Let's talk energy efficiency first. Once it's up in the air, it's has a similar profile to a normal single engine airplane. A Cirrus SR22 can go 1,200 miles on 80 gallons of gas. That's roughly speaking 15 miles per gallon - better than many pickup trucks or large SUVs. And that's while going 180 mph. Slower is more fuel efficient.
This aircraft is definitely going to make noise on takeoff and landing, but it's not going to make much noise while cruising.
The Dodecacopter/regular aircraft hybrid solves a lot of problems. Once it is in cruise mode, it is as safe as a regular small aircraft. Importantly, unlike a quadcopter, it does not crash immediately on loss of engine power - it can glide to a landing somewhere, or use a parachute, or land with its Dodecacopter rotors.
Unlike a rotor craft, this aircraft is very energy efficient while cruising.
The Dodecacopter side lets it take off and land in even more places than a helicopter. It looks like it has redundancy for any two rotors/motors to go out. If this happens on takeoff, you fly to an airport to land. If this happens on landing, you leave the aircraft on the ground until someone comes and fixes you. You skip all the transmission and cyclic complexity of a helicopter. This is going to cost a whole lot less to maintain than a helicopter.
In short, this has potential to be way better than either a helicopter or a small airplane. Even ignoring the air-taxi business, there's a market for this aircraft.
So let's flip to the business side. An easy target for making these at scale would be $500,000 per aircraft. (Might be able to half that, but lets be conservative). Operating costs at scale, max $100/hr, could be one quarter that.
On the revenue side, this would replace a two hour trip across a city in traffic with a fifteen minute flight. Unless you've flow small aircraft before it's hard to appreciate just how much faster it is not to use roads. There's definitely going to be some market for this - that's worth money.
Sure, let's take the most energy efficient aircraft and compare it to the least energy efficient passenger vehicles??? I mean, how can one even pretend that is a fair comparison.
More generally for energy efficiency, it is well known that the most efficient trip is a shorter one or one never taken. Many fans of these technologies are people who dream of living 90 miles away and fly into town in half an hour. Or as you described "this would replace a two hour trip across a city in traffic with a fifteen minute flight". Comparing MPG when your technology is designed to encourage more miles is a flawed approach.
There's a popular perception that all aircraft burn energy like an oil refinery on fire. The reality is that small piston aircraft are approximately as fuel efficient as the vehicles around you on the highway (at least where I live) while getting you there a whole lot faster.
A Cirrus is a good comparison stand in for the KittyHawk aircraft because it has a similar design and construction style (ignoring the dodeca-props), four seats, and is the most common general aviation aircraft not designed in the 1950's. A Cirrus isn't even close to the most energy efficient aircraft - that would be more like 60 mpg, nor is it the most efficient in its class.
This is just objectively wrong.
Before taking wind into account, a Cessna 172 travels 120kts on a good day and at altitude and appropriately leaned can get down to 8 gallons an hour.
120 nautical miles in 140 miles (less, but benefit of the doubt and all). That's 17.5 miles per gallon. At cruise altitude. Leaned appropriately. You can tack on another few gallons for the climb, and you're going mixture rich on descent so you're back up to 10-11 gph for the last 20-30 miles of your trip. You're lucky to get 10mpg overall for a flight, and that's using gas that costs $5 a gallon.
There are a LOT of benefits to GA flight in order to get around. Fuel efficiency is definitely not one of them.
Also, it may be worth taking into account that airplanes travel in straighter lines.
I fly a Cherokee 140. One of the most common aircraft, as with the Skyhawk. My fuel consumption is 8.4gal/hr at 75% mixture and 5.6gal/hr at 50%. Assuming I'm doing an average ground track of 100mph (for easy math), that's 12-18mpg (not counting that I'm 100% rich at TO and LND).
I wouldn't exactly call it fuel efficient, but it isn't burning like an oil refinery on fire either. I also don't pay $5 for gas ($4.09 today, but it isn't uncommon to see it at $3.50). But you do have to consider speed and time to destination if we're going to compare to cars.
One thing to also consider is that avgas is still leaded. And for anyone interested, here is the POH for the Skyhawk and Cherokee. Note that fuel consumption will be in hours or gal/hr when discussing aircraft. Mpg doesn't make as much sense.
Disclaimer: Use the POH provided with your aircraft.
If you exclude GA aircraft not designed in the mid-20th century, you exclude 90% of GA aircraft and 99% of certified GA aircraft. We can make that distinction if you want but it ignores reality.
