is complete nonsense.

  35. Carlos_c

    Parajet Skycar

    there was an article in the Observer on sunday about the Parajet Skycar...basically a dune buggy with big fan and paraglider attached...quite a simple idea really

    Some trip planned to Timbuktu planned with it

  36. Marco
    Dead Vulture


    Maybe the comment will be published this time: The continous and one-sided bashing of environmental issues lately being seen on the Reg gets tiresome. If your publication somehow changed to a conservative political gazette without me noticing it, please let me know, and I will look for IT news elsewhere.

    Let's see if this criticism, free of personal attacks and unsavoury language, gets censored again, which may prompt you to rethink your ongoing criticism of Wikipedia in general and how they treat their critics.

  37. Laurie


    F*ck off you lot - I want my flying car!

  38. War Monger
    Thumb Up

    Flying Cars Are Inherently Green

    even if they spew greenhouse gasses. More flying cars = more accidental deaths = fewer people = less emissions. I say bring 'em on and give 'em away for free. Those of us who choose not to use them will pray we're not hit by one falling out of the sky.

  39. druck Silver badge

    We should have done it by now

    If we hadn't done everything to discourage British innovation from the 1950s onwards, our white coated boffins would have come up with nuclear powered directed thrust (like the Harrier) personal vehicles, and we'd have spent the past 50 years making them safe and quiet. Instead its got to the point we can't even build a big shed to get people and bags on and off aircraft.

  40. Mark
    Dead Vulture

    Planes more safe?

    Yeah, really.

    The most difficult bits and the most likely to cause an accident is landing and taking off.

    And a transatlantic flight has one take off and one landing. And a whole lot of fuck all in between.

    Commuting? Well unless we only have one person working there, we have a lot of people flying in to one point: their employers' building. And that isn't going to be a long way out of the way.

    Another factor is that a plane holding 400 people takes up less room than 400 small planes.

    And what company has room for an airstrip?

    Sheesh, it's not like we need flying cars.

    You're just trying to jump on the "bash the greens" bandwagon.

    (and how many birds will be killed by these craft? After all, you got all pissy about wind turbines killing a few...)

  41. Peter W


    good to see I'm not the only one who's seen the Reg's switch to anti-anything environmentally friendly. I blame a couple of the authors in particular, but I won't bother naming them (they know who they are...)

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