Let's jump into the future and imagine a world with flying cars. Not planes, not helicopters, but cars that can take-off, land, and then drive to your final destination. This week, Ian and Dan are joined by Tracy, an extraordinary expert that brings amazing insight to our conversation about eVTOL and more!
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Welcome to the Space Shuttle podcast. This is avians Official Innovation podcast today. I have Tracy Barkhimer and Dan. Mega Dan is the VP for Strategic Innovation and Tracy, I don't know your exact title, but do you want to go ahead and explain what you do for the company and maybe a?
Little bit about your background. I have been an acquisition professional for over 25 years now.
And I was hired to be a an executive coach consultant for some of our Department of the Navy folks on the base.
So that's really exciting because I want to say you're probably one of our first consultants as a company, and wow, I think there might be some road ahead for that part, which is very exciting as Tracy is a trailblazer. Yes, trailblazing Tracy.
Alright, so today we're.
Talking about flying cars and more specifically the technology behind them, a lot of them now are these vital vehicles which Beatle stands for vertical takeoff and landing. I had to write that down because it's not super familiar to me.
But when we think about flying cars, I mean for me, I think about the cars that always had the wings and it kind of just looked like a plane, which might be a good place to start off this conversation. Where do we? Where do we cut the line in the sand for what we classify as a flying car and what we could classify just as like another helicopter or kind of Vitol system?
There's no difference.
There is a difference. OK, I better different, alright?
Tracy over you.
He told only does vertical takeoff and landing. The idea behind a flying car is that you drive it on the road and then you can take it off in the air transfer wherever you're going to go, and then land vertically and drive back on the on the ground again. So it puts another element of complexity into the innovation that some of the companies out there are trying to do right now.
Yeah, so I would agree with that. I think Tracy is right. I will say that I believe the press interchanges those two words and those two thoughts as if they're the same thing. So yes, you're right, you're 100% right. A flying car is just as you said. They're calling the Vitola flying car. All of the Jetsons, right? If he's old enough to know The Jetsons.
And therein lies the trick, right? And Evie tall electric vertical takeoff and landing? Or that's a sporting proposition. And that is, there's a lot there there, you know, you read some of the things in the press.
And the words you see on a regular basis are demonstrator prototype experimental. And then if you pull it back a little bit, they say, well, they have flight times of up to 10 minutes. OK, well, up to 10 minutes means maybe once they got to 10 minutes, but it's usually four or five minutes and they run out of power. 'cause it's a complicated machine.
It is complicated, so batteries present the largest challenge and charging batteries. You can't put an infinite number of batteries on these vehicles will be too heavy.
So there's companies out there and we have a couple right here locally that are working on hybrid systems which they generate their own power in the air take off with the battery and generate their own power, and it's it's pretty cool stuff. There's small business called unmanned.
Propulsion development out of tech port that has pretty good design an he flew.
I want to say 2 1/2 hours or 2.7 hours back in December of 2019, which at the time is an unofficial.
Guinness World Record.
How big was it? Tracy was a.
Little tiny thing when.
That small it was. It was pretty.
You know, but.
But not big enough to carry around a couple of humans. Yeah, yeah, there's no trick.
But you have to. You really have to start smaller to get bigger.
I agree, and that's why when you read some of the press and look the venture capitalists have come in with their big piles of money and they're talking about flying in 2022 or 2023. That's a that's a steep Hill to climb.
Because there are a lot of complexities. One thing if you're going to carry around, you know if Grubhub is going to have these things and you're going to order pizza or your.
Beef and broccoli and it's going to come. And yeah, if it if it crashes or drops it, or there's a thunderstorm, nobody is really going to care.
Put humans in there. It's a whole different ball game. Then the lawyers get involved in. You know all.
Bets are off. Well, there's a lot of things that have to happen before flying. You see, flying cars become the norm an I don't know that we're going to see it in our time, but you never know 20.
23 man Go look online and that's what.
They're saying so. I remember there is a company that's working on it, but there are so many other things that have to be considered. There's infrastructure questions that have to be answered.
Verda ports or whatever you're going to have to be built. You can't just take a taxi and land at an airport.
Exactly insurance liability.
Well, then there's also the people, right? So you have the aircraft issues and you have the people issues. So are we going to, you know, is my mother going to go learn how to fly so she can drive her vehicle to the Ann, fly her vehicle to the supermarket? I mean, there's lots of questions that.
