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Zee.Aero's flying car concept would fit in a standard parking space

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November 21, 2013

Artists drawing of the Zee.Aero concept for a vertical take-off-and-landing (VTOL) flying ...

Artists drawing of the Zee.Aero concept for a vertical take-off-and-landing (VTOL) flying car

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Zee.Aero, a small company located near the GooglePlex, home to Google, is working on a flying car concept that can take off and land vertically using a plethora of small electric motors turning four-bladed propellers. According to illustrations included with the patent filings, one version of the vehicle is narrow enough to fit into a standard shopping center parking space.

The Zee.Aero design sees wings mounted fore and aft, with the payload area mounted in between. This arrangement is called a canard wing, with the aircraft’s horizontal stabilizer mounted on the front of the aircraft instead of on the tail. On the top of this compact wing arrangement are a number of electric engines turning fat, four-bladed propellers.

This group of engines, which from the illustrations seems to number eight, can use battery power to lift the aircraft vertically for takeoff. Then two vertically mounted engines provide forward thrust until the wings have enough air traveling over them to provide lift. The small vertical engines can be shut down then for an efficient cruise flight.

The large number of propellers are to provide redundancy in the case of failure. Flight control in hover is provided by changing the thrust on individual engines, which is far simpler than the helicopter method of varying propeller pitch in various ways.

This vehicle design is being led by Ilan Kroo, an aeronautics professor and NASA scientist who has founded Zee.Aero and is listed as the inventor on the patent applications. Zee.Aero has listed on its web site a number of openings for aeronautical engineers, and states that it is aiming to use “aerodynamics, autonomy, and electric propulsion” to change personal aviation. The company also mentions the generous use of carbon fiber as a building material.

Interesting picture from the Zee.Aero patent filing that shows the new aircraft design par...

The intriguing pictures are all from the patent filings by the new company, and one of them shows a larger version of the vehicle with bigger engines and smaller wings parked between two cars, apparently at a supermarket or shopping mall, indicating a flying car.

The concept does bear some resemblance to other projects – we recently reported on the Volocopter, which has eighteen small electric engines providing lift in a snowflake arrangement. Flying cars like the Terrafugia must drive to the airport, spread wings, and take off from a runway. This is the same for the eastern-European designed Aeromobile.

There are certainly advantages of the Zee.Aero approach. Multiple electric motors can be driven from a common battery bank or gasoline-powered generator. Controls for such a craft are mechanically very simple, but will require some sophisticated software to make the aircraft easy to fly.

And just so you know, Caleb Garling of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Kroo says that Google is not involved in the project and that the search giant's close proximity is just a coincidence.

Source: Zee.Aero, US Patent and Trademark Office, SFGate (Caleb Garling)

About the Author
Francis X Govers III Francis Govers is the designer of over 20 land, sea, air and space vehicles and teaches robotics and the design of self-driving cars. He spent 10 years at NASA, helped design the International Space Station, participated in the DARPA Grand Challenge, and managed the only Zeppelin operating in the US. As a commercial pilot, writer, artist, musician, engineer, race car nut and designer, Francis has a serious addiction to building things that frequently gets him into trouble.   All articles by Francis X Govers III
17 Comments

Nonsense idea. Put the money into something useful!

GeoffG
22nd November, 2013 @ 02:59 am PST

So whoever want to realize a PAV has to put many electric motor on it?

Puffin PAV: 2

Rayaircraft: 4+2

Zee.Aero: 8+2

Volocopter: 18

Who's next?

Ettore Esposito
22nd November, 2013 @ 03:08 am PST

Doesn't look like you could drive it past 15 mph or fly past 60 mph, so what's the point. Plus with vertical take off you still have to find a place where you can land and takeoff due kicked up debris during both. Looks stupid and ugly too. Not a big deal but if your ponying up $100k or more people generally want to look good.

Matt Fletcher
22nd November, 2013 @ 08:17 am PST

It will always be problematic to trust heavy powered spinning blades with 1000s of parts into the compromised functions of a car and a plane.

The future will very likely show propulsion by charged air alone and very few moving parts. Then with 100% networked control safety door to door without roads, the "flying car" question becomes simply the safest most versatile and efficient VTOL aircraft answer.

Stay tuned,,,

ei3io
22nd November, 2013 @ 08:47 am PST

sounds more like a design exercise

Germano Pecoraro
22nd November, 2013 @ 08:59 am PST

What about the tremendous noise and dust swirling around in the parking lot?

How does a neighbor gets in and out of the car when this is taking off?

Imagine the scene when this fails to take off, landing on shoppers .

kamaaina
22nd November, 2013 @ 10:41 am PST

So many negative comments. Glad I do not know you personally. Given the negativity you people project, it would be a stilted experience to know you.

