If the special means of transport become safe enough and get the necessary permits, we can get from A to B in a flying saucer-like vehicle in no time, alongside the rocket backpack, flying motorbike and flying car.
“If you’ve ever tried to drive from downtown Seattle to the airport, I think that’s reason enough for this project.”
– summarized succinctly the motivation behind his work with ZEVA Aero and some of the university’s students and Professor Konstantin Matveev, a professor at Washington State University’s (WSU) School of Engineering and Materials. The project involves the construction and testing of ZERO, ZEVA Aero’s first personal transport vehicle, with WSU researchers responsible for the design of the prototype’s propulsion system and aerodynamic simulations.
The ZERO will not be a new type of transport, but will join the growing number of eVTOLs (electric vertical takeoff and landing) being developed today, but at first glance it will be very different from other models.
Instead of the usual shape, the vehicle has a saucer-like, disc-shaped exterior. This unusual design allows the driver/passenger to stand upright inside the ZERO at take-off, then to change to a horizontal position during flight, with the passenger lying down, and then to return to a vertical position on landing.
With only enough room for one person in the tight space, ZEVA Aero’s product is really only for single-person transport, not air taxi, but the company says there is demand for these vehicles as they allow the owner to get straight to their destination without detours and without getting stuck on busy streets. The streamlined shape, the company says, will help achieve greater range and increase performance, with the ZERO expected to reach 80 kilometres on a single charge, meaning it will not just be suitable for urban driving, and will have a maximum speed of over 250 km/h.
Because of its shape, you won’t even need a traditional landing place, you can even rest on a small vertical docking unit on the side of the buildings. The SkyDock is connected to the vehicle via computer control, and the driver exiting the unit can then enter the building via the gateway.
The company’s vision is ambitious, with air taxi services expected to start in the world by 2025, by 2035 everyone will have their own eVTOL and by 2040 it will be commonplace to see people travelling by personal air vehicle. ZERO’s small-scale model took to the skies for the first time in 2018, the first photos of the full-scale prototype were shown in 2019, and in 2020 it was entered in the GoFly competition. They are currently developing the device with the help of Washington State University and, while no date has been set for when ZERO will be commercially available, they did reveal that it will first be made available to emergency responders.
The dates predicted by the company, such as the launch of air taxi services within a few years, are probably not far from the truth, with more and more flying cars or eVTOLs getting the green light to start the type certification process recently, including Joby Aviation: this document proves that the vehicle is airworthy and safe, and if a company obtains it (as well as the other approvals), they can then expect to see their vehicle in open airspace soon. Most recently, an application by a flying car company, SkyDrive, which is developing a single-passenger transport vehicle with an uncovered cabin, was accepted in Japan for the first time in the country.