The future of luxury travel cannot be entirely determined by consulting firms, think tanks, or research institutes, although these groups can give us an idea of what we are to expect in the near (and distant) future. A fixture of our engineering efforts and imagination, flying cars have been depicted in popular culture and science fiction films for decades. Until recently, with the advent of electric cars, artificial intelligence, and smart technology, most of us have not truly been able to fathom the idea of having automobiles with wings or propellers floating above our heads on our daily commutes to work.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic took members to the edge of space. Elon Musk transported astronauts successfully to the ISS through SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos shuttled himself, along with others, out of the atmosphere in his own Blue Origin spacecraft – all in 2021. These conquests cultivate hope for extra-terrestrial travel, but what about development in our own airspace?
The introduction of drones gave us a glimpse of what restrictions we can expect, the partitioning of airspace, and the efficacy of integrating futuristic travel methods in society. It also gave governments and organizations a starting point to develop legislation regarding technology in our skies. Tech giants and R&D firms have given remarkable ideas real-time validity and have brought to life many innovations previously deemed inconceivable.
Although commercial use of these futuristic vehicles may be further away than anticipated, many conceptual projects exist, and we would like to highlight some of them here. For instance, London-based startup Bellwether Industries just recently released footage of their fully electric, futuristic hypercar – the Volar eVTOL – taking its first test flight in Dubai. According to the firm, the two-seat prototype was “remotely piloted and flew up to four meters (13 feet) at a speed of around 40 kilometers an hour (25 miles an hour)” and is expected to reach up to 915 meters (3,000 feet) and speeds of 220 kilometers per hour (135 mph) with a maximum takeoff weight of 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds). The final model is also expected to have four to five seats.
Bellwether Stories | Lifetime Mission
Beautiful in both science and aesthetics, the Volar eVTOL – an acronym for electric vertical take-off and landing – is undeniably sophisticated. Svelte curves and jutting edges combine to create an aerodynamic body that attracts onlookers and fosters the true notion of a hypercar. The project is still in the initial stages of development, as is the company, so it is unlikely that we will see the Volar as one of the first commercial vehicles in the sky.
While Bellwether’s model has been designed primarily for intracity travel, the technology can be adopted for long-distance and speed purposes as well. Engineers have developed propulsion systems that are sustainable, environmentally friendly, and compact enough to outfit a vehicle the size of a modern sedan. This allows for the incorporation of performance systems without the need to sacrifice design features that give flying cars that futuristic, cutting-edge look.
In terms of breaking barriers, Australian-based firm Alauda Aeronautics was founded in 2016 and seeks to pioneer the field of air racing motorsport. In addition to developing eVTOL aircraft, Alauda has focused its efforts on their flying race car, the “Airspeeder”. At first glance, the Airspeeder Mark 1 prototype takes on the shape of the modern drone, except at a larger scale to accommodate a single human pilot. Powered by the same lithium-ion battery as Telsa vehicles and outfitted with vertical-facing propellers (the Mark 1 has 4 propellers, future models are slated to have 8 or more propellers), this Shelby Cobra-looking model is expected to reach a top speed of 250 km/h and gives potential to the largely untapped industry of aircraft racing.
Without a doubt, these advancements and prototypes offer insight into the future of transportation. The possibility for anyone to fly from anywhere to any point at any time has become a bit more attainable. The dawn of this new mobility revolution cannot be ignored, and we hold on to hope that we see these experiments come to life within the next decade – not only for personal use but for the benefit of society.
For instance, US-based Urban eVTOL (aka Leo Flight) aims to advance the future of urban air travel and services with their rendition of the flying hypercar. Acclaimed VTOL/eVTOL inventor Pete Bitar has joined forces with futuristic automotive designer Carlos Salaff to create the “LEO Coupe”. Featuring gull-wing doors, transparent flooring, and dimensions of 10 feet x 20 feet (3.05 meters x 6.1 meters), this levitating limousine epitomizes the conception of futuristic luxury vehicles. The LEO Coupe currently has a capacity of three people – two passengers and one pilot – and boasts a flight speed of up to 250 mph (400 km/h) over one hour of flight time per charge.
Not only does this double box-winged aircraft fit inside your standard-sized garage – the carbon-fiber compact body also allows for unlimited capabilities in terms of social services. Leo Flight’s website mentions fire rescue, medevac, Coast Guard, exploration, and tourism as a few possibilities. LEO’s development has been commended worldwide and the electric propulsion system consisting of jet clusters for lift has recently been awarded funding from DARPA – the US Government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – a major step towards bringing these innovations within reach.
All things considered, the idea of owning one of these automobile/aircraft hybrids at home is fascinating. As time goes on, we realize that the feasibility of having a flying electric car available for private use may be closer than we thought.
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