Thankfully there are so many who are blissfully unaware of your negativity.

steveraxx
22nd November, 2013 @ 11:41 am PST

...the comment about the negativity is spot on.

I also keep noticing the same here at Gizmag - a stifling concentration of naysayers. To me it looks like every particular nay sayer is just vicariously boosting their little ego - what is a more effective way of doing so than by putting down other people/ideas/inventions? To come up with an idea is BIG - but to point out flaws in them all is way bigger - the infallible emotional logic of a nay sayer.

As for the ZEE car - I would love to see one operational ...and perhaps even fly one!

nehopsa
22nd November, 2013 @ 01:43 pm PST

This is a very neat design that seems to tackle the problem of producing a flying vehicle that can be easily parked in a garage, or, in this case, in the Kmart parking lot. The Moller Skycar M400 was designed, in part, with this requirement in mind.

This vehicle seems to be more of a roadable aircraft than a "flying car" as such. The "roadability" would seem to be limited as there does not seem to be a surface propulsion system beyond the pusher props. That alone would make it little suitable to negotiating auto and pedestrian traffic to make a quick trip to the Seven-11. Also, I would be loathe to park my gleaming flying flivver in the supermarket shopping spaces with the fools who push shopping carts and open their car doors willy nilly into any vehicle unfortunate enough to be in range.

Still, the design looks promising, perhaps not as a flying car, but as a VTOL vehicle that the average person could operate.

Nostromo47
22nd November, 2013 @ 02:16 pm PST

Need cargo, van, sedan models alone

Id drive/fly one & or rent for sure.

Stephen N Russell
22nd November, 2013 @ 05:17 pm PST

Come on guys, everybody knows in Si Valley that Google Ventures is behind this, likely for mapping applications ...

the no-non-sense VTOL guy
22nd November, 2013 @ 09:01 pm PST

After spending all that money for this form of transportation - are you really going to park it in a tight stall next to other cars? I think you will become one those drivers who take up 2 stalls or park far away from others so you won't get hit by doors or shopping karts.

The fan blades have a good design even though they appear to have been inspired by staring up at ceiling fans. Any electric device used to defy gravity requires enormous power or storage.

I have found that hybrid electric is the only way to go. The best example is the locomotive trains. When they changed from steam to diesel engines, they never made a transmission. The 10,000 Hp engines power a generator which powers electric motors with almost no efficiency loss.

We have used that principal in our new design of the Hydro XE Turbo airplane. Manufacturers are looking at it now for consideration.

donwine
23rd November, 2013 @ 04:52 am PST

As they said before, "Those horseless carriages are dangerous and will never be successful". There are always people with limited imagination..

Mike Kling
23rd November, 2013 @ 08:39 am PST

Wonderful logical concept. It has long struck me that RC models and drones now are more advanced and maneuverable than actual full size aircraft. Electrifying the drive system seems to be the key, and it just seems a matter of time before this reaches the larger scales. The electric motors and gyro sensors and fast computer software work wonderfully, even on my little amazing $20 micro heli. Now add GPS and computer full auto pilot - all advancing year by year and at some point it is going to gel for personal air transport.

Certainly you don't want these things landing in just any old parking lot. But I can see city landing fields for them near transit stops that would be little more than parking lots with small helipad areas. Or perhaps you drive to the roof of a parking structure for that. And there could be many of them and much closer to city centers than regular airports.

Yes this is all 20 years away but first you need the groundbreaking new capable vehicles.

And so what if it only goes 60 mph? YOU'RE FLYING and going the straight line bird's flight route and not stuck in traffic. And higher speed could follow later in more streamlined more powerful evolutions.

Fun stuff.

HerrDrPantagruel
23rd November, 2013 @ 10:43 am PST

Looks to me that the rotor disk loading is perhaps 8 to 9 times higher than an R-22 helicopter. I'm not sure if that will help them be quiet. I wish them luck and would love to see one fly.

vtail55
23rd November, 2013 @ 11:15 am PST

The lift rotors appear to be so small that they would have to rotate very fast to generate adequate lift. The proportions would be different if scaled up.

theotherwill
23rd November, 2013 @ 11:33 am PST

I'm very sorry Steveraxx and Nehopsa - It appears you can only see 'negativity' in some of these comments. How about 'constructive criticism'?

I personally like the idea of point-to-point driving, some people live in hill country with very twisty roads and would love to short-cut their route.

I must say, however, that the first illustration looks more deathtrap than clever. How many people get hurt just with helicopter travel each year by not waiting for their rotors to 'wind down' and stop?

The first basketballer who leaps out to feed a parking meter ends up with head injuries - 'lawsuit lawyers' heaven!

At least the second illustration looks like it might be able to add shielding below the rotors.

The Skud
24th November, 2013 @ 05:55 pm PST
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