Aston Martin, on a roll with a hot new line of cars, this week announced a concept for a flying car. This is a area very early long-term research by a number of companies, and this is not the only concept that has been presented. You’ll note in the press release below that Cranfield University and Rolls-Royce are partnered with Aston Martin – this is a far bigger concept than simply the car itself.
Realistically, any type of production model is probably 20-30 years out, and not because of the hardware but because of the software challenges and government regulations. Flying cars will need to work in a grid, cooperatively together, and managed collectively by significant upgrades to existing Government air traffic control (as the cars would be autonomous, but would still need to be accounted for, tracked, and likely able to be controlled). In the United States, this would fall under the FAA. Such systems are being developed for ground-based transportation, all 2-dimensional and at much slower and manageable speeds (although with much higher numbers of cars). Going to 3 dimensions presents so many challenges, not the least of which is co-existence with other air traffic (commercial and military planes, thousands of nearby drones, etc). Software standards for that have not yet been agreed upon or even realistically conceived… much less the massively powerful central computers required to manage it all. And how can we set an international standard for these?
Lets take an example. It’s 2041 and you spent 5 million Pounds last year buying a version 1 Volante Flying Car. You’ve enjoyed being flown around the countryside of Britain for the past year (unfortunately, your company HQ in London didn’t invets in a flying car parking garage, so you have to take the train into the city for work)… but now the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has started to implement a major new version of their air traffic control system. Now, sorry to say, your Volante can’t support the new software it requires, or the hardware – it’s not upgradable to this degree (the high rate of change as the technology has evolved over the years). Your flying car is now obsolete, and is not allowed to fly anymore. It can’t be used for anything. Jump forward to 2055 – your new Ford Flying Focus (“FFF”) has just been delivered to you at (£)245,000. It meets the latest cross-European consolidated UK and EU airspace standards (although Ford has to ship the US version of the Flying Focus with different software as required by the FAA). Your new Focus is now supported for 5 years, just like the software on your personal computing assistant. After that it may or may not be immediately obsoleted, depending on market requirements, but it’s likely that by the time 7 years goes by you will have to permanently ground your FFF. You briefly consider joining the Royal Automobile Club and driving one of those old-fashioned ICE hybrids around for a few years (despite the high taxes which pay for the few roads left in existence, and the difficulties in finding for gasoline), but then you are also growing old and will be obsoleted right out of the job force in a few years anyway. And who wants to be stuck with the masses on the ground, always looking up at the sky that you used to roam at will? You’re thinking about the social injustice of this in addition to all the technology changes you’ve witnessed in your lifetime… unfortunately you lived your prime in the technology transition years without a secure footing on either side of the equation.
See more Aston Martins on the DrivingEnthusiast Aston Martin Pinterest Board.
Aston Martin Press Release follows:
Aston Martin race to the skies
- Volante Vision Concept design to explore luxury personal air mobility
- Aston Martin working with partners Cranfield University, Cranfield Aerospace Solutions, and Rolls-Royce
16 July 2018, Farnborough: British luxury brand Aston Martin is today presenting the Volante Vision Concept, a luxury concept aircraft with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities. Produced in partnership with Cranfield University, Cranfield Aerospace Solutions and Rolls-Royce, the concept aircraft aims to bring luxury personal transportation to the sky.
The Volante Vision Concept is a demonstration of Aston Martin’s design ingenuity. With room for three adults, the concept is a near future study that previews a flying autonomous hybrid-electric vehicle for urban and inter-city air travel, providing fast, efficient and congestion free luxurious travel.
The Volante Vision Concept will take full advantage of the latest advances in aerospace, electrification and autonomous technologies, coupled with Aston Martin’s signature design.
Combining the strengths of Cranfield University, Cranfield Aerospace Solutions, Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin, this new concept unites the world’s best aerospace experts, propulsion specialists and designers. The skills offered by each partner ensures that the Volante Vision Concept promises to offer an exciting alternative transportation solution for customers across the globe.
Aston Martin President and CEO Dr Andy Palmer said: “With the population in urban areas continuing to grow, congestion in towns and cities will become increasingly demanding. We need to look at alternative solutions to reduce congestion, cut pollution and improve mobility. Air travel will be a crucial part in the future of transportation, the Volante Vision Concept is the ultimate luxury mobility solution.
“Humans have always spent on average, one hour commuting to and from work. The distance we live from our workplace has been determined by the methods of transportation available. The Volante Vision Concept will enable us to travel further with our hourly commute, meaning we are able to live further away from where we work. Cities will grow, and towns that are today too far away from cities to be commutable will become suburban.
“With Aston Martin and our ‘dream team’ of British innovation across industry and academia, we are positioned to change the future of transportation, giving our customers a new dimension of freedom”.
