[extropy-chat] Hydrogen cars

Kara Devar kimdu16 at earthlink.net
Sat Mar 11 02:07:21 UTC 2006

I love the "helicopter" idea, but it's a lot harder than it looks.  I have 
30+ hours on helicopters and although I did well, I regretfully decided I'd 
better stop until I could at least afford to fly one with a huge amount of 
horsepower ($1,000,000 purchase--before maintenance and insurance.  Don't 
even think about long-term rental.)  I was training in a Robinson R22--$250 
per hour and one step above a lawn chair and a propeller-beanie.  My 
instructor and one of his other students were both body-builders.  We're at 
sea level, but they'd go out, sit on the roof, fire up the rotor, and walk 
back disgusted because there just wasn't enough air that day.  100 lbs under 
the designated weight, but still not safe to fly.

Unfortunately, while the horsepower buys you out of some problems and time 
to fix other problems, it's very expensive both in dollars and mechanical 
complexity.  The problems are: too many flight controls, too many weird time 
lags in each control, long preflights, and an incredible sensitivity to 
weather, ground affects and numerous other hard-to-quantify factors. 
Compared to fixed-wing craft, helicopters are very intuitive and incredibly 
unforgiving.  (I think a pilot can have as little as 0.50 seconds to 
stabilize a helicopter if it "settles in power"--basically descends through 
its own rotor wash.)

I'm not a fixed wing pilot, but my boyfriend (Chris) is completing his 
commercial license.  I fly with him and am constantly surprised at the 
traffic issues, the navigation issues, the maintenance issues...etc.  Even 
in a $450K+ fully loaded computerized Cirrus (weather, terrain avoidance, 
obstacle avoidance, parachute, traffic) we're shocked at how many other 
craft go undetected and how many errors there are in the obstacle databases. 
The parachute is nice, but plenty of people have died under an 
optimally-deployed canopy.  (It has saved some--yeah!)  The raw technology 
may be there to self-coordinate flights via GPS, but even in 2006, the 
economics and the distribution of the technology just aren't where they need 
to be.  Chris is also in the Air Force Reserves and stationed at Edwards, so 
I've seen the Global Hawk and Predators in action.  Talk about PRINCESS 
aircraft!  Unmanned but the maintenance/fussing requirements put a Newport 
Beach girl like me to shame!

Unfortunately, private flying still seems surprisingly complicated and 
expensive.  The only place I've seen it work on a commuting basis is Alaska. 
They fly their planes like we drive our cars, but they're also very skilled 
pilots (time, money, natural ability, education, dedication, Darwinian 
selection, focus and guts all far beyond those of a normal commuter).

I heard about a test on the I-15 in California of automated car 
control--that might be a more workable solution than flying cars.  I know 
driving a car in two dimensions is dangerous, but with flying cars, there 
would be a long period of huge expenses and stunning fatality rates (think 
of the lawsuits!).   It's hard to get over that initial hump...

Too bad!

(Long-Time Lurker)

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Emlyn" <emlynoregan at gmail.com>
To: "ExI chat list" <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
Sent: Friday, March 10, 2006 4:50 PM
Subject: Re: [extropy-chat] Hydrogen cars

> On a mostly unrelated note, except it's still vaguely about cars, I've
> been wondering why they don't fly yet, and what to do about it.
> It seems to me (who is flying interstate a lot at the moment - it
> sucks!) that there are issues with flying cars (chiefly, how could
> people possibly pilot them in crowded airspace? Planes are hard to
> fly). But maybe they could be solved for the long haul trips (where
> they'd be really useful).
> It seems to me that if your car could fly & roll (rotors + wheels?),
> you could just use the flying for inter-city travel (aka the Moulton
> Aerocar, see here for a picture and some funky effort to make a modern
> version: http://www.aerocar.com/ ). To take the human element out, you
> would think heavily restricted and predetermined automated flight
> paths could work. It'd be like cable cars without the cable - you
> drive up to the launch point, the autopilot takes over, and flies you
> to your chosen destination (in a big stream of similar vehicles that
> are on the same flightpath), lands, and you drive off onto the roads.
> There'd be no need to get the autopilot really smart. For example,
> avoiding obstacles isn't necessary with a cable car, and it isn't
> necessary here, you just have to spend effort to make sure the flight
> corridor is always clear. So at best, maybe a panic mode that
> automatically lands you wherever you are, or even (or plus) an
> ejection/parachute mechanism.
> I don't know what flight mechanism you use. Fixed wing seems too
> tricky, maybe rotors would be good. You want something that can stop
> and hover, gives the autopilot more to work with. But are
> helicopter-type vehicles too hard to control with autopilot?
> --
> Emlyn
> http://emlynoregan.com   * blogs * music * software *
> Our show at the Fringe: http://SpiritAtTheFringe.com
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