In movies, we got used to the fact that airplanes always work perfectly. For a long time, they seemed just a dream, a sci-fi fantasy, until Uber announced the Elevator project last year, and in principle, the first copies could appear in Los Angeles airspace in 2020.
Getting closer to realization, there are a number of problems with them. Most importantly, they need more power than the average car, so they need bigger, heavier, heavier, heavier batteries that pull off the machine. On the other hand, how do they fly the right distances at the right speed without having to stop to recharge multiple times ?
The San Francisco-based startup specialists of Karman Electric, who pay homage to Tódor Kármán (1881-1963), who declared his name, are working on the solution with steam power. Passenger air taxis at altitudes of 10-30 meters would operate from ground lines developed for this purpose, a bit as if we were lifting trams into the airspace and connecting them to the rails with some kind of cable. In this case, small elements are sufficient for them. The elements allow, if necessary, to be disconnected from the power supply network, the ground cables.
The theory sounds very good, but the number of issues to be solved does not decrease or even multiply: what happens, for example, in the event of a power outage, or if the ropes of two aircraft become tangled, or a helicopter or bird disrupts a flying taxi? How do developers solve difficult-to-manage terrain or over-water transportation?
According to the plans, they would then disconnect from the grid, usually above cities, rise higher, nearly a thousand meters, and switch to battery operation.
But to what extent can it be considered a flying vehicle if we tie the car to the ground? If the most energy-efficient way to operate a flying car is to connect to wires running on the ground, why not use a train instead?
The concept will be tested with quadrocopter drones from the end of the year. The first presentation was held at a private Arkansas air taxi event. The company is testing six rotor structures, the system would transport thousands of people at speeds of nearly 400 kilometers per hour between settlements hundreds of kilometers apart.