You could point or are you going to do it autonomously where you get in?
You punch in the address you want to go to and it takes you there for me. Hard pass on that one.
For awhile or not, even there with cars.
Yeah, well, that's OK. So let's pivot the question a little bit. What we're almost there with cars, I mean almost as a very relative term, but.
What what do you think we could learn from the process of figuring out how to make fully autonomous vehicles and apply that to fully autonomous self driving or self flying cars? So yeah, you can get in right now. I don't it might be Las Vegas, it might be Arizona. I don't remember exactly, but there's somewhere that has a fully autonomous autonomous taxi get in. I don't know if its application driven or you type it in. Like you said, once you get into it, but it's like this minivan that you just get in, type in your location.
Or where you want to go, and it takes you there.
Obviously, there's things we can apply from what we're learning in that into these flying cars, but is there anything specific that you guys can think of?
Tracy, so there I'm familiar with a couple of companies out in Silicon Valley. One neural propulsion systems has developed a mathematical algorithm that.
Increases your range accuracy and range ability in the vehicle and they I think they just launched last month or two months ago, But anyway, this mathematical algorithm can do that for you and they put it on a car to do autonomous driving. They can even look around the corner which is very cool, so it's pretty innovative stuff, so there's companies out there doing those kinds of things. Now put that in the air in a 3 dimensional environment or.
Very hard and you know how software software is. We still have imperfect. We still haven't figured out how to manage and develop software properly, but there's a lot of companies out there investing a whole lot of money, like Toyota an and a bunch of different venture capitals as you mentioned, is that are really going to see this now. I will tell you that I had a family member.
Back in the 50s and 60s, who invested in helicopters 'cause he thought it was going to be the transportation solution to the world, they're going to land on top of buildings. And yeah, where is that gone right exactly? So public perception and the fear of flying is real, yeah, and they do it in New York quite a bit, but it's you know it's congested in New York this buildings in your way, right? So they have very narrow corridors that you have to fly around in and.
And Flightpaths, and so it's not. I just don't see it.
I don't see it happening just yet. The European Agencies Aviation Safety Agency, I think is is actually approaching it by building blocks and coming up with stepping stones. Kind of to develop certification process for both the air vehicle and the pilot or the drone operator or whatever you're going to call it back to what you said about the press, right? They call all sorts of things. Drones, right? There's only one drone. I know it's being dragged behind an aircraft, right?
Right, so yeah, so terminology has to be there.
And public understanding has to be part of it. You know, let's just put the flying part aside and the challenge is there. What about these virtual ports in your backyard? Everybody hates the sound of aircraft.
Well these are that, hence the E vite all 'cause they're quiet and they kind of whisper along.
I don't know it's there are a lot of challenges, and for those people out there that might be listening. Take everything you read out of the venture capitalist with a grain of salt. One guy said I'm going to put my old glasses on. One guy said owning of it all could be as affordable as owning a bicycle. Alright, well, that's categorically not going to.
Happen grandchildren maybe?
Maybe, but I Tracy, your point is great about your family member in the 50s talking bout helicopters being, you know the transportation of the future. Well it is for some people.
The very very very wealthy traveled by helicopter in cities because they can the average person.
Count me as somebody who's never taken a helicopter in New York City or anywhere else except.
Good next time you're.
Over Niagara Falls, which was in you know, kind of cool. Just as a side note, there are a lot of things to overcome and the technical challenges the human being challenges of having the confidence to get on something that's going to fly and go fast and maybe or maybe not have a pilot there.
That's tricky. People are are wary of getting in a self driving car right? So so in LSU, if you were in Phoenix on your golf trip in February in Scotts Dale and you called up an Uber 'cause maybe you had more than one beer, right? So you called up your Uber and the self-driving autonomous Uber showed up. Would you get in or not gettin?
Depends how much he drank.
Yes I also.
I think I think my answer personally would be yes, I'd get in just because I want the experience of that. And would you be like the Mars Rover and take a selfie of yourself? I think I would. I think I would post it on the Instagram page. Yeah, I'm going to self driving cars. Somebody give me what they think. There's going to be a bar in the back.
Seat of the self driving.
Car like a limo, right?
Yeah yeah, is it a vending machine?
Learning machine where you have to swipe your credit card and out pops like a $7.00.
