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Flying Vehicles: The Movies Versus Reality

By raccars Published

Cars that can communicate with one another, monitor your health, and even drive themselves – the evolution within the automotive industry can sometimes be astonishing. With non-conventional manufacturers such as Apple and Google joining the fray, cars are becoming more and more like computers.

However, one of the most common fantasies is that one day, we will all be jetting across the sky as part of our daily commute. Forever mused about in film and television, flying cars are the dream yet to be realised. But with technology developing more and more rapidly, it might be closer than we think.

The Xplorair is a flying car (albeit wheel-less) developed by Michael Aguilar and supported by various aeronautics firms. It uses a thermoreactor jet engine, an optimised airflow and smaller wingspan to sustain flight whilst minimising drag; one of the most noticeable features of the Xplorair is that the physics behind its design cause it to take-off neither laterally or vertically, but diagonally.

There is also the SkyRider X2R, built by Macro Industries, which makes use of swivelling ducted fans to provide both lift, propulsion and turning. A maximum speed of 375mph is promised, whilst navigation utilises technology that is already making some headway – voice command. Utilities such as Apple’s recent CarPlay allows for the control of apps during travel by simply speaking, but the concept proposed by Macro Industries suggests a future that combines this with the rapidly evolving nature of autonomous vehicles.

However, the closest company to bringing this to fruition is Terrafugia, having designed not one, but two transforming cars capable of flight. Both of these are still in development, and whilst they are not expected to retail for a few more years, it is hoped you’ll be able to go from your (not-so) typical road fare to your very own personal aviation carriage at the flick of a switch. Current models include a design that bears resemblance to a bi-plane and the new TF-X, which makes use of folding wings and propellers for vertical take-off. Until then, however, we’ll have to settle for admiring some of the weird and wonderful creations that already grace our screens.

Pictured: DMC DeLorean

The DeLorean – Back to the Future Series

Long-hailed a cult classic, the Back to the Future series is filled with timeless moments. From Doc using his prized-dog Einstein in the first ever time-machine experiment, to Marty pursuing a runaway train on hoverboard, there are countless reasons as to why this film is cherished all around the world. But not least was the iconic DMC DeLorean that set the stage for the dynamic time-travelling duo and their adventures. As if being modified to travel through time wasn’t enough, the DeLorean gets a minor upgrade when Doc takes it into the future and has a hover function installed, giving it the ability to leave the ground.

Capitol Hovercraft – The Hunger Games

The dystopian country of Panem is home to sadistic annual competitions where young contestants are forced to fight to the death for the amusement of heartless aristocrats. Lead protagonist, Katniss, concludes her journey in cinemas next month with the second part of the series climactic epilogue, Mockingjay. Those familiar with the series should remember Panem’s lavish bullet trains reserved for the rich, although the nearest thing to personal transport was the film’s prominent hovercraft. Operated by the Capitol’s peacekeepers, these hefty vehicles run both transport and retrieval missions, and are often equipped with a vast array of tools, including a handy cloaking device for stealthily monitoring participants.

Pictured: Fifth Element Taxi

Flying Taxi – Fifth Element

New York City’s Cabs, among other flying vehicles, dominate the airways in the film The Fifth Element. Essentially carrying a fugitive in the back of his car, the ex-army Major Korben Dallas has to evade the authorities in a daring chase throughout a busy metropolis, eventually descending into the dark underbelly of the city in an attempt to hide away. Not exactly the ride you might expect hailing down a cab – let’s hope taking a trip across the city isn’t quite as death-defying in 2263!

S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier – The Avengers

Granted, the helicarrier is much larger than a car, but it provides interesting insight into how large-scale vehicles might work. In comic canon, the old version’s turbines are replaced by anti-gravity ‘repulsors’ – an Iron Man-designed technology allowing for stable levitation (and in the case of Tony Stark himself, flight). In truth, there isn’t anything similar to repulsors so far, but there have definitely been some interesting concepts proposed. Japan’s Maglev trains already use opposing magnetic fields to sustain contactless motion, whilst ambitious designer Wei Zhao proposed using magnetic fields to levitate a whole ring-shaped city above the earth.

Pictured: Total Recall Hovercar

Total Recall – HoverCar

The remake of a classic, the newest version of Total Recall featured a prominent chase scene well-grounded in imagined future technology, with cars able to travel both horizontally and laterally, using lifts to make the transition between roads. In an interesting twist, the main chase scene featured roads that were situated above the car as well as below it!

So what do you make of an airborne future? Is it something to look forward to, or do you prefer to stay firmly on the ground?

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