Flying Cars Era: Closer than you think | RationalStat
era of flying cars insights by RationalStat

From the pages of sci-fi comics to the skies of our cities

For many decades, there has been a serious study of the use of aviation technologies for intraurban transportation so that greater speed and transport efficiency could be achieved for short-range applications. But the technologies were not available to meet the safety and economic requirements.

However, such efforts are finally bringing outputs and flying cars might be witnessed flying across!!

Well, flying cars are a thing of the twentieth century, but it all started when aviation pioneer, Glenn Curtiss created an Autoplane, a three-seat car-cum-aircraft with removable wings. Ever since there is no halt in the proceedings.

Dubai leading on tech innovation?

Adding another milestone is the Chinese firm, Xpeng which conducted the initial flight of its electric flying car- the Xpeng X2, at Skydive Dubai.

Flying car RationalStat

This flight was witnessed by 150 attendees, including delegates from the Chinese consulate, and required a special flying permit from the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA). Other than these, the Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism and the Dubai World Trade Center witnessed this flight. The sci-fi design coupled with a complete carbon fiber structure, helps in reducing the overall weight of the vehicle, making it capable of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) meaning, that it doesn’t require long runways to land/takeoff.

This also indicates that the next-gen flying cars will be able to take off/land on even the rooftop of a building with a helipad.

This two-seater vehicle produces zero carbon emissions and is suitable for quick medical transportation. It also offers two driving modes, manual and autonomous, to provide passengers with a complete, intelligent, and safe flying experience. Xpeng Aeroht unlocked the international achievement of flying cars dated 10 October 2022.

According to RationalStat Analysis, the autonomous aircraft market (TAM) is anticipated to reach US$ 1 Trillion by 2040, creating opportunities for investors and benefiting a host of sectors along the way. Transportation and Logistics segment is expected to lead the market with over 50% market share by 2040, followed by Autos/Shared Mobility segment (46.5%). By 2040, the Military and Government and Airlines segment are expected to account for 1.0% and 2.2% respectively.

Market Breakup by End User, 2040E

Flying cars Market Breakup by End User, 2040E
Source: RationalStat Analysis

Flying Cars: Modified helicopter or just an upgraded drone with seating capacity?

Though the structure does look like a drone, as it has four rotors, but the fact that the accessibility of doors and the landing stand familiarizes with a helicopter, cannot be denied. The flying car also comes with driving options of either being self-driven or driven by a human, which differentiates it from both drones and helicopters.

Flying cars may sound more amusing, but the name fits perfectly as far as the features are concerned. However, a layman might use terms like helicopter and drone interchangeably to refer to a flying car.

Government Plans and Schemes

Well although the adoption of flying cars and passenger drones will require government permission and licenses, the authorities view this as a once-in-a-decade opportunity and would try to monetize the same by levying use taxes, zoning, and airspace restrictions.

In addition, flying cars require sustainable legal standards for operation, maintenance, control, and step-by-step adoption.

Besides, with land-based autonomous vehicles, there is an intriguing coupling of government and startup development efforts. Certainly, the government's role is to regulate, but it can also provide infrastructure, such as traffic light information or vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, which will make it easier to develop autonomous ground vehicles.

Passenger Drones are here to disrupt the Automotive Supply Chain

The industry’s supply chain will need to move just as quickly as the technological developments and might as well involve new participants in the supply chain. For this market, the industry will need to build an entirely new supply chain.

Obviously, the business model and commercial approach for passenger drones will be different from those currently operating in the traditional aerospace market.

Rather than marketing and selling to airlines (which operate the aircraft and act as intermediaries between OEMs and passengers), aerospace companies may need to market and sell to new types of fleet operators or directly to end users. They may be required to serve as fleet operators themselves.

Developments in the Market: Acquisition is the Trend

Several trends are coalescing to increase demand for flying cars. First, many developed market cities' transportation infrastructures are in disrepair, and there is little appetite for the types of investments required to upgrade them. According to the World Bank, urban populations are growing twice as fast as the overall population, resulting in a US$18 trillion infrastructure spending gap.

Although most mobility infrastructure was designed for automobiles, rapid urbanization has resulted in congested roads and millions of frustrated commuters. Furthermore, there is widespread interest and investment in flying cars from OEMs (both inside and outside the aerospace industry), transportation providers such as Uber, software developers, and venture capital investors. So far, nearly US$ 500 million has been invested in the technology.

Otherwise known as passenger drones, this market has witnessed ample developments, some of which are listed below.

  • Boeing acquired Aurora Flight Sciences in October 2017, the eVTOL technology, with the prototype tested in the beginning of 2017. The company also announced a partnership with Uber, which is working on on-demand flying cars. Aurora aims to deliver 50 aircraft to UberAir by 2020.
  • The final commercial design of AeroMobil's Flying Car was revealed in April 2017. Unlike other companies, which mostly manufacture VTOL aircraft, the vehicle is designed to be driven as well as flown. AeroMobil has begun accepting pre-orders, with deliveries expected to begin in 2020.
  • Project Vahana, an electric autonomous helicopter, and CityAirbus, an air taxi, are also in advanced development at Airbus. Project Vahana is intended for both passenger and cargo transport, and Airbus intends to fly the prototype by the end of 2017. CityAirbus is an air taxi concept that features multiple propellers and the appearance of a small drone. Customers would be able to reserve a seat on CityAirbus at the same time they reserved an Uber ride.
  • In November 2017, Volvo's parent company, Geely, acquired Terrafugia, a flying car startup. Transition, Terrafugia's first flying car, is currently in testing, with deliveries promised for 2019. In addition, the company is developing a VTOL flying car, which is set to debut in 2023.

Apart from these developments, companies like Vinata Aeromobility and the ePlane Company are breaking new ground, by aiming to convert rooftops into landing spots for eVOTLs air taxis.

The Chennai-based Vinata Aeromobility is focused on developing a fully autonomous flying car, which will be Asia’s first hybrid flying car that will operate on biofuels, making air mobility more sustainable.

Besides, acquisitions, autonomous flight systems, electrical propulsion, and battery-based energy storage have all advanced rapidly and are some of the key underlying technologies. A key capacity milestone for electric batteries is 400 watt-hours per kilogram, which may take up to a decade to achieve.

What’s the Future?

Flying cars, unlike traditional aircraft, will necessitate a manufacturing model based on high volumes, a low product mix, and affordability. Development, design, and engineering must move much more quickly than current timelines for bringing certified aircraft and passenger drones to market. Because of the rapid advancement of technology, product cycles are likely to be only a few years long, as opposed to the more than 20-year cycles that are typical in the aerospace industry.

However, safety and reliability standards must be equally stringent. Furthermore, the technologies required to field a viable product—electric propulsion, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), powerful batteries, advanced sensors, autonomous flight, complex air traffic control, and fleet management systems—are slowly catching the eye of the market.

To know more about the current market scenario for the flying cars market, request a sample.

Ujjwal Parwal | RationalStat Director and co-founder

Ujjwal Parwal

Co-founder and Director at RationalStat

Ujjwal is a thought leader and recognized expert in the market research and consulting field. He is the co-founder at RationalStat, a leading global market research & procurement intelligence firm with 10+ years of industry expertise.

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