Hackaday Links: Benchoff Rants On Flying Cars

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It’s time for Computex, and that means [Linus] has dropped something. I don’t know what, but he’s dropped something. It’s a meme or something at this point. What were the highlights? Asus announced Project Precog, a laptop with two screens. Yes, a touchscreen keyboard. It’s the 2018 version of the IBM Transnote or whatever that Microsoft thing was called. Why is it called Project Precog? Because AI or whatever. Unimaginative marketing is terrible. Intel is going to launch a 28-core CPU, and AMD is introducing a 32-core CPU. Awesome, core wars. And here’s RGB RAM because stuffing a case full of cold cathode lighting is sooo early-2000s.

Need a reverse engineering challenge? Here’s something from American Science and Surplus. It’s a 48 x 12 LED matrix, loaded up with driver ICs and power regulators. $20 a piece, so stock up and save.

Finally, the main event. The biggest story in aviation this week is that a media embargo has lifted on the Kitty Hawk Flyer. Kitty Hawk is a startup funded by Larry Page, CEO’d by Sebastian Thrun, and has received $6.5 M in funding. The Flyer, a one-man decacopter, was announced to the world through CNN Money and Casey Neistat. It should be noted that in the entire media landscape, these are the two outlets most ignorant of aviation: CNN needs no explanation, and Neistat flies quadcopters through the Hudson River Corridor at 1000 feet AGL. Additionally, Kitty Hawk is not exhibiting at AirVenture next month, which leads me to believe Kitty Hawk is trying to stay out of the aviation industry or simply doesn’t want knowledgeable people asking them questions. But I digress.

The Kitty Hawk Flyer is being promoted by the company as “a personal flying vehicle… to make flying part of everyday life” and a machine that will give you, “a world free from traffic”. It is being billed by CNN and Neistat as ‘a flying car’. Kitty Hawk is just fine with allowing the media to call it as such. Additionally, Sebastian Thrun is making claims about the Flyer that are disingenuous at best, outright illegal at worst, and should draw the ire of any investors.

In the CNN Money piece, Thrun claims the Flyer is capable of traveling at 100 miles per hour, which would be illegal. The Flier is certified as a Part 103 Ultralight, and under that regulation the Flyer “is not capable of more than 55 knots calibrated airspeed at full power in level flight.” The Flyer may also be overweight. The first version of the Flyer was basically a decacopter with a seat, and weighed in at 220 pounds. Part 103 regulations have a limit of 254 pounds, and it’s entirely possible there are more than 34 pounds of chassis and fiberglass on the latest version. I should also mention the safety training, while not required for a Part 103 ultralight, is insufficient: Casey Neistat’s underwater egress training was done in a Chuck E. Cheese-style ball pit. You can breathe in a ball pit, you can’t breathe underwater.

But legality aside, a Part 103 ‘flying car’ is just about the dumbest idea ever. You can’t use it to commute, and you’re welcome to call your local FSDO to confirm that. You’re not going to fly it in New York City or San Francisco because there are airports in the way. At best, this is a ‘flying ATV’ that you would take out on your farm; a toy for rich people. At worst, it’s the latest example of the Silicon Valley philosophy of ‘ignore laws and break things’.

52 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: Benchoff Rants On Flying Cars

  1. It’s not a car, so it’s not a flying car. A multirotors is a bad idea anyway; they are to noisy to fly within cities and to inefficient to fly to the next city, and that is even ignoring the obvious failure modes (no autorotation, mostly).

    However, not all “flying cars” concepts are multirotors, so it’s not fair to say they all suck just because this one sucks.

    1. Not to mention that in the disparity of terms, when you lightly tap the bumper of a car as knuckle heads who text bcz our modern attention span is shorter than this reply, no one gets a rotor blade sheered off and lodged in their sternum, then the two cars plummeting to the earth smearing pedestrians below.

    2. “not all “flying cars” concepts are multirotors”

      So what flying car are you thinking of here? Some 2nd space-age levitation anti-gravity device I didn’t hear about previously?

    3. A ‘car’ is a horse-less carriage. Since the first proposed powered machine was called an “aerial carriage” updating to ‘flying car’ seems to fit just fine.

  2. Flying cars always sounded like a silly idea to me when you consider how many people wind up in multi-vehicle accidents that take place in 2D.

