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FLYING CAR - A DREAM COME TRUE

One of the X-Hawk prototype test flights

An Israeli company is currently in the advanced stages of developing the next urban transportation vehicle that can take off vertically like a helicopter, fly in excess of 125 mph and hover safely right next to high-rise buildings. These capabilities will allow the X-Hawk, as it is called, to provide aerial medical access and evacuation, and can become a utility vehicle, civil and police patrol vehicle and even a flying taxi that will roam our skies in the not too distant future.

Basic Platform

Urban Aeronautics, a small Israeli company, has developed a rotor-less Vertical-Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) vehicle that will be able to sustain a stable hover in one place for more than an hour. It will have the capability of accessing almost any location, including high-rise buildings or remote mountain ridges making it possible to rescue people in distress. The X-Hawk, as it was named, is not the first flying car to be conceived. Such ideas have been coming and going for decades, but recent technological innovations have helped to bring this dream one step closer to reality.

Utility Configuration

The X-Hawk body conceals within itself two powerful engines that allow it to fly without the risk of hitting electrical wires and other obstacles that are so common in an urban environment. The X-Hawk can also land almost anywhere its compact body (the size of a large van) can fit, doing all that while flying much quieter than a conventional helicopter. The absence of external rotors means that that craft can maneuver much more safely in a tight urban environment and do that with unprecedented precision, thanks mainly to its state of the art controls, based on the fly-by-wire method (also implemented on the military F-16 jet fighter). In a fly-by-wire system the pilot's control inputs are fed to a computer which decides, by consulting the rules with which it has been programmed, what control surfaces of the craft to operate, and by how much. Normally the control surfaces will move as the pilot commands, but in some cases the fly-by-wire system may modify the response, depending on the particular circumstances. If the pilot's control input is considered unsafe it may not be carried out at all.

Rescue/Medevac (loading)

Urban Aeronautics plans at least five different models of the basic X-Hawk: taxi, patrol, high-rise rescue, Medevac and utility configuration. In all of these configurations the X-Hawk will have the advantage of reaching its target without the risk of traffic jams so common in a city environment. This ability is especially crucial in situations that calls for urgent Medevac such as car accidents when traffic jams slow the evacuation process and cost lives. Being able to rescue people from skyscrapers is also a unique feature of the X-Hawk and it is currently the only vehicle that can safely attach itself to a skyscraper window and evacuate people. As a law enforcement vehicle the X-Hawk can carry out car chases inside a dense urban environment and even land directly on the highway to stop in the path of the culprit. The X-Hawk is currently under development, and its prototype has already performed initial flight tests. The X-Hawk was recently displayed in an American law enforcement conference, during which a great deal of interest was shown in the LE model of the X-Hawk which will be the more powerful version aimed at police and law enforcement tasks. Next year the company hopes to test a more advanced prototype and acquire the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval which will set the stage for full scale production to begin.

Iddo Genuth

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