81% of energy produced in NZ is renewable. Complex terrain would make such vehicle a saviour. Plus, in any terrain planes almost always travel less, so savings are intrinsic.
Finally, using "taxi" name here is awful. At the most it's going to be an entertainment device initially (tourism and extremely expensive attractions are insane in NZ), method of access remote places later.
Your conclusion that we must have different value systems only shows where you stopped thinking.
We differ in the timescale on which we consider the betterment of human lives.
And we differ in the subset of human lives we consider the betterment of.
If you remain convinced we have different value systems, then it's not about energy or the betterment of human lives (or straw lives), but about placing a low value on short-sightedness and egotism.
It may be possible that this is something of a politically difficult problem in many areas, though. Until San Francisco actually allows itself to become a real city, we may be stuck looking at workarounds. It's very, very, very far from ideal. Exactly as you say. But it may be the best we can do for now.
Solar is becoming so cheap that an excessive amount of generation will be installed, so adequate generation will be available in morning or evening, or with clouds. During peak sun, excess power will be basically free, so any battery can be charged during these periods at little cost. Wait and see if skeptical.
I don't think anyone would stop a human-rights march because of energy efficiency concerns. And who cares about energy efficiency when the energy is clean? It's well-known that the US is trending greener and this electric taxi is years away from widespread adoption.
Second- I have a hard one understanding how this could approach the aerodynamics of a Cirrus. All those fans will be drag monsters.
And a little side fun note on rooftop landing pads- ideally, a high rise has expose cooling towers on the roof, taking up most available space. Any rooftop landing facility would have to be constructed over that, at phenomenal cost per foot. Developers expect to get repaid handsomely for that kind of capex. If you aren’t landing rooftop, you are landing at an alternate location X blocks away, which could be a real drag of the other kind..
There is DEFINITELY a market for this plane, and it’s bigger than current heli, but it’s probably not ubiquitous air taxi service
A chunk of a GA aircraft's operational cost is annual maintenance. By flying more per year, the operational cost of an aircraft goes down. I think you can get the operational of a Cirrus down to $100/hr if you fly it 500 hours per year.
However, operating this aircraft at scale would seem to have some real maintenance advantages beyond what you would typically see for General Aviation:
- There's only one moving part in an electric motor, vs all the complexity of a [edit: 6 cylinder] piston aircraft engine.
- You can specialize your people, procedures, and facility around a single aircraft type.
- You can swap out engines and avionics and work on them while the aircraft returns to flying.
And yes, this won't be as aerodynamic as a Cirrus, but it should be similar to a GA single engine aircraft, rather than either a quadcopter or a helicopter.
- I was just looking at the cost for me to take Uber across town. My experience has a lot of 30 minute trips in different cities, which has equated to $50 rides on UberX, and that is always between urban centers and airports (i.e. ideal connecting points). My assumption would be that Uber gets as close to operating cost as feasible, if not cheating on the backs of the drivers, plus Uber hasn't actually made money (but thats a different discussion!). So thats my $100/hr for an Uber. Never mind the fact that personal car ownership is far cheaper.
- With very limited experience with general aviation, I have chartered a few private flights- for around $4000 for a day trip on a late model KingAir. Not worth much for this comparison. But thats why I looked to Uber as the absolute low end, because the best economics of air travel will probably only approach the best economics of surface travel.
- I just don't know why Cora's aerodynamics wouldn't look a heck of a lot like a quadcopter. My background is Civil engineering (im a static kind of guy!) so i dont know much here. All those extra surfaces add a lot of drag, no way around it. I wonder if they could turn the props and feather them up so they all align and provide lift with forward flight? I'm sure Eric Allison (engineering lead) is on top of it.
Dont get me wrong, I think its great stuff and I look forward to its development. However, there are a lot more problems to solve than just perfecting the actual aircraft. Its a whole ecosystem, not just an air shuttle. Recent history has given us a few great entrepreneurs who have overcome a multitude of problems in their space, but i definitely wouldn't bet too early on something like this without a little more to show for it. The New Zealand partnership will be a good prooving grounds.
EDIT: im happy to be wrong on all this!
Transportation accidents are the leading cause of "unintentional injury" deaths (i.e., not disease, suicide, or homicide) . Although the absolute rates are somewhat low (7.28 fatalities per billion miles for cars and light trucks), you are approximately 100 times more likely to die while driving than flying (table 2 in ).
Getting safer seems like it could be possible, but it's going to be an enormous amount of work.
