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In the 1960s animated sitcom The Jetsons, George Jetson commutes to work in his family-size flying car, which miraculously transforms into a briefcase at the end of the trip.

A new study of the environmental sustainability impacts of flying cars, formally known as electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, or VTOLs, finds that they wouldn't be suitable for a Jetsons-style short commute.

However, VTOLs -- which combine the convenience of vertical takeoff and landing like a helicopter with the efficient aerodynamic flight of an airplane -- could play a niche role in sustainable mobility for longer trips, according to the study, scheduled for publication April 9 in Nature Communications. Several companies around the world are developing VTOL prototypes.

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Category: Science