BlackFly is what is often called a flying car. Dozens of companies are now building these aircraft, and three recently agreed to go public in deals that value them as high as $6 billion. Kitty Hawk, is run by Mr. Thrun, the Stanford University computer science professor who founded Google’s self-driving car project. He sid “You can fly in a straight line and you don’t have the massive weight or the stop-and-go of a car” on the ground. It was 2009. Many startups and weekend hobbyists were building small flying drones with those motors and batteries, but as he sat down for a meal with Thrun, Page believed they could go much further.
Thrun had only just launched Google’s self-driving car project that year, but his boss had an even wilder idea: cars that could fly.
- It was a cross between the two, with a curved hull, two small wings and eight spinning rotors lined up across its nose and tail.
- At the touch of a button on a computer screen under a nearby tent, it stirred to life, rising up from a grassy slope on a ranch in central California and speeding toward some cattle grazing under a tree.
- It may look like a strange beast, but it will change the way transportation happens.
- These vehicles will be cheaper and safer than helicopters, providing practically anyone with the means of speeding above crowded streets.
- BlackFly is classified by the government as an experimental “ultralight” vehicle, so it does not need regulatory approval before being sold. But an ultralight also cannot be flown over cities or other bustling areas.
- Buyers can learn to fly via virtual reality simulations, and the aircraft will include autopilot services like a “return to home” button that lands the plane on command.
- It has enough room for a 6-foot, 6-inch person, and it can fly for about 25 miles without recharging.
- These planes will need landing pads, and they could have trouble navigating dense urban areas, thanks to power lines and other low-flying aircraft.
Flying cars may reach the market over the next several years. But they will not look or operate like the flying cars in “The Jetsons.” More likely, they will operate like helicopters, with pilots flying people from landing pad to landing pad for a fee. They will be greener than helicopters and require less maintenance. They will be quieter, at least a little. And they may eventually be cheaper. One day, they could even fly on their own.