Military Should Watch 'Flying Car' Industry.

Author:Magnuson, Stew
Position::Technology Tomorrow

* It was only a few short years after the hot air balloon was invented in the 1780s when someone had the idea to send one up over a battlefield and observe enemy troop movements.

The Wright Brothers arrived at Fort Myer, Virginia, in 1909--just a few short blocks from the present-day National Defense Industrial Association office. They were there to sell the Army one of their Wright Flyers. The first demonstration resulted in a crash and the death of Lt. Thomas Selfridge.

Nevertheless, the Signal Corps did not lose interest and they purchased one of the aircraft for $25,000. Within a decade, U.S. pilots were fighting in an air war in Europe.

If history repeats, the question before the military may soon be, what--if anything--will it do to leverage the upcoming wave of so-called "flying cars?"

Add this concept to the list of technologies once common in science fiction novels that are quickly becoming real such as walking robots, conversational computers and laser weapons.

The term "flying cars" is more marketing term than reality. They are simply aircraft, but with an application envisioned as replacing cars. Big money is being put into the technology and investors see a market.

Has any commuter in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Dallas or any of the other congested American cities not fantasized about zooming above the gridlock in a personal flying vehicle?

Those traffic jams simply aren't going away. Consider that the greater Washington, D.C, region is adding about 66,000 new people a year at a steady clip. Since the 2010 census, the region has added nearly a half million people and is experiencing 8.8 percent population growth. For Dallas, it's 12.5 percent over the same period; Miami, 9 percent; Atlanta, 9.5 percent. Pick a typical city with nightmare rush hour traffic and the percentages are about the same.

More people mean more cars on the road. Public transportation, work-from-home trends and carpooling don't seem to be making a huge dent in the problem.

The inventors and the investors see this and are placing bets on small, personal aircraft that will whisk commuters over the gridlock and deliver them from their suburban outposts to city centers and their jobs, and vice versa.

Business Insider in a recent article identified seven projects developing personal flying vehicles. Among them are Germany's E-volo with its vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. It wants to start a taxi service in 2018.

Airbus--through its Silicon Valley technology...

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