Future of City Travel: Flying Car Set for Launch

Despite the timing, this is not an April Fool’s joke:  if all goes to plan, flying cars could soon be a familiar sight in cities across the world.

Silicon Valley-based Mix Aerospace has developed a plan for a vehicle that functions both as a car and a personal flying machine, which it has named Skylys. The company is seeking funding through Indiegogo to make the project a reality.

While the idea may seem technologically remote, the company already has a complete design as well as a number of patents and backing from key figures in the aerospace industry.

If enough funding is attracted, a prototype should be ready by 2017.

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Skylys will fly in a similar way to a helicopter, using a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) system integrated into a set of wings, meaning that it could be flown by anyone with a helicopter licence. Once it lands, the wings will detach, turning it into a road-legal car that can be driven as normal.

Although flying cars are traditionally a staple of retrofuturistic city concepts, the company believes that there is huge potential for the technology in the real world.

Writing on its Indiegogo project page, the company said: “A lot of people want to believe in flying cars but find it hard to grasp the reality of the situation, pushing the idea back to science fiction and out of reach. We strongly believe that the time is right, there are uses for such a vehicle.”

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Initially Mix sees Skylys being used by police, fire and ambulance services, and believes it could play a major role in disaster situations such as Hurricane Katrina, where it could have airlifted people from flooded areas of New Orleans.

It also sees it as a potential vehicle for private individuals: it could replace private chauffer services in cities where traffic congestion is a problem, and could land on buildings in skyscraper-rich cities such as Dubai.

Long-term we’d like to think it will be accessible to normal people, but for now it is likely to be restricted to the super wealthy. Funders can pre-order a vehicle now, although with the incredibly hefty price tag of €1m we don’t expect many takers.

The Indiegogo campaign, which started yesterday, has a target of €2.25m but is using flexible funding, meaning that the company will keep any money raised even if it does not hit the final goal.

The project seems in part to be to raise enough money to recruit engineering staff and boost awareness so that the company can attract venture capital financing and build an international marketing platform to sell to the wealthy elite.

Update: This article has been updated to reflect a change on the Indiegogo website which originally stated the cost to receive a prototype was €1bn – since publication this has been changed to €1m. 


Images courtesy of Mix Aerospace.


3D printing to be as big as WhatsApp by 2018

The 3D printing market will become as valuable as WhatsApp in another four years, research has revealed.

Unlike the social messaging platform, the 3D printing industry, despite having plenty of real-world uses, is still only just breaking into the mass consumer market.

However, the growth of 3D printing is set to explode in the coming years – largely down to developments allowing individuals to purchase and use the printers.

Researchers at Canalys have said that the 3D printing industry will be worth £16bn in 2018 – the same price that Facebook purchased WhatsApp for earlier this year.

The researchers say the falling cost of 3D printers, making the technology available to far more people, will be key to growth, particularly with the rise of printers that can be used in the home.

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The potential of 3D printing is undeniable: more and more companies are embracing the manufacturing process, which can be easier, quicker and cheaper than traditional methods. The technology is being utilised across many different sectors, including healthcare, jewellery, vehicle maintenance and construction and much more.

A 22-year-old woman in Holland recently had the whole top of her skull replaced with a customised 3D printed implant to treat a medical condition that causes the thickening of the skull.

In Germany, engineering firm EDAG Genesis has created a skeleton for a futuristic car that has been fully 3D printed and in the UK researchers have said that one day planes could be fully 3D printed.

The announcement from Canalys doesn’t come as a huge surprised but confirms how widely 3D printing is set to be adopted. The figures from the company show that the current 3D printer market grew by more than 100% last year.

In 2013 the market for printers alone was worth $711m, and should pass the $1bn figure this year.

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Canalys Research Analyst Joe Kempton, said: “There is a clear opportunity for companies to establish 3D printing service studios to address the growing demand for the custom products that this technology makes possible.”

“That demand will continue to grow, driven by three main factors: customisation potential, convenience and manufacturing efficiencies. Items can be printed and personalized to order. They can often be printed locally, rather than necessitating designs be sent off to large, sometimes distant, manufacturing facilities.

The researchers also said that 3D printing could have other benefits, such as reducing the amount of wastage in manufacturing.

“3D printing also promises less material waste and often lower energy consumption than conventional manufacturing processes. Given these benefits and the breadth of use cases, there is no doubt that this market is set for robust and significant growth.”


Featured image courtesy of EDAG.

Skull image courtesy of University Medical Centre Utrecht.

3D printed toy image courtesy of Shapeways via Flickr / Creative Commons Licence .