back to article Moller touts flying-saucer hovercar, again

Here at the Reg, a lot of us tech fancier Vultures are flying-car friendly. We want our personal aerial ride and we want it now. But we're getting a bit tired of Dr. Paul Moller and the way people keep breathlessly writing him up. (Even the Reg has fallen into his trap on occasion.) Now those renowned technical wizards at the …

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Anonymous Coward

String and wires

If you can't fly without a wire attached I'm not interested.

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Anonymous Coward

Gee-whizz journalism

I think there's a wider issue of the way technology and innoavtion are covered by the media - more as a form of entertainment than something should be subjected to critical analysis and tough questions (like normal journalists do).

The BBC's web site certainly does practice "gee-whizz" journalism and there seems to be the attitude that any "visionary" or "futurist" should be given a free platform to spout whatever nonsense they want, without the hacks ever stepping back and asking questions like "will this really happen?"

Aside from its generally credulous nature, the BBC's technology news site strikes me as little more than a site for 16-year olds obsessed with mobile phones, computer games and blogging....aren't there any technologies beyond these that are worth covering? Oh...and the BBC's endless puff for wi-fi broadband (and with Aunty vying to be a leading online content provider, there's no agenda there, then...is there).

Overall, there's a pro-innovation bias in most technology coverage....it's written by technology advocates (who are usually geeks who can write rather than trained and harder-nosed hacks) who set out with the belief that all technology is simply wonderful, will inevitably be successful, has no unforeseen consequences and will be of huge benefit to humanity.

Thank heavens there are some real journalists out there to ask those tough questions and puncture the technology hype.

Keep it up El Reg.

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I remember seeing that flying car prototype

in the newpapers back in the eighties. It still looks bobbins. The BBC report was a carbon copy of every other report I've ever seen on Moller. He must have powers of mesmerism.

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Moller history rewritten?

The Wayback machine reveals some apparent rewriting of the history of Moller's flying cars.

By 24th Jan 1998 the M150 had appeared on the website. It was apparently a motorshow mockup of a single seat prececessor to the M400, which is spoken of as a future development. There is no mention of the M200X.

By 25th Jan 1999 a two seat prototype version of the M400 has appeared on the website and is described as having been flown.

The M200X also makes its first appearance on the 25th Jan, 1999 version of the website as a piece of history. This is also the first appearance of its predecessors, the XM-2 (1965), XM-3 (1968) and XM-4 (1974). The M200X is reported as first flying in 1989 following their purchase of Wankel engine technology from the Outboard Marine Corporation. The still of the M200X in flight clearly shows a safety tether attached to the vehicle.

The M200X and M400 may have appeared earlier, but the archived versions of the website's front page between Feb 1998 and the start of 1999 are unreadable thanks to horrid colour choices.

The real mystery is why Moller should revert to flogging the M200X, a late 80s design, if ten years later they had the much more advanced M400 prototype in the air. Sentences including the word "mirrors" accompanied by "smoke" come to mind.

Me? I'll stick to fixed wings, thanks. A Cirrus SR22 would fill almost the same role rather nicely and its available now.

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Lord Save Us!

Moller makes The Jetsons look like a documentary.

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Flying cars.....

Because human beings can't quite waste *enough* energy hauling their fat carcasses around already.

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re: String and wires

I did notice on the Beeb's video that there was a very large crane visible in the background of both of the shots of the vehicles "flying"…

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Ground effect

The irony is that ground effect vehicles do exist. For an interesting diversion, Google for ekranoplan...

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Anonymous Coward

WATCH THIS

This is going to EXPLODE!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!

Moller International is rocketing again!

Moller International

Now $0.03 UP 40%

Brokers go crazy for MLER.OB today. Huge news release (FAA certification of the M200 and a HUGE contract with teh US army) pushed back to

next week. Shares will soar after news hits. Don't forget to grab ERMX

tomorrow morning.

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Typical BBC tech story

The Beeb get a real hard on for any new tech that pisses energy away, seems they don't have anyone over there with the guts to call bullshit on these 'never going to happen for many, many fucking obvious reasons' type ideas. Muppets have gone all tabloid on us.

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leave the poor beeb alone

Why should they "research" a company they are doing a write up on (I say research, but really - a quick google of moller flying car, anyone?) when they can just copy and paste from the promotion material?

