A Brief History of Vertical Take-Off and Landing

Military roots and a potential civilian future.

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Lockheed Martin

Planes that can take off directly into the air without the need for a runway are, theoretically, an absolute dream for the military. Vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) craft require less physical space and infrastructure to get into the air compared to traditional planes. That means more fighters on a single aircraft carrier, or smaller airports in more remote places.

The engineering challenge is mammoth, and people have spent decades trying to figure it out. Youtuber offers a great rundown of VTOL technology's humble beginnings and false starts.

While VTOL has its roots in military applications, culminating in the long-delayed F-35B, VTOL has also grown as an attractive option in both private and civil use, primarily for use in possible "air taxis" or "flying cars" that would make use of helipads, but wouldn't be helicopters exactly.

Uber has expressed interest in VTOL technology for taxis with Airbus as a potential partner. A German company, Lilium, has had successful test runs and the city of Dubai wants to incorporate VTOL planes into future transportation solutions.

Maybe someday the flying cars will actually arrive.

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