    Bring in a third dimension, and suddenly a 3-car pile-up has a literal meaning… I’d hate to be the poor sod on the bottom!

    1. Actually, I’d expect those sorts of things to be less likely because there’s just a whole lot more room in airspace *because* of the third dimension. Separation distances for airplanes are measured in thousands of feet, not dozens of inches. And combining TCAS with semi-autonomous flight controls could make reduced-training pilot licenses a possibility at some point.

      1. True and a third dimension also give another way to move to avoid a collision.
        Though I don’t expect these to be allowed in cities due to noise and the general mind set of a city planners.
        NYC doesn’t allow much helicopter traffic or landing pads on rooftops even though if they did a lot less people would have died on 9-11 and the towers might even still be standing as helicopters with water cannons and rescue basket can be very useful in a highrise fire.
        But if it’s low cost enough it might become a popular as a flying ATV as trikes and powerchutes have.
        Combined with enough redundancy and a ballistic parachute they could be fairly safe.

      1. Blimps that can carry a person and a carriage and a motor are not ‘mini’.
        even weather balloons with small packages are pretty damn big.

        But I guess if you have an estate of many acres it’s doable. And certainly more realistic than those upscaled quadcopter concepts.

    1. Yeah, its weird how amd isnt bragging, and they just rolled out a production 32c/64t cpu, with boost on cores (not all at once though), and under an air cooler!

      Meanwhile, Intel is possibly(?) “repackaging” a $10k xeon cpu, that has 28 cores, 4 channel instead of 8 memory controller, something like half the pcie lanes…
      yeah, it got up to 5ghz, with an estimated 1000w power requirement on a 32 channel VRM that requires 4x40mm fans and heatpipes, and another 1200w for the water chiller…

      I cant help but think this is like the lamborghini of processors… yeah, maybe a dozen people will buy them, and for every day of productivity there is an hour of maintenance.

      1. Also AMD’s lowest clocked chips start at 2Ghz…. That is a usable bare minimum required for these days!

        I guess Intel are still trying to palm off 1.2Ghz (1.5Ghz turbo) core-m (or equiv) onto peasants.

        I remember running a pin-mod-overclocked Pentium M (2.6-ish-Ghz) and under-volting most of the P-States to 0.7v whilst running the laptop without a fan! (OK, I had to raise the volts past 1.9Ghz)

        If Intel tried out lowering the voltages across their lower-binned parts, then they could compete with AMD… Heck I know they got 2.4Ghz without a heatsink in the baytrail series (The only usable and highest end of the baytrail SoC).

        Off topic:
        I’ve noticed tor-browser 7.5.5 update states:
        Bug 26098: Remove amazon-meek.

        What has Failfox (Firefox) been sneaking under our noses lately???
        Palemoon seems like a good alternative so far!

        1. “meek is a pluggable transport, an obfuscation layer for Tor designed to evade Internet censorship. Traffic is relayed through a third-party server that is hard to block, for example a ​CDN. It uses a trick called ​domain fronting to talk to a Tor relay while appearing to talk to another domain. ”

          Source: https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/wiki/doc/meek

          So it’s a TOR thing not a firefox thing (this time)

          And I hear the other ‘dark net’ also has a Amazon tie-in these days. And in another story that Amazon is frowned upon because they are helping cops/security services with facial recognition technology. Draw your own inference.
          Oh and Amazon hosted wikileaks in the past but as soon as the shit hit the fan they preemptively dropped it before being asked to. I’m not sure what their internal philosophy is, or if there is a single one. I just know I’d not trust a big US company for privacy and security.

          1. LOL, cheers for pointing this out….
            I quite literally took that at face value without looking into it further.
            It’d probably would of been one of those things I didn’t know that’d turn around and bite me in the future:
            Even though I don’t do anything illegal (Is knowledge illegal? even if it could help you escape into safety???), the searches and topics could be twisted by media outlets, multi-letter agencies, spooks, government employees with a chip on their shoulder….etc… to paint a bad picture or just to wipe someone off the planet!