Honey, so I see somewhere somewhere, no matter you know if that scenario actually.
Comes to fruition somewhere. There's going to be a human in.
The loop somewhere, that's what.
I was gonna say or something.
As you were talking, I'm thinking well. Is this going to create a job now so we have these flying vehicles? Is there somebody sitting in an office somewhere that is maybe OK so it's not fully autonomous, but maybe they're controlling the vehicle from point A to point B rather than.
Well, we have a. We have a helicopter on Mars which is pretty Dagan cool, cool. It's not a fixed wing. If you notice, yes, it's a helicopter.
But it still has a human in the loop, right from 4,000,000 miles away 400,000,000 miles away, or whatever was so long. Wait, wait, it's somebody still maneuvering it so.
You know, I don't think we're quite there yet, but to say that just like back in the 50s and the 60s to say that helicopters were going to be all over the place, people believed it. I mean, yeah, people invested in it. I don't know where that stock is now, but I'm pretty.
Sure, it's yeah. And you mentioned via Trace you mentioned a second ago. ATC sewer traffic control. I can't imagine if everything that the VC guys talk about you know they're going to be easy. Told taxis and people are going to have their own and Amazons are going to be delivering stuff. And of course that means UPS and FedEx will be delivering stuff.
That's a lot of stuff flying around in the air, right? And so maybe the place for sort of that second order is a who's going to sell all the air traffic control radars, 'cause there's going to be a ton.
Of am everywhere an do you remember a few years back there were there was a big and I can't remember the details about it, but there was a big awareness or an awakening so to speak of the stress air traffic controllers have. Yeah, you think this is going to add stress to?
Their chamber well.
It'll certainly add stress and add to the workforce if all this comes to fruition and there will be like an air traffic controller on, maybe not every street corner, but everywhere there's a Starbucks. Be like air traffic controllers and.
Starbucks, or maybe they'll be using cameras to do that, I don't.
You know, I was thinking.
Big Brothers on there.
Is there a way here? Is there something that we could offer?
That makes a life of an air traffic controller easier. Is there software that could be developed or some kind of machine learning application that?
Yet it's funny you say that you went to software applications, an machine learning I went to like, you know, portable bathrooms and cheeseburger.
That's a damn problem, I suppose.
They're going to be there. Inundated, right? This stuff is going to be all over like I need to go to the bathroom.
Right, hey space shovel listeners, I want to say thank you first of all for listening to this podcast, we have some really exciting ones coming up and in the works. Again, thank you for listening. If you're not following the work. Awesome network on social media. I encourage you to do that. That's on basically every platform. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram. You can follow the work awesome network. That is where you get updates on the Space Shuttle podcast as well as the work awesome podcasts.
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So the difference I think I think I see from the 50s to now is that technology is multitudes better and the innovation is multitude better. And there are there are some serious investors in there so.
This might be the next revolution, you know. There was the car revolution there was helicopter vertical takeoff and lift revolution, and so this might be the next revolution, but I just think there's so many obstacles that we have to think of before we believe that it's going to be an everyday occurrence, yeah?
Yeah, you're right, and there's a lot of people banking real money and making this happen, and I hope that they are successful.
Will see me too because it would be nice to, you know, have a helicopter land in my yard. Take me to dinner with my husband and then bring me back and I don't have to worry about you know drinking and driving or.
Anything right, right? Well, and you know to make these time effective. You know, many of these companies are doing the transitional flight right? You take off like a helicopter transition for like an airplane so you can go faster and pick up more people and you can make the business case theoretically close.
That that transition period of going from vertical to horizontal is at best sporty at worst deadly.
Yes, and thank goodness the V 22 survived all their challenges. There were years back. Major efforts to shut that program down. Well there.
Were multiple crashes because it's like I said, you know when you're going vertically, you get the lift from your rotors going horizontally. The lift comes from your wings or.
However, props whatever surface you have.
So it's it's hard to do, but you're right, we did it once. Nobody else has done it as far as.
I know has done vertical transitional flight. There are some small companies that Bell Bailin, Boeing. Or are they actually have a smaller version of the V 22 that's commercially right but.
Those companies have the know how how to do.
It, Oh yeah, right? I agree with.
That and I don't know if there's any others that have that 'cause the flight control laws are tricky.
We've been talking a lot about.
