Flying Cars and UAVs, Essay Example

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Q: What do you think prevents the widespread use of flying cars by the general public?

A: Economics prevents it. As of 2009 there were just under 594,285 active certificated American pilots. By contrast, as of 2000 there were 190,625,023 licensed drivers, a reported 88% of the American population. Assuming these statistics are correct, would-be marketers of flying cars are faced with a problem of economies of scale: there aren’t any. Not all pilots, perhaps not even the majority, fly enough to justify the cost of a customized vehicle that would sacrifice the more favorable economics of space, power, insurance, and service warranties that a conventional car or plane offers. And a flying car would ruthlessly sacrifice style to function.  The problem is even worse for helicopter cars: there are only 15,298 helicopter pilots in the U.S.

Q: Will we ever get to a point in society where they become common?

Only if there were, for some reason, a compelling need for massive numbers of Americans to routinely fly as well as drive. If so, then a market for safe, insurable, economical, and practical flying cars would rise like the sun in the east. Until then, they will remain a dream for inventors, and a hobby and a toy for their wealthy sponsors.
Q: Do you think that commercial aviation will ever turn to UAV’s?

A: Not for the foreseeable future in American airspace. I think the military will use them first to ship cargo between combat zones. Then permission may be extended to fly over American airspace and land and take off at civilian airports. Meanwhile, poor and/or authoritarian governments, seeking to economize generally and not facing opposition from pilot-unions and land-use interest groups (representing residents under airport flight-paths), will try it. American software engineers may begin selling their UAV-oriented products in those foreign markets. American insurance companies may begin offering advantageous coverage to American journalists, travelers, and diplomats when they see a profit in doing so.

At that point, I think American aircraft manufacturers will receive permission to make and sell commercial UAV craft to the overseas market, lest those jobs be lost to foreign manufacturers.

The routine scheduling of commercial domestic UAVs will depend on the opposition levels it faces among pilots and passengers, and the success or failure of overseas carriers using UAVs. Reliance of carriers anywhere on government-subsidized insurance will be a bad sign, an indicator of either technical failure or politically-induced market failure. By contrast, competitively offered insurance will be a good sign.

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