Why should they engage their logic filters to question the feasibility of these things flying(?) around the place in the real world when they can peddle a sci-fi fantasy that might make ranking on Digg?

Why should they deliver informative journalism on the Google one-click buyout when they can regurgitate propaganda from computer games manufacturers/ broadband lobbiests/ cell phone makers etc?

Because they are a state (tax-payer) funded broadcaster, thats why they should!

...so seriously - leave the poor beeb alone. Really! Don't go to the site! If they were getting 0 hits then maybe they would have to review what they are producing!

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Ekranoplan

James,

Lester Haines did a piece on the Caspian Sea Monster last September in this very publication:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/09/22/caspian_sea_monster/

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Beauracracy or simple physics killed the Skycar?

The concept seems plausible but just how stable can you make a VTOL aircraft at our current tech level? With or without ground effects in place, I'm sure both contraptions can fly, but not in any way stable as envisioned. Problem is that piloting aircraft of that type is it's like balancing mop upside-down in the palm of your hand. Even with computer controlled compensation, you're just adding weight, complexity and major cost. Add to that if you do go more than 10ft, you have to contend with other air traffic, meaning that your auto license won't cover it. The FAA has as much to do with clipping the wings of this project as anything else. It could be for good reason, but if you manage to actually haul the thing out to the desert for testing purposes, then why not do real testing instead of tethered tests? I'd even suggest relocating the testing division to someplace in the outback of Australia where they won't care that much if you get off the ground or leave another crater or two. The claims about the crane and tethers are all about insurance issues. Funny, I don't remember the likes of Lockheed Martin or Boeing being forced to do that during their test runs of x-craft. Moller should have sold the design specs to a bigger firm or get together with an actual successful radical free-tinkerer--Burt Rutan.

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Anonymous Coward

Technology..... reporting....? Do those mix?

You want to really blow your mind, go find some old copies of Time and Popular Science/Mechanics from the fifties and sixties. It seems like that was the last place where genuine critical reporting was happening. As time moves on, you can see the articles shorten into verbatim press releases about the same period Gordon Gekko became a national icon.

No real point. Just kind of sad, I guess.

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Anonymous Coward

Beauracracy or simple physics killed the Skycar?

"if you do go more than 10ft, you have to contend with other air traffic,"

If you go under 10 ft, you lake to contend with double decker buses, and othe tall vehicles. Or buildings if you avoid the roads. You could always fly over peoples' gardens, but I for one would take a dim view of that.

And I wouldn't want to be under one when it ran out of fuel. It would drop like a stone.

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Traffic jams in three dimensions...

You think the yahoos and tossers in traffic are bad now? Imagine giving those boneheads a third dimension in which to screw off! Flaming wrecks raining from the sky within a day of the first sale of any viable skycar...

Mind you, that might restart human evolution. Mayhap Moller could give ol' Darwin a boost...

Me, I'm going back to dreaming of jetpacks. Or maybe a SoloTrek.

:p

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I want my Repulsive Gecko Feet!

Once you've successfully inverted gravity, then *and only then* can you successfully market a flying car.

I much prefer to think of the average dimbulb chav floating off into the stratosphere, waiting for the flying towtruck because he ran out of whatever magic fuel we're going to use to replace petrol, than to think of him slamming into Big Ben or the Ferris Wheel at 170mph (or whatever terminal velocity of a falling M400 might be).

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Anonymous Coward

Near-verbatim press releases and no analysis

Just need to point out that it happens here on El Reg occasionally too, and when it does it should be pointed out just as clearly as it is being pointed out right now. Thank you.

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Didn't El Reg do this too.

I seem to recall this site having a moller flying car writeup at some point in the not too distant past actually I am never wrong you did and people beat you up with it so now you just have to scream they did it too look look those bastards how can they be so thick. Oh well your right but try to be fair in your bastard calling.

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A shame

I don't remember hearing about Moller before. I was pleased when I found the videos on the BBC website on Thursday - excellent material for a language lesson, as I proved with my last student of the day (a software engineer). The videos make an good comprehension test, and there's enough there to prompt a long discussion (is this the future? Is it safe? Do we need to regulate it? What about the enviromental implications?), without even considering whether it's true.

I was therefore disappointed on Friday to discover that the Beeb had removed the videos and buried the article. I found the latter in the archives, and a paragraph had been added about the SEC thing. All links to it had been removed from the news and technology pages. Obviously a bit of an embarrasment to them. If anybody recorded the video with the Jetsons clips, I'd love to have a copy.