But just because you aren't doing those things, doesn't make you any less at risk from other people doing those things. You are still on the road, surrounded by, in some areas, hundreds or thousands of deadly machines operated by people who are generally almost capable of handling them.
I just finished an excellent book on this, "A Deadly Wandering", which examines distracted driving specifically but also touches on a few other related subjects. In the primary case that the book follows, and in the few others it mentions, distracted drivers walked away from wrecks where they had killed innocent other passengers or motorists.
Being in a car (or bike, or motorcycle) on the road is one of the most dangerous things the average person does on a regular basis.
I understand that some people have very dangerous commutes, but for some it's literally 10 miles of traffic moving at <10mph 99% of the time. If that's your "driving" then the risk of having a life destroying accident is almost nil and it's probably safer than walking or cycling at that point(you basically sit for an hour in a metal cage that's barely moving, surrounded by other barely moving metal cages).
Yes, there is still a chance someone else around you could be drunk or speeding or distracted, but if you are sitting in an 8-lane jam that's not really going to do much damage.
Still not saying I'm narrowly avoiding death or anything, but man, the sheer volume of people going to work on the interstate every morning and night causes so many wrecks.
The operating costs for my SR20 with all things taken into account: Oil, Hangar Costs, annual inspection and averaged annual repairs, engine overhaul allowance are close to being conservative $160/hr fuel included vs. about $70 about it being fuel alone. From my calculations, if I went with a NA SR22, I'd be closer to $200/hr for a non-turbo, and about $260 for a SR22T.
Keep in mind, those hourly costs don't take into account the capital costs, depreciation and other training expenses required to operate the vehicle.
It's hard to compare costs of a vehicle to an aircraft. To drive to the airport, pre-flight the plane.. file a flight plan and deal with being re-routed the terminal area trying to get into a busy airport often undermine the time savings of just driving, unless i'm flying out of the state. I don't fly because it's convenient or faster. I do it because the feeling of watching the earth drift away from you when the plane is leaving the runway never gets old. I love flying. :)
One, comparing one of the most fuel efficient ASEL aircraft compared against one of the least fuel efficient passenger vehicle categories. Nobody uses pickup trucks for taxis. Nobody uses large SUVs unless you specifically request them (and they typically have a surcharge).
> Once it is in cruise mode, it is as safe as a regular small aircraft.
Well landing and taking off are the two most dangerous phases of flight. "Once you ignore the two most dangerous phases of operation, operation is as safe as you'd expect."
Not to mention that small aircraft/general aviation is not safe. Most life insurance excludes it. If you're under 140 hours TT and not instrument rated, life insurance that explicitly includes GA is prohibitively expensive (I received a quote at 80 TT and pre-IR for nearly $300/mo for a 10 year term on an otherwise healthy 30 year old male, comparable policies with a GA exclusion are $10-12/mo).
The most optimistic figures put GA roughly on par with riding a motorcycle without a helmet.
> An easy target for making these at scale would be $500,000 per aircraft.
Look up the cost of a new Diamond DA-20 or Robinson R44. There is no way you can build one of these things for less than $750k+ at cost so you're going to need to sell them at 1.5-2x that or more. And that's at scale.
And speaking of scale, what do you think the market for these things is? You're not going to be selling millions of them. Cessna sells a shitload of planes compared to the rest of the industry and they sell one factory new plane a week, almost exclusively to large institutional flight schools.
> Operating costs at scale, max $100/hr
I know "lol" is code for "I breathed through my nose a little louder," but this actually did make me laugh. Operating costs will be the 2-3 times this at scale. And 5x+ now.
I fly a single-engine plane with over 30,000 units in production (PA-28-181). They're everywhere. The lower HP version is a very popular trainer aircraft, and as such need to have low costs of ownership and maintenance, and high reliability. I fly this plane as part of a non-profit club and still pay $100/mo and $100/hr to fly a 45 year old plane with no autopilot, steam gauges and a carbureted engine.
Right, because the actuator disk loading goes up, meaning that you're "throwing air downward" faster, with thrust scaling as v (momentum) while power scales as v^2 (kinetic energy). This is why propulsive efficiency decreases as exhaust velocity increases (for rockets this is simply exhaust velocity, while for air-breathing engines it's the change in velocity caused by the propeller/turbofan relative to the original airstream velocity).
So bigger props are more efficient, because the actuator disk has more area. But the other way to add area is to add propellers. This has 12 props, so the disk loading is 1/12th as much.
