Almost every time we talk about Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) concepts, we are looking at a scaled-down version of an aircraft that can carry four-five people and some cargo. And an Israel- based company, Urban Aeronautics is determined to create the first flying car and they are doing a pretty good job at it.
Last year, we covered Urban Aeronautics’ models, City Hawk, and Falcon XP. The striking feature of their design still resembles the traditional shape of a car, something we have barely seen in other VTOL concepts. Apart from the promise of carrying more people per trip, the greatest advantage of these aircraft would be the non-requirement of specialized infrastructure to land these vehicles.
As CEO, Nimrod Golan-Yanay, said earlier this year, where their competitors can land one aircraft, Urban Aeronautics can land four. This can not only help the company ferry more people in limited space but it also means higher revenues from that infrastructure. Very few VTOL operators will have the ability to actually land their aircraft on rooftops and city streets, something Urban Aeronautics is keen on doing, within regulations of course.
The company’s design choice means that there are no external moving parts that can either accumulate ice or that increase risks such as collision with power lines during urban flight. However, the company’s biggest leap is working with hydrogen fuel cells, instead of looking at battery-based electric propulsion. It has tied up with California-based HyPoint which will store hydrogen in carbon fiber cylinders on the car. Urban Aeronautics is confident that by using this technology, their propulsion system will have a 20x energy density when compared to electric batteries.
The flying car’s lift is generated by fully enclosed counter-rotating ducted fans that are placed both in the rear and front of the car. After years of testing, the company has unveiled a sleeker exterior this year that can zip past at a top speed of 150 mph (241 kph) and has a range of around 100 miles (160 km). The project noise levels from this are still 78 dB, which are quite acceptable for city limits, the company claims. The company has completed technology demonstrations using helicopter engines where the car has flown at low altitudes of 49 feet (15 m).
While the company is aiming for its new version to be launched by early 2022, there is a lot of work happening on the head-up primary flight display that will replace the Elbit Systems’ EVS 4000 enhanced vision system on the technology demonstrator. Details of the avionics that will work with 360-degree sensors are yet to be revealed by the company. .
The company is even considering reaching the market early with a turbine-based model to deliver cargo and emergency medical transport, for which it has already received pre-orders. Even as it explores the infrastructure requirements for its operations, the company believes that Dubai will be an early adopter for its air taxi services.