Experts say this is the closest we'll get to flying cars. While the technology is still incredibly new, it's really only a matter of when, not if, we'll see self-flying passenger drones in our skies. The problem with flying cars is there's no way to make a transport device that's both good at flying and driving. But dedicated self-flying passenger drones are a technologically sound bet.
Passenger drone makers are “obviously still in the incubation stages of technology development and improving the basics,” says Mike Hirschberg, executive director of the American Helicopter Society International, an organization for engineers and scientists that promotes VTOL technology. “But 20 or 30 years from now life may be a little like The Jetsons where you take advantage of the third dimension and have much more mobility, especially in urban close quarters where ground transportation is gridlocked.”
Others can't get themselves to trust self-driving cars, let alone a self-flying passenger drone. The potential for things to go wrong skyrockets when you have thousands of flying drones zipping around in the sky. Do you really trust the engineers and programmers to have gamed out every potential situation? If things were to go wrong, and they're bound to go wrong eventually, there's no surviving this.
The problem with self-flying passenger drones is that there's no real Plan B. If it were to fail while in use, someone's either going to die or get seriously injured. Here's what Evan Ackerman, a writer at IEEE Spectrum, thinks about it:
This is the fundamental problem with drone taxis: I'm not convinced there's a safe way to fail. With an autonomous car, the failure mode is pulling over, or even just coming to a stop in the middle of the road if absolutely necessary. With an autonomous aircraft, you can't do that. The only way I see passenger drones being realistic at all is if they include a trained human pilot, a highly distributed propulsion system, and a ballistic parachute. And to be honest, I'm skeptical that drone taxis would be much more than a novelty, anyway. The potential for autonomous cars to increase the speed and efficiency of short- and medium-distance travel is so enormous that, within the next decade or two, intracity drones would likely be more trouble than they're worth.