August 19, 2006

The Journey and the Destination

Futurist blogger Michael Anissimov outlines some unexpected (and wonderful) trends in both personal and mass transportation:


Last week, news broke (on Digg, of course) that Skyacht Aircraft, Inc. is developing the world’s first personal blimp, and would eventually it will be for sale. The prototype model is pictured above.... I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw high-quality personal airships for sale by 2008 for $50,000 a pop. The main downside is the cruising speed - around 12 mph.

So we need rigid-shell airships that have high speeds and extreme steering capability. Duly noted.

This all reminds me: this gem, the Moller Skycar, can be yours by 2008 or 2009 at the latest for a deposit today of $10,000 and a total cost of $500,000:


Sometimes stuff that sounds “too good to be true” is actually true. Test videos here. Obviously, what needs to be done is to combine the two ideas.... The balloon/payload ratio is improved to 10:1, or even 5:1. It is my prediction that the fusion of cheap VTOL technology with rigid-frame airships will lead to a transportation revolution greater in significance than the rise of the automobile. Combined with software based on descendents of Sebastian Thrun’s for self-navigating cars, you have an airship that can go park itself innoculously and propel itself back to your home at the push of a button.

Over at Onotech, San Francisco techie Ethan Stock is arguing the value of derigibles for mass transit as well as personal transit, in an age of prohibitively expensive and environmentally unfriendly fossil fuels:

Right now it takes about 10 hours to fly the 6000 miles from SF to London, at about 600 miles per hour. An appropriately designed dirigible could do it in 24 hours at 250 miles per hour, at a vastly (90%?) reduced fuel cost — since a dirigible would benefit both from the cubic reduction in power-required vs. speed flown, and the absence of the need to expend power to keep the aircraft up in the air, which accounts for a large percentage of airplane fuel cost. Imagine that, instead of spending 10 hours on a cramped, noisy, EXPENSIVE airplane, you spent a full day and a full night on a quiet, spacious, dirigible? Broadband internet access would be essential — not only could you make crystal-clear phone calls, but you could transfer any volume of data. You’d get nice meals from a large kitchen. You could walk around and exercise. You could sleep in a real bed. And in a world of $70 - $140 a barrel oil costs, all of this might be CHEAPER to provide than a miserable 10-hour flight.

Speaking as both a flying car and airship enthusiast, now this is a future truly worth living to see. I have GOT to get me one of those rigid personal airships.

Also, I love the idea of the flying "cruise" airships across the ocean. Add shopping, gaming, and other entertainment facilities and you've got a fun and luxurious way to travel -- two values that have been all but eliminated from air travel. This would be like a cruise ship that actually gets you somewhere: both the journey and the destination would be the reward.