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back to article Super-stealth FLYING CAR prototype seen outside GOOGLE HQ

Forget self-driving cars. How about flying ones? Reports have emerged of what appears to be a mysterious airborne vehicle being developed by a stealth company operating near Google's Mountain View headquarters. Zee.Aero's prototype aircraft It looks real, but does it work? Zee.Aero's mysterious prototype aircraft (Credit: Greg …

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I'll take 2. Thank you.

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Anonymous Coward

The rotors look too small to produce lift, if they did though the speed of them would most probably cause a really annoying buzzing sound that any right minded American Redneck would take pot shots at, just for the hell of it.

Where are the batteries?

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Zot
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I'm guessing it doesn't hover like you'd want it to.

And all those blades must be very noisy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm guessing it doesn't hover like you'd want it to.

> And all those blades must be very noisy.

On the contrary. Because of their small diameter, the tips have relatively low angular speed, therefore producing less noise than a single rotor of the same combined surface area as all the little ones.

Getting into autorotation must be a bit of a bugger though. :-(

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm guessing it doesn't hover like you'd want it to.

noise is something vague, 100 decibels @ 200Hz may annoy people pulsing on and off, 50Hz could be masked by TV speakers and ignored or even slept through.

My point being

Noise is not only subjective, it depends on the Hz and the timing. The drone of a jet engine or the train giving 100 decibels is not the same as an alarm clock.

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@ petersam

Here's some aircraft-generated noise for you: Thunderscreech!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_XF-84H#Noise

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Happy

"right minded American Redneck"

Where's the Oxymoron icon?

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Re: I'm guessing it doesn't hover like you'd want it to.

I would expect it to have an emergency parachute system similar to the one used here only just this summer:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2336815/Pilot-76-walks-away-plane-crash-just-minor-injuries-deploying-emergency-PARACHUTE-allowed-light-aircraft-float-safety-quiet-Cheltenham-garden.html

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these fans ...

... look too small to produce useful lift.

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Re: these fans ...

Useful lift is defined by the weight of the craft. The rotors do look small, but we really don't have an idea of the weight they are required to lift so we can't say for certain.

I will say that guy walking around it certainly looks like he expects it to do something. If it doesn't I'm sure he'll be very disappointed.

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Boffin

Re: these fans ...

As do the bumblebee's wings...

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Terminator

It even kind of looks like the Skynet VTOL drones from the first film and the 3D "ride"/show at Universal Orlando. Just chrome it out, mount weapons on it, and give it two large fans and there you go. Google's almost already got the evil self-aware computer system ready, so they gotta give it flying things to kill us with I guess.

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Thumb Up

You're a funny fella Frank.

Have an upvote.

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Dead Men.

"Google's almost already got the evil self-aware computer system ready, so they gotta give it flying things to kill us with I guess."

They won't. Because dead men view no ads.

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Black Helicopters

Moller Skycar

personally, i think i'd rather have the Moller Skycar... it just looks better for one thing... it has been in development longer, too... the 400 over the 100 or 200 but the 200 looks nice, too...

http://moller.com/dev/index.php/sky-car/m400-specs

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Re: Moller Skycar

...but the Moller history is quite spotty to say the least. Its claimed the M100 flew but nobody outside the company seems to have seen it do so. Looking at their website, I see they've rewritten history too: the original M100 used to be a flying saucer, rather like a smaller version of the unsuccessful Canadian jet-powered flying disk. Its been renamed the Neuera 200G

As of 2012 the all-new Skycar 100LS has suddenly appeared with wings and two tiltable ducted fans and is suddenly of military parentage.

The M200M was just a 1:1 static display model. Now renamed the Skycar 200 LS, it has, like the 100LS, become powered by a mixed electric/Wankel ducted fan system, but for all that its still the same old M200M as ever.

Apparently the M400 did a few hovering tests, but always unmanned and tethered. That is now called the M400X but the all-new Skycar 400, always a canard design, looks much the same apart from replacing its high-mounted rear wing with a bigger low wing fitted with tips carefully contorted to have lots of built-in interference drag.

