NASA Aims to Turn Flying Cars Into a Reality
NASA engineers at the Langley Research Center are working on a new technology to improve general aviation, and potentially one day provide people with their own flying cars.
The space agency is currently working on a technology known as distributed electric propulsion, which essentially uses "lots of very compact, very redundant, highly efficient, electrically driven propellers" as a much more practical way of powering aircrafts while also allowing the vehicle to take-off vertically and land much easier, reports the Daily Press.
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"We have an effort we're doing this year with an automotive company to look at what we call hyper-commuter personal air vehicles," said NASA engineer Mark D. Moore. "This is the Holy Grail of what people have been talking about for a hundred years. This is flying cars."
Distributed electric propulsion will soon be implemented first for general aviation aircrafts that only need to travel up to 200 miles at a time. But the technology could be available for personal vehicles sooner than we think.
NASA began collaborating with Empirical Systems Aerospace and Joby Aviation on a wing project in January. The electric-powered, small-propelled 31-foot wing reportedly will be demonstrated in two weeks and will determine NASA's progres so far.
Battery technology is the project's current biggest challenge. According to Moore, batteries still weigh too much, are too expensive and more importantly don't hold a charge long enough to make long-distance flights.
Moore also said that NASA expects the first-ever manned aircraft using the technology to be a ready for testing within the next three years.
"It's fundamentally going to change what we can do and what we've wanted to do for so long in aviation," Moore said. "And it's not going to be that far away."