I'm not sure about the export distribution of Popular Science, but anyone who has had access to this magazine in the past has seen countless drawings and articles about designs like this almost since the magazine's conception. True, the dream of personal flight extends far beyond this particular magazine, going back way back to the days when men strapped elaborate wings to themselves and ended up as a puddle at the bottom of a high place.
Technology has certainly changed since then, but I have to wonder if such a dream is feasible at all based on our current set of parameters in this world. Surely, if one gets creative enough and extends their thoughts far enough into the future options exist. Working with today's principles of aerodynamics and fuel efficiency though, just how possible is this?
For instance, this contraption might do well in a controlled environment, it might even do well scooting around Atlanta Georgia, but what happens when you take this to a city like Chicago where powerful gusts of wind rip amongst the skyscrapers and threaten to even lift walking pedestrians off of their feet if they are light enough? What happens on a 120 degree day in Arizona where hot air effects the lift properties. What about a subzero winter where severe icing becomes a problem. True, a person sitting out in the open flying through the air at 80 mph is hardly going to be inclined to use this device in the winter, but it seems it would be a semi-trivial matter to get a small environment controlled bubble around the operator's area, thus returning the problem to icing.
What about traffic laws? You know the governments of the world are going to be rather anxious to limit just who can operate this, and under what circumstances.
What about night? I don't see any lights on this prototype drawing, what are the considerations for night flying? What do overpasses, powerlines, telephone lines, small office buildings, and large trees all have in common? They are high enough to pose a threat to this method of transportation, and none of them have any sort of lighting attached to them. Unless this thing can blast its surroundings with super powerful halogen lighting that extends beyond 150 feet, flying at night would be a severe hazard. The problem with that is putting such powerful lights on a vehicle would cripple all the other vehicles coming towards it. Like one of those inconsiderate drivers who leave their brights on non-stop, multiplied by 5.
Okay, so it can travel at a good clip, but what are its hovering capabilities? How easy is it to handle in a hover, and will it become unstable? Picture a society that uses this mode of transportation a lot, you are going to have a bit of a traffic jam and slowdown situations when you get to cities. How will this traffic be directed? I've always imagined that when flying vehicles become a mainstay it will operate on a similiar principle to FAA regulations. Different altitudes for different directions. This would not be as easy to implement for low-flying personal craft though due to the nature of personal travel. Swerve over here to the grocery store, swerve over here to pick up a rental movie. Are you really going to want to adjust 400 feet of altitude just to skip down the block? People will cheat, and the results would be a disaster.
Hey, I'm all for this. I'm like any other human, I long for the ability to just take off and zoom to work without the hassle of fume filled traffic stops, construction, and such. I've been saying for quite some time that the construction and road building agencies should drop all of the millions they pour into road decay every year and put it directly towards research and development of flying vehicles. Something they will never do though, unless they can find a way to justify their existance after a large scale migration to personal flight. Just thinking of all the zillions of dollars wasted on repairing old strips of road over and over. So much could be done with that money to rid ourselves of the problem forever.
I still have my doubts though. Interesting stuff however.
Ioa Aqualine Petra'ka