Thanks for the wake-up call: I hadn't looked at the Moller site for some time. Its always interesting to see how the ideas and site permute over time.

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Re: Moller Skycar - been in development longer, too

Yup.

And it's still not finished, nor is it available.

So no, actually.

The only problem I have with this model is the number of possible failure points. Eight rotors on the top, plus two in the back, plus another engine for wheel motorisation . . . That makes for one heck of a maintenance list.

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redundancy

That's a plus point, the multiple motors can suffer failure much like a RAID drive. Obviously you would need to double-up (or more) the battery and control systems, but that doesn't add much cost, the batteries are still the same volume/power, just split across 3 or 4 supplies. Making it safe with 75% or even 66% of lift is reasonable. I'll bet they're Switched Reluctance motors, huge power and speed and only one moving part, a funny-shaped lump of iron. Absolute bastards to control though, as I'm finding out...

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"seen near google" = "it's at Moffett Field"

You know, the airport.

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Trollface

"BIRDSTRIKE"...

...with a bit o' luck...fly my pretties FLY!!.

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hmm

1 the lift fans are too small. Unless they spin Really Really REALLY Fast(tm), getting that thing off the ground will be... interesting. And unless the lift fans can tilt even a little, forward air speed, and low-speed low-altitude control (you know, takeoff and landing, the most dangerous parts of any flight) will be even more interesting.

2 both the lift and the drive fans are not shrouded; that thing's not roadworthy, not with multiple Slicing Dicing Implements of Death(tm) spinning, or having the potential to spin, in traffic. They're in Kalifornia, home of the Ambulance-Chasing Shyster. This will not end well.

3 the fuselage appears to have a very narrow cross-section. I do hope that the designers paid close attention to the internal bracing, that thing might have just the least little bit of a problem with structural integrity due to internal loads. Such as, oh, the passengers and the batteries required to run the fans and the motors for the wheels on ground.

4 speaking of structural integrity, what's it supposed to be made of? Batteries are heavy. It's one thing to have electric cars, it's a whole different thing to have electric aircraft. Assuming you want some kind or realistic range, that is. The rest of the aircraft will have to be made of... well, something very light. Hopefully something which is also quite strong. That particular combination does not usually result in something very cheap. This is a _Google_ system, right?

5 what _is_ the operating radius, and under what conditions? Depending on the maximum airspeed that thing can attain (which won't be much, not with those tiny pusher fans, not unless they're Really Fast Fans(tm)) a headwind of even 10 knots will radically affect the effective groundspeed... and hence the range. There ain't no Range Anxiety(tm) like airborne Range Anxiety(tm).

6 how well does it glide, when (not if, when) the batteries die in mid-air? Not very well, I'm guessing, not with the drag from the fans (too small to even think about autorotating) and not with those pitiful main airfoils. Frankly, that thing looks as though it'll glide almost as well as a F-104.

7 how do you get out in an emergency? The Slicing Dicing Implements of Death(tm) may hinder egress just a tad. Ejection seats, anyone? After, of course, first ejecting the Slicing Dicing Implements of Death(tm).

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Re: hmm

"And unless the lift fans can tilt even a little, forward air speed, and low-speed low-altitude control (you know, takeoff and landing, the most dangerous parts of any flight) will be even more interesting."

Making the fans movable just adds weight and complexity when all you actually need is for them to be individually controllable. Want to move forward, increase the rear fans with respect to the forward ones and tilt the whole aircraft If you look at the photo you'll notice that alternate fans spin in the opposite direction so by varying the speed of the CW fans vs. the CCW fans you can even control yaw at low speed.

"both the lift and the drive fans are not shrouded; that thing's not roadworthy"

It's a development vehicle FFS. The patent diagrams clearly show shrouded fans.

