Several books and movies in science fiction have shown hovercars as the thing of the future. However, these days, engineers are more excited about building flying cars. Apparently, it is more plausible to produce them as compared to hovercars. As such, many companies are in the running towards becoming the first to introduce a flying car.
How flying cars work
In general, a flying car functions like an airplane or a helicopter. The difference is that the former works at lower altitudes and it is smaller in size. In a way, flying cars are similar to drones which function as multi-rotor systems. They can take off and land vertically. Aside from that, drones can also deliver packages, take videos and pictures from high up, and dust or water agricultural grounds.
Flying cars by the 2020 Olympics
When Toyota’s Mobility Anthem ad was shown in the Super Bowl, many were hyped with the technological advances that the Japanese car maker plans to introduce. One of which is their flying car, the SkyDrive. This quadrotor craft is capable of both running on the road and flying in the air.
Ever since the idea of drones was introduced in the mainstream market, companies from the automotive industry have been exploring the possibility of applying the technology to their products. These organizations are working on developing flying cars that fundamentally share the rotorcraft design of drones.
These days, Japanese start-up company Cartivator has been getting a lot of attention for their work. Receiving a whopping $370,000 investment from Toyota, they are the team behind the design of SkyDrive, which was featured in the Japanese auto maker’s Super Bowl ad.
According to Cartivator business director Ryutaro Mori, what they plan to introduce would become the smallest flying car in the world. Its size will enable it to take off and land anywhere. Specifically, SkyDrive is designed to carry two passengers. Apart from that, the rotors stay folded when the car is driven, and they unfold when the craft transforms into flight mode.
Mori is still unable to say how much SkyDrive might cost. However, it is reasonable to expect that it will be more expensive than any average vehicle. Toyota and Cartivator are working together to have the prototype ready in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The companies are aiming to have their flying car play an important role in the lighting of the torch.
We’ll have flying cars, but what about hovercars?
Cartivator and Toyota are not the only companies working towards building the first flying car. The designs from different manufacturers vary, but something all of them have in common is the lack of hovering technology.
Ever since we saw Luke Skywalker drive a hovercar with C3PO and R2D2 in Star Wars, we’ve always fantasized about seeing one on our roads. It has been over 40 years since that blockbuster movie was released, but why don’t we have hovercars yet? Is it simply destined to be a fantasy forever?
Well, the technology that might come into developing one is quite complicated. After all, hovering—or levitating, rather—is a much bigger engineering challenge. It can be difficult to keep something safely levitating a few feet above the ground and moving it forward with stability. The closest thing we have to this technology is levitating with magnets, like Shanghai Maglev Train’s electromagnetic suspension.