Flying cars are here. Once just a Jetson’s whirlwind dream of what the future could hold, today almost 30 companies worldwide are working to corner one of the world’s newest transportation markets. For a sense of scale and level of development within this industry, here’s a quick overview.
Key Manufacturers: Some of the most notable manufacturers within the flying car and taxi industry are Germany based Lilium, Larry-Page Backed Kittyhawk, Joby Aviation in Santa-Cruz, CA, Volocopter, Airbus’ Vahana, Massachusetts based Terrafugia, Chinese Ehang, and more. All of these companies (besides Joby) have released their flying prototypes that really do work – and have been tested with passengers on board.
Regulatory Issues: One of the largest hurdles for flying taxis to overcome is certification and approval by governments worldwide so that they may be used for commercial purposes. Several companies have been creative with their development techniques – Kittyhawk is working with the Civil Aviation Authority in New Zealand, while others are lobbying slower-moving regulatory agencies like the FAA and EASA to make moves on introducing regulations tailored to flying cars and taxis.
Infrastructure: Another key consideration is infrastructure. New infrastructure is required to support flying taxi operations, and most of this infrastructure will take the commonly-used helipad in an urban area and develop it into an entire “vertiport”. Volocopter released their vertiport concept recently, claiming to have a design that can handle thousands of people per day – for an overview go here. Others like FlyBlade have received funding to amplify their current helipad infrastructure and begin to develop flying taxi focused vertiports.
Investment Opportunities: The flying car industry is burgeoning with venture capital investments from across the globe – in many cases on the order of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. FlyBlade recently received funds to advance their infrastructure, Google’s Larry-Page is backing Kittyhawk Aero, and Geely Holdings recently bought Terrafugia. These investments are just a few notable joint ventures, with new opportunities being capitalized upon daily.
Synopsis: The average projected timeline for entry to service of flying cars ranges from 5 years for some manufacturers with functional prototypes to 15 years for less fully developed concepts. Regardless of their stage of development, flying cars have attained enough traction that a critical mass of interest and investment is propelling the industry forward much quicker than expected; in general aerospace progresses slower, according to regulatory processes, but the flying car and taxi industry is redefining this paradigm by advancing the technology first and demanding regulation be updated to accommodate for an emerging technology.