This Hydrogen-Powered Flying Car Could Take To the Skies By 2022

Israeli firm Urban Aeronautics hopes to get its flying car into production by 2022.

byStephen Edelstein|
Car Tech photo

Despite a daunting array of technical issues and a long list of previous failures, the idea of the flying car just won't go away. The latest entity to attempt one is Metro Skyway, a division of Israeli firm Urban Aeronautics. It plans to launch a four-person, hydrogen-powered flying car into the skies by 2022.

Called the CityHawk, the vehicle is a vertical-takeoff and landing (VTOL) craft that uses two large rotor units to attain lift. Between those is a cockpit with four-abreast seating. When it launches, the CityHawk will be powered by jet fuel, but it will transition to liquid hydrogen once certain safety considerations are addressed, according to The Verge.

Hydrogen power may invite Hindenburg comparisons, but Janina Frankel-Yoeli, Urban Aeronautics vice president for marketing, told The Verge that ensuring safety is simply a matter of making crash-proof fuel tanks, noting that there are already hydrogen road vehicles in use that don't explode on a regular basis. Indeed, Toyota has said its Mirai's hydrogen tanks can withstand a direct hit from a .50-caliber bullet.

Urban Aeronautics has been developing flying vehicles for over a decade. It demonstrated a drone called the AirMule in 2004, and is now testing a successor, called the Cormorant, at an Israeli military base. Both vehicles are more like flying trucks than cars, and were designed primarily for military supply missions.

But the CityHawk is designed purely for civilian use. It has a top speed of 115 miles per hour, can stay aloft for up to an hour, and can carry up to 1,100 pounds. Some of the autonomous features of the Cormorant drone could also be incorporated into the production version. 

Of course, the CityHawk itself is yet to take flight and, even if it does, making it commercially viable could be very difficult. Metro Skyway believes the CityHawk will comply with U.S. and European aviation regulations, but regulators have never had to deal with a vehicle quite like this one, so it's not clear what rules actually apply. Finally, there's the big question surrounding all flying cars: What if something goes wrong, and the car drops out of the sky? If people are uneasy about Amazon's drone delivery service, how will they feel about autonomous flying cars whizzing about?