August 14, 2023
There are flying cars and then there are flying cars.
One type involves vehicles designed to fly as well as drive on roads. The other type only flies and is aimed at becoming somewhat of the transportation mode of the future.
This is where a seven-year-old flying car startup lives in Florida.
The vision of Doroni Aerospace CEO Doron Merdinger is to create a flying car for individuals who can hop into their vehicle and with a simple joystick, easily fly themselves wherever they want to go, whether the local golf course or to the office.
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While the vision is many steps away from practical reality, Doroni is among numerous companies creating electric aerial vehicles (EAV).
“If you think about it, why do you need a two-dimensional car on the road when you have endless roles in the sky?” Merdinger said. “Why do we need to use a 4,000-year-old intervention called the wheel?”
Merdinger told me he conducted a lengthy global search to create what called his dream team.
That team is working out of its facility in Pompano Beach, a Florida beach town just north of Fort Lauderdale.
Merdinger has test flown the company eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle) inside its large building and has applied to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for official test clearance.
The FAA recently started issuing air worthiness certificates to EAV companies, so testing is well underway around the U.S.
The EAV’s typically carry numerous propellers and batteries and take off straight up, negating the requirement for airport runways.
They generally fly in the hundreds of feet rather than large thousands of feet into the air with speeds in the 100 mph to 150 mph range.
“The higher you go, the more energy you consume, so there's no point on going higher. But you still want to enjoy the environment. You really want to see things.”
Several EAV companies are starting with a focus on transporting goods while others are looking at moving people.
Merdinger and other heads of EAV companies expect such flying vehicles will be individually owned while others are marketing their vehicles to airlines. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines already have placed orders or pre-orders.
At the moment, the estimated pricing per vehicles is generally around $300,000 each, so not yet a practical replacement for the mass market of on-the-road vehicles.
Yet, the companies move forward already taking hundreds of pre-orders of these self-piloting craft. For example, Doroni already has more than 300 preorders for its flying vehicle.
“We’re essentially eliminating as much complexity as we can because this is a semi-autonomous system,” said Merdinger. “It's self-stabilizing with a gyroscope and GPS and multiple external sensors that we added.
“It's a simple joystick, just a joystick going back forward, backwards, left, right up and down. Think about the three-dimensional elevator.”
The Doroni vision sees beyond metropolitan travel issues and looks at expanding transportation to more remote areas.
“How are you going to go into areas where there's no road?” said Merdinger. “There's no access to that. And you add to that, why do we need to destroy nature? There are so many things you can do around it.”
Another current challenge Merdinger sees is the so-called last-mile issue.
“How do you get to and from the train station? We are the last mile solution, because you can take off a land everywhere, when the place is the surface of the ground is horizontal and flat.”
Like other flying cars in development, the Doroni vehicle is designed to be parked in a two-car garage.
“We all knew flight cars are coming,” said Merdinger. “The only thing we don’t know is what propulsion system is going to take.
“It's the car of the future.”
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