CONTACT with alien life forms and flux capacitors that allows time travel are not here yet, but another staple of sci-fi movies, flying cars or other flying vehicles resembling cars, may soon become a reality.
Flying car is also sometimes used to include hovercars. Many prototypes have been built since the first years of the 20th century using a variety of flight technologies and some have true VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) performance.
Hundreds, if not thousands of people commented on the Malaysian flying car project after the unveiling of a scaled down model of a flying vehicle called Vector at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (Lima) 2019 recently.
Even after the company clarified that the drone-based Vector is a point-to-point transportation system and not a flying car, sceptics and proponents of the flying vehicle are still at it on social media.
However, none of the arguments for or against the project has focused on the laws that will allow and regulate the use of such vehicles. If the Wright brothers were at Lima 2019 with their flying machine, they would be prevented from flying it because the flimsy machine did not fulfil many basic requirements of aviation laws.
Along with the advancement of aeronautical technologies, international aviation laws have evolved to suit the most current needs.
As they share the same mode of movement with aircraft, drones, flying cars and drone-based flying transportation like Vector will have to follow rules set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Rather than bicker whether Vector qualifies as a flying car or not, Malaysian lawmakers should work at providing the most comprehensive laws and regulations for its use as a mode of transport. If not for reference by other nations embarking on similar ventures, such laws are crucial if we really want the Vector to get off the ground.
Images of policemen armed with huge anti-drone guns at Lima highlight the menace posed by drones used for photography or videography to aircraft.
If small drones carrying cameras are dangerous to aircraft, an unmanned flying vehicle powered by a 100kg of fire-prone lithium-ion batteries will be even more so, not just to aircraft but to anyone and anything in and under its flight path. Not having any laws for flying vehicles and allowing them to fly is foolhardy at best.
Transport Minister Anthony Loke met ICAO representatives at Lima. Although the flying car/vehicle initiative was not by his ministry, Loke should have been roped in to ensure that the relevant laws are in place for the project to take off successfully.
Malaysia’s representative at ICAO Khairul A’amali Ismail should be able to offer advice and insight as he has a vast experience in air travel regulations.
As the first Vector is scheduled to make its maiden flight before year end, Loke and other government lawmakers should make it a priority to bring such laws into existence.
It would be a shame if the flying vehicle cannot be fully tested just because we do not have laws allowing its use.