2016 Passenger Drone: A World Without Roads

CES 2016 — The First Passenger Quadcopter

My wife and I made a bet recently, that by 2025, passenger quadcopters will dominate the taxi market, by 2030, dominate the consumer market. If I win, we get to learn German. If I lose, we’re going to Hawaii. This year at CES, there was an interesting new invention that many attendees and tech writers brushed off as nothing more than a punchline as compared to the oft sketchy flight assist found in consumer drones on the market today. In recent years, Google has made a large impact with self-driving cars, and yet even with the recent declaration by Obama stating that the Fed will support this new self-driving innovation, the true impact of the future will quickly overshadow this much needed development.

Consider how much time that Google has spent trying to perfect the skill of driving around on our messy and chaotic streets — millions of hours of R&D and testing, yet California DMV recently judged against full self-automation until some indefinite time.

Yet imagine a future without needing roads at all. No road development or road repairs. Billions of tax payer money applied elsewhere. Roads in the future are completely virtual. Like in the token “this is sci-fi, bwaaaa” moment, Hollywood’s “future cars” buzz around in a fixed lines at varying altitudes, like if roads were there, but not. This will be all that’s needed for passenger quads.

Film: The FIfth Element

If Google put only a fraction of the previously mentioned time toward self-automated quadcopter or drone passenger flight, you would need only a fraction of the time to develop. Landing and taking off would need the flight computers to coordinate with other vehicles, but even that is largely trivial compared to what self-driving automation needs to triumph over.

Problems and Solutions

There will be a few major issues that will need to be worked out prior to widespread adoption, but we can already see technology advancements pushing toward these solutions.

  1. Quadcopter Rotor Blade Sound
  2. Residential Architecture to Include Landing Pads
  3. Battery Life
  4. Transporting Goods

Quadcopter Sound

Quadcopters are infamously noisy, but recently the new residentially friendly medical helicopters have gotten the quiet treatment. These advancements will continue especially as quadcopter design can eventually completely enclose the rotors all together. You won’t ever see them.

The Special “Quiet” Helicopter
Rotors Built in to the Fuselage Design, as an Early Example of Rotor Enclosure.

Residential Landing Pads

This is an interesting topic, as in the traditional sense, landing pads are needed for helicopters because they are quite difficult to land. As a fledgling rotor craft pilot myself, It’s not exactly difficult, but you need space and time to do it comfortably. Quadcopters don’t need such luxuries.

Quadcopters are very stable and nimble. They can even drive like cars for parking purposes, if needed.

With wheels…

Vertical take off and landing isn’t at all like with single rotor helicopters. Helicopter need to look after the airflow very intentionally, as if any sudden or chaotic movements occur, the aircraft can become dangerously unstable.

With the recent advent of drone racing, we can see that in the event of emergency maneuvers, quad rotors can move any direction at all times, as seen here by the fast growing sport of drone racing — the future of actual racing? Think F1 or Nascar… ABC Australia reports:

Battery Life

We can already massive advancements year over year with battery efficiency. With recent helium filled prototype inventions by Apple, we’re not far off from a completely battery filled life.

Transporting Goods

We already see Amazon moving toward delivering 5 lbs. packages with their latest designs. Keep in mind, quadcopters hit the market about 5 years ago… what will 30 years look like?

Amazon PrimeAir

No Roads Means Society Changes Drastically

As the need for physical roads disappear, our cities can look very different, however, our rural houses may not. Apartments and malls can still use carports and parking lots, or use the tops of buildings as landing pads for parking or taxiing for take-off. But one thing is for sure, our future is without roads, it’s just a matter of when.

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