Helicopter esque type of vehicles. What about something like the F35 that that can hover in place right? And my terminology is incorrect. I know I'm sorry but that can kind of hover in place. Is that applicable? Do you think to maybe some future technology with flying cars?
Maybe the way the way the F35B does it though, is it it takes its shaft driven fan and a thrust vectoring nozzle so it takes the power from the engine that Jai Normas engine that aircraft has.
It engages a shaft which drives a huge lift fan which pushes air down through the nozzle and then take some of that air pushes it forward, so it's kind of doing this right and then it kind of takes off and goes that way. The weight penalty for that is huge, it's.
It's probably not £10,000, but it's probably about 6 or £7000, so you would never be able to do that on something that would just, you know, have annual fuel.
Bill is a challenge. Yeah, right? So?
It's it's a technical Marvel. Frankly, the F35B that it can do it and to be able to do that on Tracy's front lawn. So she can.
Go to dinner with her husband. Great tricky, probably tear up the grass and my grass right? The other thing is.
The acoustics of that aircraft are tremendous. Yes, right, very, very dangerous levels of sound, and that's a problem that when you have those jets engaged at that, I don't think they're going to be conducive to commercial.
Right in camping right and many people don't understand for that aircraft specifically, the acoustics are damaging to the structure right around it, and it's such a low frequency and you know, if you ever hear it flying around here so you can feel it in your chest as it's flying by Space Shuttle.
Yeah, my house happens to be right in the flight path, so it's yes.
I hear it so again when Tracy's going to the palm in DC with her husband people, our neighbors are not going to be happy right? When that.
Happens after replace a few windows quite often.
What else? What about we talked a little bit about navigation have? So let's talk specifically about Uber and they have a program called Elevate, which again based off of sort of itoll concept.
They're saying that they can fly from San Francisco to San Jose in 15 minutes, which.
I don't know how familiar with the West Coast, but that's a pretty decent trip if you're taking it by car, it is. That's probably every bit of an hour to go like if you're talking downtown San Francisco all the way to like San Jose Airport or like Mountain View or someplace down there, yeah?
And I'm not familiar with Ubers vehicle is it is it. Does it transition? Does it then follow an airplane or?
Is it pure? I don't know specifically if they have a whole white paper on it. I can yes.
We know about PowerPoint slideshows.
PowerPoint engineering, we can. We can link that white paper for you, but it seems like there is some sort of transitional phase there.
Yeah, and so that's hard to do and look in that part of the country where weather is sporty and fog rolls in.
Yeah, it might be. Might be a a program that they're investing in, but they gotta have aviators. Yes, engineers, engineers and I don't know that I would get into an Uber flying aircraft. It's hard for me to get into it. Goober on the ground right for safety purposes, right? So it's interesting. I'll have to look into that.
Yeah, and one thing that people don't perhaps understand is a concept of EMI electromagnetic interference.
Have you ever plug your phone into your car and you happen to be listened to the radio right? And you plug your phone in? Your major starts going?
Now it's not with the new iPhones.
It's time to get rid of that flip.
Phone down, that's it, so that CMI, well, you don't want to have that. If you're flying in your car and there's somebody who you're flying over is is using their ham radio.
Or their microwave or.
Their microwave or something, and all of a sudden you get a little just a little blip in your computer system, and it has to reboot. Oh bad.
Happens every time I drive past between Gate 3 engaged to lose my lose comms every single time.
Why is that? Because they're blasting. Yep. Yep, electromagnetic waves, yeah, so.
So the point is, it's all those things that have to be taken to account before you let people get into a machine and have that machine move them from point A to point B, especially if there's not a human in the loop.
The one thing that I always worry about and I got my undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and I always said God, I got a degree in something. I never saw. All these all these electromagnetic waves running around the earth. What is that doing to us?
Well, it's a good point that you know.
What the next?
Study in the next podcast. The end is the.
What is it doing to us is doing to our brains? You know, putting the phone up, they people talk about getting cancer from using their phones, while all this adds to that.
Electromagnetic field running around the earth, and I wonder often.
What's that doing to us?
Right, right? And now you're going to Add all the all the air traffic control radars or anything like that. Every Starbucks keeping track of all this stuff.
Is another example about aviators flying off the aircraft carriers, or some of the DGS and some of the cruisers. Some of those radars Apinya people think that they they always have kids because of that or something.