"the fuselage appears to have a very narrow cross-section. I do hope that the designers paid close attention to the internal bracing"

No, clearly they don't know what they are doing. Perhaps you should give them a call.

"speaking of structural integrity, what's it supposed to be made of? Batteries are heavy. "

Please direct me to the part that says it's battery powered.

"a headwind of even 10 knots will radically affect the effective groundspeed."

Yes. It will affect it by 10 knots and over an hour it will cover 10NM less, irrespective of whether we're talking about this aircraft or an A380.

"Depending on the maximum airspeed that thing can attain (which won't be much, not with those tiny pusher fans, not unless they're Really Fast Fans(tm)) ... how well does it glide, when (not if, when) the batteries die in mid-air? Not very well, I'm guessing, not with the drag from the fans (too small to even think about autorotating) and not with those pitiful main airfoils."

I would assume those "tiny" pusher fans are capable of generating enough forward movement to generate the required lift from those "pitiful" wings. Cake, eat? Once again, I'm sure they'd welcome your input.

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Paris Hilton

Re: hmm

Sir -

I write to inform you of a Trademark violation of the phrase "hmm". I have held the Trademark on the phrase since this morning and demand you cease and desist from further use.

Respectfully,

Hudgwell T. Boggs ESQ (tm)

Paris - well because she's flighty.

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Re: hmm

Re "Please direct me to the part that says it's battery powered." Please see the part of the actual article which reads "some or all of the wheels are fitted with electric motors that allow the wheels to be driven," Either it's got batteries in it or it's got a genset to provide the power for the above noted electric motors.

Re "Yes. It will affect it by 10 knots and over an hour it will cover 10NM less, irrespective of whether we're talking about this aircraft or an A380." There is rather a significant difference between a A380 moving at 600 knots with a headwind of 10 knots and this thing moving at perhaps 200 knots, thanks to those pitiful pusher fans.

Re "I would assume those "tiny" pusher fans are capable of generating enough forward movement to generate the required lift from those "pitiful" wings". You may. I have my doubts.

Re "It's a development vehicle FFS. The patent diagrams clearly show shrouded fans." One of the diagrams shows folded wings with shrouded or possibly ducted fans. There's not enough detail to be sure. Possibly because that kind of design has been tried in the past, and abandoned due to problems with the fans. See, for example, the SP3300. (The NASA aircraft, not the light plane.)

Re "Making the fans movable just adds weight and complexity when all you actually need is for them to be individually controllable." Ah, yes. Making ten different fans individually controllable will decrease the complexity of the control system. I stand in awe of your logic.

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Re: hmm

>Re "Making the fans movable just adds weight and complexity when all you actually need is for them to be individually controllable." Ah, yes. Making ten different fans individually controllable will decrease the complexity of the control system. I stand in awe of your logic.

Moveable fans = *mechanical* complexity = more weight

Fan speed individually controllable = more control electronics = negligible increase in weight

The processing required to control multiple fans can be fitted into a very small quadcopter, to stunning results.... have a look at:

http://www.ted.com/talks/vijay_kumar_robots_that_fly_and_cooperate.html

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Re: hmm

Errm... m'man was also on about the thing not being electric powered. So those individually controlled fans, they're NOT going to be driven by individual electric motors, they're going to be off a driveshaft connected to one/more than one engine of some kind, presumably an internal combustion motor (gas turbines might be a tad inconvenient to run in traffic unless there's a _lot_ of engineering work; GM built a GT-powered car back in the 50s, there were issues with the exhaust and with braking among other things). Setting up individual controls off one drive shaft cross-connected to ten fans in three separate collections is a non-trivial engineering challenge. Attaching one fan to several motors has been done, as has attaching more than one fan to one motor, in both cases using complex drive shafting. And in both cases doing it has always ended in tears. Nah, the simple way is to give each fan its own motor, electric, IC, GT, whatever. There's no space in the pic, or in the drawings, for anything other than electric motors... which m'man doesn't like. I submit that ten motors (or three: one for each group of lift fans, one for the drive fans, or however many the system ends up having, it's gonna be more than one) is _already_ going to make things complex and drive up the weight that the already pathetically weak fans will have to lift. Using variable-speed (or, more likely, constant-speed but variable-blade-angle) fans will make things _worse_.

