When most people hear about flying vehicles, they think of the futuristic show "The Jetsons" that included flying cars in its interpretation of what the world would look like in the year 2062. This particular invention from the show, which originally aired in 1962 and 1963, is much closer to becoming a reality than most people realize.
Noted futurist Jim Carroll told TheStreet that both the Apple (AAPL) smartwatch and video and picture sharing app Snapchat (SNAP) could be compared to similar items first featured in the TV program. "Trends are accelerating and the future is coming at us faster," Carroll explained.
Chatter surrounding the flying car sector picked up last week after Kitty Hawk released footage of its flying car effortlessly taking flight. In addition, on Tuesday Uber outlined its vision for the future of its flying taxes at a conference in Dallas.
To prove how close flying cars are to becoming integrated into society, check out some of the expected release dates from the flying car companies. The government of Dubai wants to start offering rides on flying taxes from EHang starting this July. Kitty Hawk plans to start selling its aircraft by the end of 2017. Uber plans to let people order a ride by flying cars by 2020 -- just three years away. In addition, Aeromobil is accepting preorders for its flying vehicle that will be shipping out in 2020 as well.
For more insights into the 15 companies now working on flying car concepts, keep reading.
Editors' pick: Originally published April 28.
Uber is still getting its act together with its self-driving car efforts, but it's already looking beyond autonomous vehicles to flying vehicles.
On Tuesday, Uber's Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden said the company expects to have flying taxis available in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas and Dubai by 2020 -- just three years from now. The taxis would be VTOLs, or small electric vehicles that take off and land vertically since buildings in cities prevent long horizontal runways. The cars would operate quietly and with zero emissions, according to Reuters.
The future service would cut down people's commute time significantly. Taking an Uber flying vehicle from San Francisco's Marina District to downtown San Jose would take just 15 minutes by air vs. 90 minutes by car.
While taking a plane for a short trip seems extravagant, Uber believes it will be cheaper than owning a car in the future.
Alphabet co-founder Larry Page was so impressed with a white paper on VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) cars written by 30-year NASA veteran engineer Mark Moore back in 2010 that he decided to help launch flying car startups Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk.
Zee.Aero, launched in 2010, employs about 150 people and filed a patent to work on a small, electric VTOL plane. But soon after its launch, it became very secretive, even giving employees a handout that explained how to deflect questions from the media, Bloomberg reported. Sightings of a strange aircraft taking off from Hollister, Calif., where it has a hangar, have been reported.
Kitty Hawk, launched in 2015 with employees from Zee.Aero, is also working on a VTOL design. While the two companies were thought to be competitors, Zee.Aero is now actually considered a part of Kitty Hawk, according to a Kitty Hawk representative's comments to The Verge.
Based on the video (seen below) of a Kitty Hawk flying car in action that has been making the round on the Internet in the past week, it's holding its own if there is any competition between the two companies. The aircraft is designed to operate above water, won't require a pilot's license and should be available for consumers by the end of 2017. While a price hasn't been set, the company is offering a $2,000 discount of the aircraft to those who sign up for the three-year membership at $100.
Moller is making a splash with its bright pink VTOL aircraft known as the Skycar 400. This is Dr. Paul Moller's 5th version of the aircraft, which is now in the "operational prototype" stage. In the future, he envisions it operating autonomously.
Airbus launched Project Vahana in early 2016 and it will have a prototype ready by the end of 2017, CEO Tom Enders said during a tech conference in January.
Things seem to be moving quickly at the company considering Airbus revealed a concept for Vahana at the Geneva Motor Show just two months later in March. The aircraft will be able to work both on the road and by air, which the company is calling the 'Pop.Up System.' Airbus envisions Vahana being used by different ride hailing apps.
Woburn, Mass.-based Terrafugia is working on a car with folding wings that can fly in skyways or drive on roads called The Transition. The company expects production to start in 2019.
Terrafugia is also working on the TF-X, which would be able to take off and land vertically. The company expects to have a prototype ready to fly by 2018 and to have it on general sale within eight years.
Lilium was founded in 2015 and is working on a VTOL air taxi that can hold up to five people and will get them to their destination five times faster than a car. Riders will hail the cab by pushing a button at a station and will pay per ride. "It's our mission to make air taxis available to everyone and as affordable as riding a car," the company writes on its mission page.
Traveling from JFK International Airport to Penn Station on the West Side of New York City would take just 5 minutes by Lilium's air taxi for just $36, compared to 55 minutes by a regular car taxi for $56 to $73.
The company expects a prototype to be ready by 2017 and for the service to open to the general public in 2025.
The SkyQuad from Parajet is perhaps the flying car protoype that looks the most like a car, rather than a small plane. The company calls it the "ultimate recreational sports vehicle" because it's part all-terrain buggy and part light-aircraft. The sporty-looking vehicle is designed for adrenaline seekers, according to Parajet. The first prototype was built in 2009.
If the reflex paraglider wing technology or engine happen to fail you in mid-air, the SkyQuad has a ballistic reserve chute that can be deployed, allowing the car to float to Earth by parachute.
Like many of its competitors, AeroMobil is a car that can function on the road or by air, transitioning from one to the other in less than three minutes. The exterior for the flying car was inspired by a "perfectly aerodynamic teardrop shape."
Earlier this month the company started taking preorders for the first edition of the car that will ship in 2020. The price tag on this futuristic device? A cool $1.3 million.
Samson is working on a three-wheeled vehicle called the Switchblade that is meant to be driven to an airport where you can take off to your next destination at speeds up to 200 mph. "There is nothing 'mediocre' about this vehicle," the company claims.
This particular aircraft will require the operator to have both a driver's license and pilot's license. Reservations for the Switchblade are currently being accepted here.
Haynes Aero's website may look rudimentary, but the designs for its flying car known as the SkyBlazer are anything but. The Skyblazer has a 28-foot wing span and can operate by skyway or the freeway.
Flying car taxi Volocopter claims it is "just about to be launched," according to the front page of its website. The VTOL aircraft can hold up to two people and is run entirely on electricity. The technology in the Volocopter means it can fly autonomously or be operated by a remote. Production on the Volocopter should begin in 2018.
The Ehang 184 AAV is the "safest" and the "smartest" low altitude autonomous aerial vehicle meant for medium and short distances, according to its website. If the aircraft has any malfunctions while in flight, it will immediately land in the nearest possible area.
Considering the Chinese UAV company first revealed the Ehang 184 at the Consumer Electronics Show last year, the test footage below is pretty impressive. According to Fortune, Ehang could start flights in Dubai as soon as this July.
U.S. Israeli firm Joby Aviation is building personal electric VTOL aircraft, including the two-seater Joby S2, which is currently in "active development." The aircraft looks more like a small plane than a car and is environmentally friendly, requiring 5 times less energy than a traditional car.
PAL-V's flying car known as Liberty features a sleek design inspired by nature. The aircraft is notably smaller than some of its competitors to allow it to blend more smoothly with everyday road traffic. "Thanks to a number of patented technologies, the dimensions of the PAL-V Liberty do not exceed those of a regular car," the company boasts on its website.
The three-wheeled aircraft can operate by road or sky, with its lift coming a wind-power rotor that lets it float in the air. Reserve your Liberty here. Pricing begins at $400,000.
First announced in 2007, the Xplorair PX200 is planning to perform its first flight test by the end of 2017. Unlike many of its competitors, this VTOL aircraft is only meant to be flown, not driven, and has no rotary wing.