The equation for hovering power is:
P = (mg)^3/2 / sqrt(2 A ρ)
>You also need laminar air for rear props to be efficient. The drag on the wings should create a ridiculous wake behind the aircraft. I would love to learn how KittyHawk are trying to mitigate these problems (which are huge constraints even for major players).
They showed CFD in the video, so apparently that combined with test flights and scale model flights (both shown on their website).
Notice that the propellers are rotated slightly inward, but the outer propeller (that rotates in the opposite direction) is angled outward. I suspect they're managing the vorticity of the propeller wakes, using it to lower induced drag (effectively creating a longer "virtual wing").
Also, it looks like they transition to horizontal flight and then shut down the rotors (or at least, dramatically lower the power). The video shows the hovering system shutting down and self-aligning the propeller blades into the airstream.
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disk_loading, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actuator_disk
Energy efficiency is not all or none - it's a question of how efficient it is. Whichever way you dice it, the final result of the combination of energy density, thrust, weight lift, drag, is a plane is efficient enough to have a claimed range of 100km. If it were more efficient, it would have a longer range.
So an electric plane could be twice as inefficient in other ways (e.g. extra weight for batteries) and still come out ahead overall. And that's before taking carbon and pollution into account.
If a city takes two hours to cross in traffic, that's a clear sign it needs a subway or monorail.
I could understand why say, Lagos wouldn't have effective mass transit. But it's hard to see why major developed-world cities can't justify the investment.
Do we need more subways? Heck yes! I want one in my hometown. Do we want air taxis at the same time? Well, why not?
But it may find a niche market by being faster, cheaper, and easier to fly than existing light helicopters.
And as others have pointed out, helicopters are perfectly capable of autorotating in case of power loss.
Well, there's beaches near some coastal cities that afford survivable landings, but may be risky for others.
Last year there was a tragic case near Lisbon where two people on the ground died. It was a flight lesson with an experienced instructor, who followed protocol and landed on sand at the water's edge. (My understanding of the discussion at the time was that hitting water with fixed landing gear is an almost certain death sentence for the plane passengers, because it flips over instantly.)
Unfortunately, without power, the pilot missed a more deserted stretch and ended up in a section of the beach with quite a few people enjoying the summer at the seaside.
One of the reports in the Portuguese press: http://observador.pt/2017/08/02/avioneta-despenha-se-na-prai...
In my layman understanding: the heuristic amounts to - at low altitudes you flare and cushion, and at high altitudes you enter autorotation.
However, they've got a far better starting platform for doing this than anything else I've seen. It's made out of simple pieces with a lot of good options when things go wrong.
1) 15 minutes? If you flew in a small aircraft regularly, you would know it takes 40-60 minutes to prep a plane from park to airborne in zero traffic.
2) Estimating what the fuel consumption of a small aircraft will be is much, much harder than a surface vehicle. Consider 90% private aviation disasters are a result of pilot error. And 90% of pilot error is in fuel consumption estimation.
15 minutes? If you flew in a small aircraft regularly,
you would know it takes 40-60 minutes to prep a plane
from park to airborne in zero traffic
If there is unavoidable time consuming checking, you could do that in advance and provide the plane as an autonomous taxi. So it shows up, picks you up, drops you off.
Things like "check your propeller for cracks", or "verify that the control surfaces are actually moving when the controls say they should have moved" should not be skipped.
But you can skip a lot of things just by virtue of this being an electric vehicle - like "visually verify fuel level without using the gauge", or "check oil level", or "test carb heat" or "verify dual magnetos" etc.
It takes 10-15min (max!) to check a Cessna 152, start, and call for departure clearance. Add on another 10-15min for taxi via the pumps & power+pre-take-off checks, you still have 30min left to play with.
I do agree with your main point that you don't just hop in and turn the key, just think that an hour for all that is taking your sweet time.
Also, with a computer flying, you can do something less extreme: actively and continuously manage the compromise between speed and efficiency. If your confidence of reaching your destination drops below the required threshold (say 99.999%), slow to whatever speed is required to achieve that confidence.
Range 240 miles
Speed 110 mph
Range 60 miles (1/4 that of the R22, 1/20th of the SR22)
Speed 93 mph (half that of the SR22)
Their first try: zee aero made a barely flyable contraption that was nuked by American FAA, and rightfully so.
This time, I don't see this being much better. My early childhood aspiration was aeronautics. I believe as somebody who built a semiflyable motoglider as a 15 years old in 2006, I can comment on technical soundness of this. Biggest red flag in the design are fans in front of the wing. Turbulence from them will be randomly stalling the wing, and most likely asymmetrically - which leads to a corkscrewing risk, especially with that huge elevator.
As for the noise, if it can land vertically, I can immagine it making a steep descent on top of a tall building, unloading passengers and then autonomously taking off to pick somone else some other place.
Imagine what you will, reality still exists. Some places have similar restrictions, some don’t - there are helipads all over Los Angeles for example.
A safer, quieter ‘air taxi’ is more likely to reduce restrictions than add to them.
I hear they have trains that can do this in far away lands. Trains that go 180 mph. Not in my backyard.
Electric cars have a long enough range and are mostly single family so swapping is less useful.
Reserve is a much larger issue, aircraft want to keep ~1hour of reserve these things are starting with less than that.
I am also wondering about the ergonomics for people who are mobility challenged.
On the plus side, their launch material successfully has gotten me past thinking that they are building quad copters for people into thinking about what they might be used for. The numbers pencil out for relatively short commutes.
And sure, this might not be the solution to humanity's overall mobility, but heck I can see it being useful in many ways.
(It's nice to see the top comment on this one is actually positive!)
Pilots are important because if the autopilot gets even one little thing wrong it cannot recover and people die.
Autopilot is more like "Auto-level and navigate"
It is not designed for emergency situations. What kind of license will this vehicle require?
1) Can it autorotate? Or in an emergency does it have to glide?
1.5) What's its glide distance? Cruising altitude? There's a lot of drag from those propellers so I imagine its best glide speed isn't great.
2) How are you going to get it in a city? Seems like you're going to have to go to the local GA airport (which are fairly frequent, but you'll still need a normal taxi).
3) There is a really limited range (100km or 60mi) and only goes 150kph (90mph) (I'm guessing max cruising speed, so real world you'll see it going slower, plus you have to consider TO and LND). That's not very far and not very fast.
4) GA is dangerous. How is it communicating with ATC? Can ATC divert it? Will it integrate into the standards (N1234 fly one niner zero). What happens when someone doesn't use the standard (this WILL happen)? So can it fly in class B airspace? I even have questions about class C and D. And how is it going to handle GA aircraft? And if it is in class G how does it deal with that person that isn't using the radio? Does the computer know when its own radio isn't working? And does it know ATC light signals?
5) Who is doing the inspection? In GA we check everything before we fly. Sure you can automate fuel levels, oil, etc. But how are you checking things like propeller or airframe cracks? And is it doing runups? How often?
6) Is it VFR? IFR? What altitude is it flying at? How does it handle cross wind? Which is going to be a big pain if you are flying in cities.
And as to why pilots not only choose, but are required (in the US), to do TO and LND is because that's BY FAR the most dangerous part. I can even tell you I'm thinking a lot more during TO. As a pilot you're constantly thinking about what you're going to do if there is an engine failure. During TO you're under 1000ft and the runway is behind you (you can't turn around). LND, well at least you got the runway ahead of you. Cruising? You got plenty of time to figure out where you're going to go. Pilots aren't just required because liability and federal law, they are required because automation isn't there yet. I can tell you that it is hard to see aircraft in flight. Especially in conditions like sunrises and sunsets. Many accidents happen on clear and sunny days.
There's a lot of things I like about it, but there is legitimately a lot of reason for concern. But it is a prototype after all.
Edit: Also, I thought smaller props for vertical flight is significantly less efficient than one large prop like a helicopter?
That being said, I always had a soft spot for aircraft startup after working at one in my younger days. Pretty interesting to see how this ends up especially with Sebastian Thrun on the team.
I can't help think that this design, with dedicated lift engines is just not very mass efficient. The pylons and the twelve motors also add a lot of drag in horizontal flight, even though they've taken steps to reduce it.
As of today, if I was designing an air taxi from scratch, I'd go with a tail-sitting VTOL, like the E-flite X-VERT:
For a full-sized aircraft, since you can't vary rotor speed very quickly for large motors, you'd need to add variable pitch propellers. The passengers would sit in a pod which rotates to keep them level during all flight modes.
And, as other commenters have mentioned, a ballisticly-deployed parachute for safety. And maybe emergency landing skids for a horizontal landing if needed.
I know that electric flight is part of the selling point of this design, but I'd still prefer to use fossil fuel for the energy density.
I'd love to try it out if it goes into production!
BRS who make the CAPS for Cirrus also provide retrofit kits for Cessna 172 and 182.
The cabin opens in a clamshell fashion and that appears to be the only way in or out. Opening the canopy mid-flight would probably result in shearing it off once it catches even a small amount of air. From there, you're left with exit point that's ahead of the wing, ahead of the main propeller, and ahead of the rather wide tail section.
Maybe you'd be clear if you hugged the bottom of the door and kind of… rolled underneath at exit?
As a skydiver who's exited all sorts of planes in all sorts of ways, I would rather take my chances landing with that plane.
Edit: on further review, I believe you mean "if the aircraft were equipped with CAPS, I wouldn't mind flying in one" as opposed to "if the aircraft came with a bail-out rig, I wouldn't mind strapping it on". Nevermind :-)
I agree that jumping out while it is moving is suicidal.
The CAPS system makes the most sense, especially given the intended market of "person with cell phone and lots of cash to burn". They would be seriously limiting their clients if they required everyone to be jump certified.
It may be 2-3x quieter than a helicopter, which I'm sure the engineers from the project would consider it a big innovation on its own, but that's not exactly what I would consider "quiet".
But as I said in the other thread, I think this is a fine technology to have in the future, and I'm not too critical of it, like I would be if this was a hydrogen-powered air taxi for instance.
It's battery powered, it's "self-flying", and the noise should improve in the long term, even though it will never be "quiet". I think there's little not too like about it. Range is not amazing, but for a first-gen fully battery-powered air taxi, it's not bad at all. They'll probably reach 5x as much by 2030.
It certainly doesn't seem like the sort of thing that would become a mainstream mode of transport without a big change in the energy market.
To simplify, one trades roll drag for induced (=lift generating) drag, at higher speeds.
The bigger issues are battery performance (specific energy), and regulation, in my view.
That being said, energy there is insanely expensive due to asset sales; some of the highest cost in the world.
If it becomes popular, entire cities could change how they look ( roof = taxi, roads for bicycles and deliveries on the roof)
Huh? Coal is only 30% of the USA’s energy production, natural gas is higher at 34%.
The other points in your post are equally dubious, do you have sources?
From an air quality perspective, at least, natural gas is much better than coal. But it is far from carbon neutral.
You were discussing production of electricity, which is shown in the table I linked on that page to be 32%.
This vehicle can be zero emissions today, if the power required is generated by wind/solar/hydro/etc. Sure, with today's grid's it won't necessarily be ZE, but it can be, and as time progresses and grids get updated with more and more renewable energy, it's effective emissions will continue to go down, with no changes needing to be made to the vehicle itself.
Let's build everything together because if we assume electric cars will never work because energy sources suck right now, our planet is definitely going to be worse off.
Here's an article that suggests that, in the US, gas cars would need better that 55mpg to have lower emmissions than EVs powered by the grid. In France, because of their different grid generation systems, you'd have to have a car running at 524mpg.
> Renewable electricity in New Zealand is primarily from hydropower. In 2015, 81% of the electricity generated in New Zealand came from renewable sources. In September 2007, former Prime Minister Helen Clark announced a national target of 90 percent renewable electricity by 2025, with wind energy to make up much of that increase.
Also, if you think in 10-20-year perspective, US is on that way too.
There are a lot of things in aviation written it blood. A lot of work hours sunk into inspecting the swiss cheese from every angle, until the light does not shine through.
Not the most welcoming ground for "disruption".
Still, even the most modern autopilot will drop the controls to the pilot's lap almost routinely.
And is likely why their "you won't need a license to ride, because it's automated" line is going to disappear once the FAA notices this.
Once this data is gathered during the test program, the production aircraft can use less obvious sensors to measure what is going on.
Also on energy usage:
Why does it matter how much electrical energy it uses? We know how to harness a near infinite amount.
This is a silly thing to say while there's still quite so much CO2 being emitted from electricity production.
Are you talking about nuclear?
Some estimate we're currently only at Kardashev 0.8, harnessing about 80% of what energy from the Sun hits the Earth, while others argue that this percentage is much lower.
Ideas are easy, implementation is hard.
Edit for clarity.
80% seems super high, unless by 'harnessing' you also mean things like 'the sun energy warms up the ocean allowing fish to live which we then consume for some% of the energy that sun sent'.
I'd be pretty surprised if efficiently used energy / energy hitting the earth from the sun was >20%.
The numbers I'm seeing are 174 petawatts hits Earth and the world uses 18 terawatts of energy.
You can adjust the angles of individual blades, changing this angle multiple times each rotor sweep, as helicopters do. This is expensive, complex, things wear out, and a safety risk for the aircraft.
Or you can do what quadcopters do, direct drive the rotor and just adjust the speed of the entire rotor. This gets rid of both the Swashplate system and a transmission. It's lightweight, simple, and cheap. The problem is that it doesn't scale well to bigger rotors. When a rotor gets too big, it has enough inertia that you can't speed it up and slow it down fast enough to control your aircraft. Also, as you get bigger, you want a slower spinning rotor, and current electric motors aren't happy direct driving at that slower speed.
If you want to use the simple system, you have to use small rotors for now.
Requires a tail rotor or similar. Perhaps the rear thrust motor or prop can be rotated sideways for takeoff? Now we’re getting complex, but not extraordinarily so.
Ape4 noted would add weight and complexity. Any more than eight small electric motors and props do now?
Note that in the case of the Sikorsky S-72, the intent was to stop the rotor in cruise.
? only as long as there are just a few flying around. Once there are some with crossing routes you will need air traffic city rules as well.
I am really interested to see how that would pan out.
Innovation is one way new technologies can change the world. For example, the reason we have skyscrapers is due to the elevator brake.
Elevators have existed in some form or another for over 2,000 years. But without the modern innovation of the elevator brake, nobody felt safe being hoisted by a rope up into the air, where a fall could kill you. And nobody looked forward to walking dozens of flights of stairs. A new combination of a spring, gravity, and a ratchet-and-pawl (all existing for over 2,000 years, the same as the elevator itself) gave humans the feeling of safely moving up and down in space that they didn't have before.
But innovation is not a guarantee of success. Electric cars have existed for 190 years. Their innovation, combined with the development of modern batteries, made them the most popular car by the beginning of the 20th century. But two decades later they disappeared, when cheaper, more convenient, more useful gas cars became available. It took another 60 years to develop a new production EV.
In comparison to land-based vehicles, drones are used to fly automated GPS-coordinated routes around the world every day. There are about 31.7 Million airplane flights over the USA every year. And even though 37,000 people die in car crashes every year, only 399 people died in air crashes in 2017 (world wide!). Not only are flying vehicles clearly safer than driving, we can very reliably coordinate flying vehicles.
So why don't we have automated flying cars? Nobody decided to build them. Until startups like this one do the actual hard, long-term, complicated work to coordinate all the necessary pieces, and can figure out how to make it both convenient and cost-effective, it just doesn't happen. And the same is true of self-driving cars.
Until someone decides to coordinate all the complicated parts to get it working, it doesn't exist. Sometimes this takes convincing society to make compromises - like, you don't get the "freedom" of piloting your own vehicle, unless you are very very well trained to do so. And sometimes it just takes lots of elbow grease. Personally, I think we need more of the former than the latter. But I'm glad this company is taking on both challenges.
Real estate prices in those places might be affected a bit.
The same with New Jersey and Manhattan. What are some other areas that this might be the case?
Once the direction becomes clearer, perhaps someone should start an REIT with a focus on arbitraging transportation revolution.
Google must be too early.
Get all the air safety stuff done. Biuld a few thousand non-experimentals. Have people actually fly these things daily. Then worry about disrupting the car market.
As a licenced pilot myself, I am with you, however. Would not climb into this death trap as a self loading freight any time soon.
Also, autonomy in the sky seems easier than autonomy on the ground.
If Thrun is involved, chances are it will work pretty well...
This is debatable.
A car has only 1 degree of freedom. An aircraft typically has 3 degrees of freedom.
A car rests on solid ground. An aircraft is submerged in a fluid medium.
A ground vehicle can adjust it's speed to the conditions, if necessary slow down if confidence levels get lower, or even go backwards. An aircraft is typically subject to an aerodynamic envelope.
As for the sky being empty, take a look at this harrowing story of a biz jet encountering the wake turbulence of a A380. Airframe written off, crew earn their lifetime salary. Autopilot took 13 seconds to conk out.
Turns out modern aircraft following airways to a precision of mere meters has increased such incidences. In the olden days pilots where often a bit off the track. To simulate this sloppiness in flying rigor, a thing called SLOP has been conceived, for Strategic Lateral Offset Procedures.
The resulting price of this technology will result in the 99% stuck on the ground while the only te 1% can afford the fare.
And even if it becomes a regular mode of transportation, do you really want these planes to fly over your apartment/house every few minutes? They might be more quiet than a Cessna but they wll certainly still be disturbing
I do not think the American dream of a private car scales too well to the future, be it with rubber wheels or tiny propellers. Especially given the population growth.
Instead, a brief visit to Singapore, for example, will convince anyone what the future of transportation looks like. A public transport system, enabling a lifestyle that makes cars redundant.
Living in Singapore, I agree with what you say, but in this future, there will be a lot of whining, too:
It might have convinced you, but it won't "convince anyone", or the majority of people.
There is another issue I've noticed with public transit in the US which I haven't experienced elsewhere and have no good explanation for: Too frequent stops. May it be buses in LA or light rail in SF or PDX, they constantly are stopping. It seems like there is a stop on at least every other block making it super slow to go cross town.
The reason I ask is that neither are as safe as driving here in the US which i consider a major blocker in the public transportation utopia people keep dreaming up.
Relevant discussion I have had about this topic: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16462803
Extremely safe. Even the whiniest people in Singapore (and that's a high bar to clear) will never say that Singapore is unsafe.
Once in a while I see videos of cars not stopping in front of a pedestrian crossing. These posts result in a universal condemnation.
Also note that the UK-style pedestrian crossings include a buffer space next to the actual crossing.
In terms of public transportation, you have the subway (MRT), the light rail (LRT), and the buses. All new, and most of the MRT plus LRT are automated.
Additional aspect is drink-driving. The alcohol is also heavily taxed (almost Demolition Man style: "x is not good for you. What's not good for you is illegal") and the way the government views drugs is clarified in the disembarkation cards saying "Death to drug traffickers" (and they actually mean it), and with the combination of high availability of public transport complemented with cheap taxis / ride-sharing and low availability of intoxicating the DUI is pretty much non-existent.
In the US, the sidewalks are scarce in many places. But that's pretty unique, you don't need to go to Singapore to see streets with normal sidewalks.
Do you have any statistics on walking or public transit safety? I couldnt find any, though car safety is very accessible.
edit: It seems the vast majority of pedestrian accidents are because of collisions with cars. In a future with more public transport and walking, they will be even safer.
Additionally, if these are widely adopted, I can imagine a highly-crowded Class G (or D, if near an airport -- and how do you establish two-way comms between ATC and an autonomous flying taxi?) airspace ending badly for passengers or bystanders in crowded metropolitan areas. This may be why KittyHawk has done their R&D in New Zealand, rather than in the US under FAA regulations.
This allows the plane to all fly and not hit each other and pilots won't be allowed in that corridor.
I'm okay with it. Yes it will be for the 1% for a long time, but so were trains and cars and airlines...
I think it's a novel helicopter replacement idea, but not really anything for mass transportation.
No, but once per week I see a broken car on a motorway on my commute.
The choppers are already there, so there's already the risk of something falling out of the sky.
* transportation across mountainous terrain - it will actually increase safety
* a few tightly controlled shuttles in gridlocked megalopolises like those in Asia with nightmarish traffic
Basically, taking over the role of the helicopters, but safer and more affordable.
I would, however, prefer fewer smaller bus-sized vehicles.
And since a significant proportion of our electricity is generated by hydro power, could be almost carbon neutral travel.
That’s saying a lot when every single day, there are times when there are over a million people simultaneously sitting in chairs in the sky
This isn't even remotely accurate.
Also, even when a BRS deployment goes well, there's a good chance that the aircraft is coming through someone's roof if flying over a populated area.
I am amazed how you can come to this conclusion without knowing anything about the product.
And as for efficiency, again, places like Bogota or Guatemala City are so congested all day/evening, surely idling in your car for 1+hr to go a few miles is not efficient.
What about the energy to manufacture, ship, assemble, design, test (or clean up when it fails), etc. That all takes energy and most of that energy probably comes from coal or some other environmental nightmare resource.
There is no alternative method of production that requires no energy or resources. Instead, the distinction is made between things that cannot be used without creating harmful emissions (ICE for example) and things that can be used without creating those emissions (like battery power).
But you are correct that it takes energy to "manufacture, ship, assemble, design, test" etc. This is true for literally everything, from pencils to houses to flying cars, and it always has been.
Maybe, but it's easier to replace centralised pollution from something like a coal electricity plant, than decentralised pollution of every appliance generating it's own power.
A battery appliance doesn't care if the electricity that coms to it is from a hydroplant, a nuclear facility, or coal. It's decoupled from the source, and so allows you to improve things iteratively.
"not clear how much"