And the fans are _still_ TOO DAMN SMALL. That thing's an accident waiting to happen. The size of the fans alone is the single major reason why I totally lack confidence in the design. That thing _might_ work in ground effect, a.k.a. 'enough altitude to cause problems with overpasses' but it ain't gonna really fly, not unless the machine is made of _really_ light materials.

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Re: hmm

I'm unsure why you think the rotors are driveshaft driven. That's far too complicated and too heavy. The airplane you're referring to is in the top 10 list of history's worst aircraft. It was a dumb idea in the '50's and it's still a dumb idea.

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And while Google spread their wings into new innovation....

Microsoft will continue to hold onto their tails by scroogled campaigns and endlessly fixing bugs in their software holding true innovation back with patent trolls

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Obligatory Futurama Reference

Shut up and take my money!

Whilst I agree the top fans look too small to be able to provide sufficient lift for VTOL at this time, they would however be able to provide extra lift to allow STOL when using rear props and lifting surfaces.

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Interesting

I notice the alternate fans appear to contra rotate to reduce any torque effect, but the total fan area does not appear to be enough to lift the thing off the ground.

The inventor though has some pretty good creds so one would expect it to work.

"Its proximity to Google has led to some speculation that there may be a link between the two companies. The Chocolate Factory clearly has some interest in novel transportation ideas",

If it does have any connection there should be evidence of a large scale Glass device somewhere plus some kind of data slurping antennae so that it can suck up your preferences as it overflies and then immediately broadcasts ads at you.

Back in the real world, presumably the battery array will be lithium polymer and the construction will be a super lightweight composite.

The Patent details are interesting: http://www.sumobrain.com/patents/wipo/Personal-aircraft/WO2012012474.html

But this is not new news: http://www.aviationweek.com/Blogs.aspx?plckBlogId=Blog:7a78f54e-b3dd-4fa6-ae6e-dff2ffd7bdbb&plckPostId=Blog:7a78f54e-b3dd-4fa6-ae6e-dff2ffd7bdbbPost:09dd6a6c-8506-4897-8827-85bd0da515ab this from last May.

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Water, not air

That thing looks like it might work under water. In the air, not so much.

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Re: Water, not air

Oh, it'll definitely_ work under water. Getting airborne might be difficult.

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Facepalm

I spy with my little eye

someone who doesn't know how to parallel park.

"... depict the aircraft, its rear wings folded, parallel parked next to two cars."

Oh, and it looks like the canard is folded as well.

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Black Helicopters

I'll say this as kindly as possible. The flying car people can kiss my ass.

A never ending stream of asshats has been promising a flying car since before radial tires and vulcanized rubber. Do we have a flying car? No. No we do not. I also don't have a useful domestic robot. The futurists are crap.

I waited for decades on either one of those things and in the end I have to enjoy them by proxy as I fly my monkey in a robot suit around in an R/C flying car. Do you know how hard it was to get the monkey enrolled in the Google Glass Explorer program? Do you know how hard it is to clean monkey shit out of the cabin of an R/C model? Both are incredibly difficult tasks.

Both would be completely unnecessary if it weren't for the greediness of generations of snake oil salesmen making promises they have no intention of keeping. We're sending tourists to a space station, a real fucking space station, tourists! We've put cell phone towers and ladders up Mt. Everest and people are skydiving from space and nobody can build a flying car? Please. The flying car people are taking investment money and building their own flying cars but refusing to share. Damn them! Damn them all!!!

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Not only that, but one tech billionaire is making himself a car that can convert into a submarine! (Or rather, has bought a submarine that looks like a car and wants to make it work as a car as well)

Isn't like being a kid again, and your friend has got a really cool RC car but won't let you have a go with it? (sorry pal, the batteries are flat and will take 3 hours to charge)

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Google connection

An automated drone to update google maps?

