Flight school in just ninety minutes

20th July 2018
Alex Lynn

Recently there seems to have been a bombardment of companies beginning to launch flying cars, all giving their own forward-looking prediction on when they will be ready to commercial launch their vehicles. 

Uber, Rolls Royce, BlackFly, Google, Airbus and Kitty Hawke are all among the companies currently embroiled in the race to create the first working, viable flying car, but Kitty Hawke, a company backed by Google’s Larry Page, has one leg up on the competition; it is already working.

The Kitty Hawke Flyer is capable of carrying one person in the cockpit, with ten small propellers powered by all-electric motors with lithium polymer batteries. Multiple sensors spread around the Flyer use the data they collect to provide auto-stabilisation to the flight, leaving less onus on the driver to keep the Flyer steady. Furthermore, the driver only needs to use two controls to pilot the Flyer, making it as simple as possible.

The completely waterproof vehicle is able to take off over water, and the Flyer is currently being flown, successfully, over a large lake in Las Vegas, as it is currently illegal for it to be flown in heavily populated areas, or at all at night time. However, the team at Kitty Hawke is confident that this legislation will change. Also at the lake in Las Vegas, Kitty Hawke have begun using a hangar as a test facility for the Flyer.

At the facility, new drivers of the Flyer can take part in learning how to pilot and handle the Flyer in a training course that takes just 90 minutes. The Flyer does not require a full pilot’s licence as weighing under 113kg, it counts as an ultralight aircraft, which do not require licences to fly. However, anyone weighing more than 91kg would not be permitted to fly. The training courses’ main focus is on what to do if the worst should happen and the Flyer begins to crash.

The training takes the hopeful pilot-to-be through a simulator-style computer program, which teaches you how to use the switch for altitude control and the joystick used to steer. The next step in the training process involves a Flyer that is safely tied to the ground to try and eradicate any nervousness a potential flier might have. The final step of the short training program sees the pilot in a ball pit used as a simulation for what to do in case of a capsized landing, finding yourself unexpectedly dunked under water.

After the successful completion of this 90 minute, three-step training crash course, Kitty Hawke considers you ready to fly their vehicle, which given the simplicity of the Flyer, seems to be all that is needed.

Brittney Miculka, who completed the training course and has flown the Flyer told the BBC: “I really don’t have to think about a lot other than letting the aircraft do its thing and then putting it where I want to go.” Which gives an insight into just how easy it is to fly, similar to the BlackFly, which claims drivers won’t even need to have a license to pilot their flying car.

However, it is possible that much of the reason flying cars are so simple to pilot at the moment can be attributed to the fact that there are barely any about. Right now, the chances of you taking off in a flying car and bumping in to another person in a flying car is infinitesimal. Whereas much of your driving test for a car is based around making sure you are safe to be on a road populated with other drivers. This does suggest that if flying cars really do take off, the process to be able to fly will cease to be so simple as something resembling sky roads will have to be put into place, and being safe around other fliers will become a requirement.

The Flyer can currently only move at six miles per hour, with a maximum battery life of approximately 20 minutes. It is also currently not being flown in winds any stronger than ten miles per hour either, meaning that despite being the first flying car ready for lift-off, it isn’t yet a viable alternative to a traditional car.

Confident in future legislative and technological advances, Todd Reichert, Kitty Hawk’s lead engineer, stated: “Working with the regulatory bodies to figure out how to move from recreation to exploration to transportation is going to be super important, and that’ll take time,” going on to claim, “any limits are only temporary. It’ll be a while before we can fly in a hurricane. But it won’t be too long before we can fly in a lot of conditions.”

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