Actually always have girl kids. I know OK always have girls so.
And cancer causing too. So I think the I think there's a study out going around about that now too about some of our jet pilots having cancer.
So those are like the really bad second and third order X that.
We should be, but if you have radars like that, use trying to track multiple vehicles in the airspace they could. They could have the same kind.
Of affects, yeah. And we're not caring. I mean say this is in full swing we're talking. It's probably going to become as common as a car. So think about how much traffic is on the road, and that's now in the airspace. It has to be.
Like we're saying, tracked in. Yeah, that's a lot. So it is a lot.
But I wonder if that would turn into.
We're now really getting walkie if that.
Would charge you wanted yes.
We're turning turn into like roads in the air like we can't fly anywhere you want, right? You have to follow a very specific corridor like commercial airlines do. Now that you can't just go wherever you want but that.
Would just Civil Aviation has.
Quarters too, so I don't know if it's.
The Jetsons but there was some cartoon where there's like always floating street signs and the flying cars would follow these floating St size. I forget which which TV show that was, but I was The Jets. Imagine that they like having I don't know how you would ever do it, but street signs basically just floating in the air with.
The other part of this is all this venture capital has been sort of burbling around in this stuff for you know, two or three years.
You know. And so we've, we've gone through this period of covid an changing of the workforce with more work remotely. I won't say work from home to work remotely, and so there's less traffic, and so does that. Then obviate the need that people saw for this, because look, you can get around DC Now a lot better than you could 18 months ago. It's imperfect.
It's creeping back to.
This creeping back it.
Is creeping back, but it's not gridlock like like it was.
So now I don't know why this that prompted what I'm thinking now, but like what if the start of this is the big company? So like the Facebook's, the ones that are in the game of technology? What if the start of this is them buying into this? Using it to transport there? So you go to a Facebook shuttle, spot everyone that works on Facebook gets onto this air vehicle and now they just show you too.
Shuttle you to work every day, so you're eliminating that traffic. I mean to me that seems like a real really real way that this could eventually get started. Just gave gave Tracy chill. She's like.
Growing up in New York City, right? Subways do that, but there's still awful lot of cars out there, so it's not going to be true. It's not going to be a solution for everybody, but there will be enough people that that could be a possibility. Just another mode of transportation, but again, the challenges for a large vehicle moving around a lot of people in the air is.
Far fetched yeah possible called 737 exactly exactly, but but a vertical one is probably a little bit out there right now.
It's a major breakthrough in battery and energy and energy storage and things of that nature, so it's interesting. A lot of our topics somehow have the same themes where it always goes back to. We can do this in the future, but first we need to figure out how to make better batteries or how to make better sensors or better, whatever. Yeah well, part of the reason behind that is 'cause you have an engineer sitting right here.
And there's like, alright, it's a good idea.
Well, you know.
One of these events are tracing one of these TV toll companies has been started by like a couple of business dudes from Florida, right? OK, well, congratulations business dudes from Florida, but you really need our engineers to make your your vehicle work.
There is over 200, at least over 200 companies working on V tall.
Evi tall and flying cars around the world. An half of the mounts arrive.
Half a bench, a dollar. It's like less than 10%.
But you know the thank God for the Jetsons. Thank God for Star Trek, right? All those ideas are coming to life. So imagination is the key to innovation. So who knows what the future holds.
And I think we're in a better spot now than we were in the 1950s and 60s. To see this, take off a little bit.
Better, yeah, I think so. So let's wrap this up with a shameless plug for avian. If there are any of these companies that want testing people we happen to be really good at testing things like so reach out to us and I think this is a really good conversation on the next episode we're talking about hoverboards and the conversation will be more focused on like drones. But what that could mean for the future and if you are a fan of like.
Back to the future. Potentially having one of those hoverboards seeing.
There's a video out there, is there on Facebook that has a dude?
Sing a hoverboard in the streets of New York City. Interesting stops at the red lights. He goes like that and it's it's very cool. Look it up on Facebook. That's where I saw it was like, Oh my goodness, that's awesome. I'll send it, OK?
Yeah, we definitely Next up. Will be fun. We have a handful of drone experts coming in and talking about that with us, so definitely look for that. Tracy, thank you for joining me and Dan today. Dan, thank you for always being here and I will see everybody on the next episode.
Thanks, appreciate it, thank you.