"There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss."
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Best internet writers recommend starting your article with a catchy quote to make the reader interested. To be honest I couldn't remember any good quote about quadcopters or helicopters or flying cars, so I just nicked the funny one about flying techniques from the "Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy". A really great book that literally has the answer to everything. So, did it work?
One thought that the world will never see flying cars as a perfect and complete means of transportation makes me rather sad. It cannot be equally good at both flying and driving. All existing or ever created prototypes look more like planes and simply have an option of driving if you want to that much. In sci-fi movies it is a bit different, wings are either well hidden and used only when the hero is in some kind of a desperate situation and needs a getaway or some fancy non-existing technology is used to fly the car which looks like a car. So why focus on building something that is already perfect when you can start from scratch, create something new that can have little or no resemblance to cars thus will never lose the comparison to a car. Get rid of wheels, design a truly futuristic look, implement a vertical take-off and landing, think through the agility and maneuverability, give it the ability to hover at low height and speed, solve stability and safety issues, how hard can it be? I have a drone and it is a great fun to play with, it is very agile and stable and after some practice you can easily annoy people flying in front of a face.
A brief glance at the history of a helicopter and thus any multicopter will take us as far back as to Warring States period in China around 400 BC. The farthest historical prototype known is a Bamboo-copter or a bamboo dragonfly. It is a Chinese flying rotor toy, a stick with feathers on one end - roll it rapidly with your hands or a rope and let go - it sort of flies away. You may have played a similar toy in your childhood, propeller toys use the same principle nowadays
The painting below is very well known among UFO and time traveling believers. This is a 15th-century French painting of Madonna and child in whose hands you can see something reminding a helicopter. Spooky.
Virgin and Child with St. Benedict, from the Priory of St. Hippolytus of Vivoin/https://www.repro-tableaux.com/a/french-school/virginandchildwithstbened.html
Reality is less exciting though, