Cars not flying yet

Drone Regulation and Flying Cars

We finally have some decent personal drone regulations – and about time too.

In the past few years, we have seen wildfire fighting operations suspended, major transportation board inquiries into near misses as idiots try and video the colour of a pilot’s eyes as their 787 comes in to land, and more.

A few months ago, I was sitting at a Florida beach restaurant when the overhead sound of a buzzing drone interrupted the meal. Not only was the sound intrusive, but the pilot was nowhere to be seen and was flying his drone about five feet above diners and sunbathers.

Privacy aside, the act of flying a relatively heavy drone that can cause substantial injury at head height is ridiculous.

Just as we get to grips with small drones for personal video and photography, we now have a massive demonstration about to unfold in Dubai – or do we?

Ehang, the Chinese unpiloted drone manufacturer, is supposedly about to start moving paying public in an unpiloted aerial taxi service. The only problem — it has not been proven yet.

The Chinese are producing some incredible products, but let’s be honest a few things need to be ahem… tidied up in the design and engineering process yet.

Check out this video that was a commonplace type of video last year showing Chinese manufactured hover-boards exploding.

Now, picture sitting in a Dubai drone that claims to be able to fly at 100 km-h and an uncomfortable altitude for recovery in an accident – or at least a safe landing.

In most aircraft, height is your friend so you can glide to a landing; in an Ehang, the height of your average rosebush would be enough for me. Time will tell if this project or any passengers ever get off the ground (safely).

So how did we progress from the dream of a flying car to the evolution of a one-passenger unpiloted drone that has in most media reports been given the nomenclature “flying car,” yet it cannot drive anywhere?

Our fascination with flying cars goes back quite a few years. While cleaning out my house the other day, I found a 1951 copy of Popular Mechanics has a picture (see above) of what they referred to as a “helicopter coupe” that could fit in your garage.

The convenience of being able to fly from your door has been an attraction for many years.

The challenge has been the confusion in the market place separating myth from reality. Several players in the flying car market are producing nothing other than pictures of passenger carrying drones and sending out a media release with the term flying car to benefit from the voracious appetite for information in this space currently.

But here is the problem.

The front runner in the race, PAL-V from The Netherlands, is the only company to have designed a flying car that meets all regulatory requirements today. Every other manufacturer of a claimed flying car is requiring some form of regulatory change to have their vehicles approved.

While the engineers at PAL-V labour for hours to reduce the overall weight of the aircraft by a few grams, other entrepreneurs are putting pictures together of environmentally friendly vehicles using electricity (very heavy batteries) to power either rotor blades or ducted fan jets.

The problem today is that the technology does not support the concept.

For sure, we can build a drone that gets a person off the ground for a few minutes – maybe not safely, but we can get them off the ground.

But the weight of the batteries required to power the eight electric engines on the Ehang is enormous and seriously limits the ability for the drone to fly safely for any real distance.

Remember the hoverboard video at the beginning? How do you think a catastrophic failure of three or four engines would be in what is essentially a flying brick?

Will the Ehang erupt in to flames like the hoverboard?

So pick up a car battery next time you get a chance and then something that weighs 10 grams. On one hand, a company with a real vehicle is trying to take out 10 grams and on the other, concept entrepreneurs are adding car batteries.

Beyond the concept of pure safety, which is overlooked in many designs, we are also seeing manufacturers claiming they have a flying car ready yet using propulsion systems that will exceed all airport noise limit requirements.

So will we see a flying car anytime soon as Popular Mechanics had alluded to in 1951? The answer is a definitive yes and the supplier will be PAL-V from the Netherlands.

Check out their website and research what it takes to build a compliant and safe flying car.


Comments are pre-moderated to ensure they meet our guidelines. Approval times will vary. Keep it civil, and stay on topic. If you see an inappropriate comment, please use the ‘flag’ feature. Comments are the opinions of the comment writer, not of Castanet. Comments remain open for one day after a story is published and are closed on weekends. Visit Castanet’s Forums to start or join a discussion about this story.

More It's All About . . . articles

About the Author

Mark has been an entrepreneur for over forty years. His experience spans many commercial sectors and aspects of business. He was one of the youngest people to be appointed as a Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Sales and Marketing Management before he left the UK in 1988.

His column focuses on ways we can improve on success in our lives. Whether it is business, relationships, or health, Mark has a well-rounded perspective on how to stay focused for growth and development.

His influences come from the various travels he undertakes as an adventurer, philanthropist and keynote speaker. More information can be found on Mark at his website www.markjenningsbates.com

He is a Venture Partner with www.DutchOracle.com a global Alternative Investment company.

Mark Jennings-Bates:
[email protected]

Photo credit: www.SteveAustin.ca 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories