A Miami real estate developer is preparing for the arrival of flying cars. He’s incorporating a skyport on the top of a new condo tower where passenger drones will be able to pick-up and drop-off residents. And he’s thinking that’s not very far into the future.
Developer Dan Kodsi recently closed on a huge $285 million construction loan to build the Paramount Miami Worldcenter. He and his partners broke ground on the project last year. It will be a 700-foot tower with 60 stories and 562 condos — 75% of which are sold already, according to the Miami Real Deal. (1)
Construction crews are expected to finish the job by this December, or the beginning of next year. As a crowning achievement, literally, the building will include a futuristic landing space for vertical take-off and landing vehicles or VTOLs.
Uber Elevate Inspiration
Kodsi got the idea for the skyport after hearing about Uber Elevate. Uber Technologies is planning to introduce a network of flying vehicles as a ride-sharing concept. They will be introduced in Dallas, Los Angeles, and Dubai, at first, with plans to expand to other cities. We won’t see them immediately. Uber Technologies expects to get the network operating in about six years.
Kodsi also doesn’t expect to see flying cars in Miami anytime soon, maybe not for another 10 to 15 years, but he told the Real Deal, “Being a developer, you want to see where the trends are heading and stay ahead of them.” He says, “I truly believe the skyport will be the future train station.”
First Flying Car Coming Next Year
Just last month, the Netherlands-based Pal-V company introduced what they claim will be the first flying car for sale to individuals. The so-called “Liberty” doesn’t look like a drone. It’s a three-wheeled gyrocopter with rooftop blades that fold up when you are operating the vehicle on the road, but it does drive and fly.
Pal-V unveiled it recently at the Geneva Motor Show. It’s designed for two people and can fly at speeds of about 110 miles per hour. You do have to manually fold up the blades if you want to drive it, but the operation is described by Forbes as something that only takes ten minutes. (2)
It won’t be available until next year, but you can reserve one for $10,000. You’ll have to dig a little deeper when it’s delivered. The base model, called the Liberty Sport, will be $400,000. You will also need a pilot’s license, and special flight training, which is reportedly included in the cost.
Government regulations will also need to be finalized for this kind of transport, and that could take some time. But whatever the timeline turns out to be, it appears that flying cars are coming our way quickly, and we’ll start living the life of the Jetsons in the near future.
Air Taxis Will Dot the Skies
The Wall Street Journal writes that about a dozen companies are developing air taxis. And what many companies are envisioning are passenger vehicles that look more like giant drones. Uber plans to turn these vehicles into a system that’s affordable and easy for daily commuters. With a flying car, you will literally be able to get from point A to point B “as the crow flies.”
In the case of Uber, the vehicles will be 100% electric. They will have pilots at first, but that will evolve over time to vehicles that are fully autonomous, according to Uber.
The one piece of technology that is needed to complete the VTOL puzzle is an appropriate battery. It needs to be light, quick-charging, long-lasting, powerful, and inexpensive. At this point, that battery doesn’t exist.
Uber’s director of engineering has challenged battery developers to come up with the perfect battery. The perfect battery needs to be able to power a vehicle that can carry at least a few people and travel about 60 miles without recharging.
Batteries in use today might have about two-thirds of the needed power so they appear to be getting close to the flying car requirements, but the materials in use are already close to their maximum energy density. According to a blog in Quartz, industry experts say it could take another 15 years to develop the kind of battery that’s needed.
Small Drones to Flying Cars
The idea of flying from place to place in a small vehicle has been with us for decades, but we haven’t been close to that reality until now. Some of the other companies developing flying cars include Toyota with a flying vehicle that doubles as a car. The company hopes to develop its Cartivator by 2020 so it can be used to light the Olympic torch.
A German company called eVolo announced recently that it has developed a VTOL that it hopes to use as a piloted taxi service someone this year. The vehicle is called the Volocopter 2X. It will be powered by six batteries and 18 rotors with 17 minutes of flight time, and space for two people.
Airbus is also developing a VTOL that will carry just one person, or some cargo. It will be able to fly as high as 1,000 feet and provide taxi service as soon as 2020, allegedly. The company plans on calling it CityAirbus. It would have several propellers and look like a big drone. It will have a pilot at first, but is expected to operate as a fully autonomous vehicle in the future.
Google Co-Founder Larry Page is backing another project for a vehicle called Kitty Hawk. It’s an electric vehicle with pontoons that can fly over water. It’s not a fast-moving vehicle. It will travel just 25 miles per hour at a height of 15 feet above the surface of the water.
There are a few more of these vehicles listed in an article by Business Insider, as well as pictures. (3)
(2) Forbes Article