Zee.Aero, a startup company that has patented designs for “flying cars” is being financed by Google cofounder, Larry Page. While originally started by Ilan Kroo, a professor in Stanford’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Page has been funding the startup since it first launched in 2010.
The original patented designs by Kroo, filed in 2012, feature eight propellers on the sides to help the vehicle to take off vertically and two thrust propellers to push it forward. Many may argue that a flying car is nothing more than a small personal aircraft, in that it has a vertical take-off and landing. Yet, this particular vehicle can also fit in standard-sized parking spaces, much like a regular car. The vehicle is narrow and has wings that can fold inwards, which allow the user to park the vehicle in parking lots. These diagrams are very early designs and Zee.Aero is now interested in developing a “simpler, more conventional-looking design.” However, they already have active prototypes that they take on regular test flights, not far from Zee.Aero’s headquarters in Mountain View, California (also not far from Google’s HQ.) While it is now known that Page is involved in the startup, originally there was much secrecy as Zee.Aero employees didn’t even refer to Page by his real name – they called him by his alias, GUS or the “Guy UpStairs.”
Even the startup’s website stays mum on details, only stating, “Based in the heart of Silicon Valley, Zee is developing a revolutionary new form of transportation.”
The question remains whether flying cars will ever become the norm. Mark Moore, an aeronautical engineer at NASA, told Bloomberg, “Self-flying aircraft is so much easier than what the auto companies are trying to do with self-driving cars. Over the past five years, there have been these tremendous advances in the underlying technology. What appears in the next 5 to 10 years will be incredible.”
Images via US PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE
Article Written By Mila Medonaite for Design Engine on June 17, 2016