Forget cars, we'll be taking to the skies in the future says Bijoy!
FFOR CLOSE TO A DECADE AND HALF I had to endure an absolutely sad commute from the Mumbai suburbs to central Mumbai. It used to take at least an hour and on a bad day, three hours. Mahalakshmi, now the editor of Outlook Business, who used to be my commuting partner for most of those years would vent off steam occasionally at the traffic. "Why can’t we have a car that can just lift off and drop us where we want it to?", was her favourite exasperated statement. The conversations wouldn’t last as I would tell her defying gravity has been the holy grail of transportation. Then we would go on to appreciate the invention called the airplane, and agree that it has been the most wonderful thing man has ever invented.
Come to think of it. We have mastered the art of flight for over 100 years and yet we cannot have flying personal mobility. We can have a mammoth aluminium tube called the Airbus A380 haul 500 odd passengers and tonnes of cargo from Singapore to London but we do not have the technology to carry me, at just a shade above 100kg, for 30 minutes or 30km? Isn’t that absurd? Something went wrong somewhere, right? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that Japan has not been able to make airplanes after the Second World War. Just perhaps.
Ah yes, we can always blame the crude oil economy conjuring with the car industry behemoth to ensure that electric mobility does not take off – quite literally. Wait a minute? If you are wondering what the connect is between my dreadful commute, electric power
‘All car makers are getting it wrong as they plan more IC engines and hybrid, electric
and personal flying mobility…read on.
Welcome to the world of drones, I say. You have seen them hovering at wedding halls and being used for news reportage. We also know that some companies are using drones to deliver pizza and books. There are drones that carry cutting edge cinematography equipment that weighs over 10kg and take off and land safely. So it is natural for me to expect in another five years time I can expect my own drone to commute to work?
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to go at 35,000ft above sea level over the polar route to JFK. Heck, I will be happy hovering ten feet above ground and guided by a GPS network and sensors that prevent me from crashing into Mr Mehta who is hovering home in a hurry.
Isn’t that the invention all of us have been waiting for? Allow me to run my imagination wild for a second. Imagine this magazine being called evo Drones India? Convertible drones called Dronsters? How about Formula Drone (right out of Star Wars, ain’t it?)? While I am day-dreaming someone called Hu is working very hard in China and they have gone ahead and built a prototype that can hover. Check out the picture. I am dead serious here. The Ehang 184 showcased recently at a tech show can carry 120kg (I qualify, sigh!) and can do 100kmph with a flight time of 23 minutes. And it will never fail, since it will take over in case of problems. According to Google research, the Ehang 184 will set you back by `1.3 crore (that will need a lot more convincing at home than another motorcycle!). But the point is it can be done and someone is attempting it.
This is the point where I think Elon Musk got it all wrong. Instead of spending money, energy and talent on drones, he went after making a car… as if it was the 1900s all over again! Come to think of it, all car makers are getting it wrong as they plan more and more IC engines and even hybrid, electric automobiles. The future is personal flying mobility. The future is drones.
Sure there will be challenges but then with the advent of the automobile the world changed, right? New laws were forced to be written and executed. New infrastructure needed to be built. Such was the power of invention that the rest followed. Ditto drones, I say.
Sure battery technology is the Achilles heel and once this minor issue is sorted out we can fly to work. As simple as that.
I get this strange feeling that I will live to see that day!