Up, up and away: Flying-cars vision soars in Dubai
As Travelers United has predicted, the world of unmanned aerial vehicles is growing more quickly than US government officials’ flying-cars vision; that is, if there is any future planning going on at the FAA.
Everywhere in the world, it seems that governments are experimenting and rolling out unmanned aerial systems or drones. But in the USA, we seem to be at a regulatory impasse. When will the FAA say that every drone needs a license and should be regulated? When will the FAA come up with an overall vision for the National Airspace System?
City planners at the World Bank are already discussing these issues with Travelers United staff. The development of a new autonomous transportation system sandwiched between the manned aviation network controlled by air traffic controllers and the surface transportation system is in full swing. Only the US has no plans to participate with any flying-car vision.
So far, the woeful Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has all but ignored the future technology coming online for an unmanned aviation world. Making rules for operating aviation systems is necessary for the testing phase; however, the US needs to look further into the future to make infrastructure changes and develop a new regulatory system for this new technology.
The CEO of Airbus announced that his corporation would introduce a flying car prototype. Dubai announced a partnership with a Chinese firm to test flying cars in their city. This new world is coming whether the FAA is ready or not. Australia is already delivering packages by drone and working out the kinks as they go. The main question these days is how far behind the US will fall without a structure to build out this new level of transportation.
The arrival of the Chinese-made EHang 184 — which already has had its flying debut over Dubai’s iconic, sail-shaped Burj al-Arab skyscraper hotel — comes as the Emirati city also has partnered with other cutting-edge technology companies, including Hyperloop One.
The question is whether the egg-shaped, four-legged craft will really take off as a transportation alternative in this car-clogged city already home to the world’s longest driverless metro line.
Mattar al-Tayer, the head of Dubai’s Roads & Transportation Agency, announced plans to have the craft regularly flying at the World Government Summit. Before his remarks on Monday, most treated the four-legged, eight-propeller craft as just another curiosity at an event that views itself as a desert Davos.
“This is not only a model,” al-Tayer said. “We have actually experimented with this vehicle flying in Dubai’s skies.”
This is not science fiction. The French aviation giant, Airbus, has a flying-cars vision. The Chinese are already testing their flying-cars vision. Where is the US? We are mired in red tape that gets headlines from the Super Bowl halftime show that was smoke and mirrors. But, our FAA is not looking into harnessing the future.
Where US industry and NASA have tested autonomous flight systems, our technology is wonderful. It is cutting edge. However, the lack of a flying-cars vision means that testing and deployment of much US technology is taking place out of our country.
Unmanned aerial vehicles are a reality and something that our country needs to make plans for today, not in the far future when US industry is woefully behind the rest of the world.
Charlie Leocha is the President of Travelers United. He has been working in Washington, DC, for the past ten years with Congress, the Department of Transportation and industry stakeholders on travel issues. He was the consumer representative to the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protections appointed by the Secretary of Transportation from 2012 through 2018. He also served on the Consumer Advocacy Subcommittee of the Transportation Security Advisory Board.