Professor Iain Gray, Director of Aerospace at Cranfield University said: “We’re delighted to be part of this exciting and forward-thinking project that showcases British innovation and the way that Cranfield works with and supports business. The Volante Vision Concept exemplifies Cranfield’s unique capabilities in digital aviation, autonomous systems and the electrification of aerospace, and is an excellent example of how the University combines cutting-edge research, academic rigour and real-world application.”
Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS) CEO Paul Hutton said: “The introduction of autonomous and electric propulsion technologies into new aircraft designs is both inevitable and challenging, and as the UK’s leading aircraft design and production SME we are excited to be playing this key role in the Volante Vision Concept and so to be at the vanguard of this revolution in aerospace.”
Director, Rolls-Royce Electrical Rob Watson said: “We are delighted to be involved in the Volante Vision Concept, which showcases the best of British design and engineering. Rolls-Royce has already delivered hybrid-electric systems for other applications including ships and trains, and we’re very excited about the potential of the technology in aerospace. This is a great opportunity to collaborate on a pioneering project which will use high performance hybrid-electric propulsion technologies for personal air mobility concepts that could transform the future of transportation.”
As the designer of cars such as the Aston Martin DB11, the new Vantage, the DBS Superleggera and Aston Martin Valkyrie hypercar project – Aston Martin EVP and Chief Creative Officer Marek Reichman holds the key to the distinctive design language of the new Aston Martins.
“We are at the beginning of a new generation of urban transportation, vertical mobility is no longer a fantasy. We have a unique chance to create a luxury concept aircraft that will represent the ultimate fusion of art and technology.” says Reichman.
“We have used forms and proportions that express the same devotion to design, engineering and beauty that shape our cars.”
About Aston Martin:
Aston Martin is an exclusive luxury sports car company with a unique British heritage. The iconic brand fuses the latest technology, exceptional hand craftsmanship and graceful styling to produce pioneering models including the DB11, Rapide S, Vanquish S, Vantage and Vanquish Zagato family of cars. Based in Gaydon, England, Aston Martin designs and creates sports cars offering style and performance which are sold in 53 countries around the world.
Founded in 1913, the Group recently launched its Second Century Plan for sustainable long-term growth. This is underpinned by the introduction of new models including the DB11, new Vantage, DBS Superleggera and an SUV, as well as the development of a new manufacturing centre in St Athan, Wales.
In 2017, Aston Martin generated revenues of £876m. The Company, employing more than 2,700 people, is predominantly owned by private equity groups Adeem, Tejara and Investindustrial, while Daimler AG of Germany holds a 5% non-voting stake.
About Cranfield University:
Cranfield is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management. Cranfield is the number one university in Europe for aerospace. We are the only university in Europe to own and run an airport and to have airline status. We have been at the forefront of aerospace technology for 70 years.
As the UK’s most business-engaged University, we have long-term relationships and close commercial partnerships with many companies in the sector including Airbus, BAE Systems, Boeing and Rolls-Royce.
Our education, research and consultancy is enhanced by our world-class facilities including the National Flying Laboratory Centre – a unique national asset which provides a hands-on, flying experience, along with flight deck simulators and industrial-scale gas turbine engine test facilities used for performance and diagnostic studies. The Aerospace Integration Research Centre, a £35 million innovative aerospace research centre built in partnership with Airbus and Rolls-Royce, fosters collaboration between industry and academia. A new £65 million Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre will also be built at Cranfield to spearhead the UK’s research into digital aviation technology.
Notable Cranfield alumni include Warren East, CEO of Rolls-Royce plc and Ralph Hooper, who attended the College of Aeronautics at Cranfield in 1946 and went on to become one of the UK’s most important post-war aircraft designers, creating the Hawker Harrier jump jet.
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About Cranfield Aerospace Solutions:
Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS) is a unique British aerospace company that holds Aircraft Design Organisation and Production Organisation approvals from both EASA and the UK CAA. Founded in 1997, the vision of CAeS is to create one of the leading aircraft companies of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to innovative, electric and autonomous air vehicles.
About Rolls-Royce plc:
Rolls-Royce plc pioneers cutting-edge technologies that deliver the cleanest, safest and most competitive solutions to meet our planet’s vital power needs. Our operations span the provision of jet engines and services for the civil and defence aerospace markets and reciprocating engines and services for a range of applications including power generation, trains, yachts and naval vessels.
Rolls-Royce plc and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd are completely independent of one another. The luxury car brand is owned by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the BMW Group.
Rolls-Royce plc has customers in more than 150 countries, comprising more than 400 airlines and leasing customers, 160 armed forces, 4,000 marine customers including 70 navies, and more than 5,000 power and nuclear customers.