            Also I use tor to get around IP filters after someone went rampage with everyone’s pseudonyms on many forums etc. And thus causing some of us to have a multi-IP* ban despite otherwise us being OK…

            *One of the IPs will be the suspect’s IP (presumably)

          2. Knowledge and objects and substances SHOULD never be illegal. People using such things to cause harm to other people is what ought to be illegal. But we will probably never live to see such enlightened governance

  3. If every inventor worried about the current laws there would be no inventions!
    Only a few years ago, self-driving cars were illegal. We have come a long way in a few years.

    1. Good point for sure.

      Initially when motors were invented they had laws in some places that a person carrying a flag had to run in front of them as a warning.

      Obviously a new thing needs to find new regulation and what’s workable and safe.

      But I’m confident in saying that outside saudi-arabia flying cars will not be a thing for the next 500 years.

      1. The others who also ignored the law of gravity ended up collecting their awards as well, a place in the history books that is.
        Later some others tried the same and successfully won the battle with gravity and took to the sky’s.
        Now millions of people follow in their footsteps on a day to day basis, for some this is their jobs!

        1. Gravity, the big G, G R A V I T Y, say it ♫

          I think BTW that Childish Gambino did a nod to James Brown in his ‘this is america’ video. But I’m not sure if it was meant nice or if it was negative. Oh well.

    2. The light sport aircraft rules didn’t exist until after 2004 in the US so laws can be changed though LSA might be a better target for these kind of vehicles since it’s weight class is easier to meet than FAR 103 which it self didn’t exist until 1982.

    1. I can think of entire ways of framing someone as a terrorist without needing one of those “Flyer” things:
      Internet of car – Hack to base, plant bomb in car so it isn’t obviously rigged, send it home…
      Victim gets into car… the car gets near a crowd of people and suddenly the driver looses control of the car, SLAM, a load of people rain down from the shear speed of the car heading towards a packed shopping-center(MALL), the victim gets shot by police and the car keeps going to the shopping-center: KABOOOOOOM!

      Steal a number plate at night and plant it on another to swap plates, steal the first car so the rigged number plate victim gets arrested for a stolen car whilst police waste time investigating… meanwhile you’d rig the stolen car with explosives and a remote drive system (Maybe over internet for anonymity, also police aren’t looking for this car yet). Drive the explosives packed (Brimming with explosives) car into a crowded building and KABOOOOMMM!!!

      So it is that simple to commit terrorism… also this achieves extra chaos by distracting police and thus stopping lives being saved… Thankfully those who commit terrorism are so dumbed down by the deceived version of a common religion that they can’t think of these extreme methods!

    1. Probably just as powerful as well, knowing Intel and their bottom of the line processor.

      There are no specs so it probably is, “The latest greatest Intel processor”: a last gen CPU with a 1.2Ghz base frequency and a whopping massive high-end (Gaming grade???) 1.6Ghz turbo!!!!*

      Pfft, My Lenovo T400 beats that hands down with 2.13Ghz (full speed)! I haven’t swapped the CPU with the one from my dell E6400 because since I’ve flashed Libreboot onto the T400 it has felt just as fast.
      (Hmm, I wonder how good the T400 would be with a 3.06Ghz CPU? Maybe a worthwhile upgrade in the future… also more cache helps a lot!)

      *Ok, I’m just ripping into Intel with sarcasm, however:
      If the Asus duo-tablet as linked here had an AMD CPU then maybe it’d be more usable (base freq of 2Ghz using modern speed-up techniques makes for a usable machine).

  4. The last time I read so many sour grapes about a flying machine it was Samuel Pierpoint Langley whining about how he could have flown first. It looks interesting and fun to fly and as likely to revolutionize transportation as the Segway which is also interesting and fun to ride.

  5. “Need a reverse engineering challenge? Here’s something from American Science and Surplus. It’s a 48 x 12 LED matrix, loaded up with driver ICs and power regulators. $20 a piece, so stock up and save”.

    I ordered 2 the other day, impulse buy, will getting some other stuff. Figured it would be easy to find some information, but Google has been mean to me. Mostly, Getting links to commercial sites, that sell/rent the full product, whether a video wall, or signage. Doesn’t seem like much in the parts, repair, or specs for these things. Got a hunch these are old, since most of what I’ve found, have a lot more LED’s per tile. It’s a V 9 series tile. Guess I’ll have to resort to the poke-around method, to see if I can light it up and use them.

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