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Ever been close to a Heli?

If this thing wants to lift, it needs to push a lot of air. If it manages doing so with those small rotors, what will be the required minimum distance to keep people from being blown over? Is the ground effect better or worse with many small propellers as compared to one, and how will this affect lift and controllability?

Count me as sceptic.

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Terminator

Re: Ever been close to a Heli?

I was wondering that as well, was on a mountain in Austria last week and the medivac helicopter gave a real ice blasting as it took off.

In an urban environment how much FOD is going to be turned into either a projectile or end up in the rotors?

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Boffin

Re: Ever been close to a Heli?

"Is the ground effect better or worse with many small propellers as compared to one"

"Ground effect" is usually described in terms of the length of the wings.

So if tip to tip it's 2metres then ground effect is maybe 0.7 of that.

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Re: Ever been close to a Heli?

I'm not sure that anyone expects it to take off vertically.

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Anonymous Coward

build your own!

Loving all the negativity from all the world-renowned aviation experts in here - See if you think it's crap? Go build a better one yourself. I'll not hold my breath.

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Re: build your own!

We do not need to go "build our own" flying car; this has already been done. Gyrocopters are the closest thing you're ever going to see to a flying car, without huge expense, and they are a niche toy at best. This is even with the facts that they fly in autorotation all the time making them easier to control than a helicopter and much harder to stall than a conventional aircraft, have a maintainence footprint much lower than an equivalent helicopter, and have short take-off and landing capability.

In short, a relatively unskilled person can be trained to become a gyrocopter pilot, and gyrocopters can be flown relatively cheaply and easily. Yet, this doesn't happen. Why not? The simple answer is, we do not need flying cars.

Google self-driving cars are a much better idea.

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Re: build your own!

If this were any other piece of tech I'd probably agree with you. However "flying car" and "fail" go together like "foolish investor" and "money" don't. (e.g. see Moller)

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Black Helicopters

Re: build your own!

"Yet, this doesn't happen. Why not? The simple answer is, we do not need flying cars."

I suspect you've missed the point of a flying car.

I would suggest that it's just as much to do with rules and regulations on where you can take off and land and distances one has to drive to get to and from those places. For many journeys I suspect the time and hassle of driving to where you can take off, flying to your destination then driving on to your final destination along with changing vehicles, needing a car at both ends and packing/unpacking your luggage/shopping/whatever at each change over outweighs the choice of just driving direct in the same car all the way.

The whole aim of a "flying car" is something you get into in your garage, drive to a stretch of road clear enough to take off from, the land at or very near you destination where you then road drive the final stretch, all without getting out or changing vehicles.

Unless there's some quantum leap in power storage/generation or someone coming up with cheap affordable anti-gravity, then yes, it's never going to happen, much to my everlasting regret. Oh yes, and some fool-proof autopilot software!

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Terminator

So having provided a cyberpunk dystopia, Google are moving on to more optimistic sci-fi.

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UPWORTHY?

What utter BOLLOCKS -

It's NOT a flying car

It's NOT outside Google's HQ

Next, tell us yet again how climate change isn't real.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: UPWORTHY?

Too true. It technically is outside Google's HQ, in the same way that it's outside a grotty pub in the outskirts of Blackpool.

They could have written "Super-stealth FLYING CAR prototype seen outside grotty pub in the outskirts of Blackpool". But it'd probably get a few less clicks that way...

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Meh

Yet *another* flying car

Wake me up when it a)Flies b)carries a person on board c)does not crash d)slurps up all the investors money before the CEO "discovers" we can't do it.

I've seen a few of these come.

And a few of these go.

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Anonymous Coward

This has ZERO semblance of a car!

Flying monstrosity more like.

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With all those littlw fans...

On no, it's the Pinky Ponk!

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