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Not a shame....

Well it looks like the powers that be at the Beeb were reading all these comments (and one I sent them referring tem to the Reg)

A victory, i think

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Hovercraft

My hovercraft is full of eels.

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Anonymous Coward

Science Reporting at large . . .

To me this is symptomatic of the Beeb's general trend on science reporting. 'Horizon' has been lobotomised over the last five years and they even removed the 'science' forum on their web site (presumably to stop people complaining that their science coverage was cr@p).

On second thoughts, thought, it's not just the Beeb; C4's Equinox 'strand' led the way in that particular gravity-led trajectory. Apparently there just aren't enough viewers with an attention span of more that 5 mins (the average time it takes 'Horizon' to repeat its graphical illustrations or SFXs.

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Summertime

....... and it's a slow news day so any old rubbish will do .....

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Traffic jams in three dimensions

Didn't Moller state that GPS and centralised tracking and guidance would ensure that the aerial vehicles would never vie for airspace. The system would be based on a Windows Vista Package and never have any software glitches.

Off course there would be the occasional collision with uncontrolled flying pigs.

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And even if they did succeed...

Right, ignoring the fact that every bit of footage I've ever seen of a Moller "craft" was either firmly on the ground and showing off its moving bits or wobbling erratically upwards a couple of feet while tethered to a crane "for insurance purposes/safety reasons", lets assume that, by some miracle, they get these things to work and address some of the hype:

They aim to create affordable (to the average citizen) flying cars that will alleviate traffic conjestion by creating successively larger layers in which to travel.

The average citizen.

Are they effing nuts? If these things worked, they would be AIRCRAFT and require a trained pilot, not the average dickheaded citizen that runs motorcycles, other cars, vans and even full-sized buses off the road and says "sorry, mate, I didn't see ya". FFS, the average consumer can't spot hazards (other vehicles, pedestrians, buildings etc) in the largely 2-dimensional environment of the roads, let alone in three dimensions!

But, argues Moller, the vehicles would be totally computer controlled and guided by GPS so the average citizen would merely be a passenger, they'ed get in, enter the destination and the flying car would deliver them to their destination. I'm sure I even saw some crap about the possibility that you could ease parking woes by sending it home on autopilot and call it to come and pick you up later.

Well, GPS units guiding drivers into public toilets aside and ignoring the inherent waste in having your aircraft fly you to work, fly home, fly back to work, drop you at the pub, fly home, fly to whatever brothel you managed to crawl to in a drunken stupor and then fly you home again, these things are still (hypothetical, highly conjectural, pie-in-the-sky) AIRCRAFT and would require a human operator to perform an in depth pre-flight check and (honestly) deem the craft fit for takeoff and would have to routinely undergo rigorous airworthiness tests as required of planes and helicopters.

Like the average citizen of today diligently checks lights, tyres, brakes etc etc every time they use their vehicle and always ensures their current vehicles are strictly up to warrant of fitness standard and never drives knowing a tail light is out or with an expired warrant of fitness.

Enough accidents are caused by bald tyres, shitty brakes, buggered steering, stuffed wheel bearings or brake lights failing to activate and warn the (tailgating idiot) driver behind, without putting the average citizen in charge of maintaining (or paying for the maintenance of) a complicated aircraft that is likely to fall out of the sky due to faulty bearings in the turbines.

And of course, the whole "running out of gas" on the way to work is going to have dire consequences - the damned thing may well be programmed to make for the nearest service station once it hits a certain level of fuel but as the old proverb goes: "you can lead a dickhead to a service station but you can't make him fill the tank."

The cost in fuel has already been covered so I won't go into that here (and for all we know, they might discover a way to make eco-friendly flying car fuel using harmonious energies from amethyst crystals to irradiate organically-grown mung beans - like, WOW!)

Aerodynes/Ducted Fan Vehicles/Vectored Thrust Vehicles/Personal VTOLs are grist for the mill in any good SF or Cyberpunk story and I'd like to see someone come up with a viable, usable design but I would not expect to (nor want to) see it in the hands of the average citizen.

As aircraft, they would be expensive and limited to military, police, rescue services, commercial transport and a few personal craft owned by the extremely rich - pretty much as fixed wing and gyro aircraft are today.

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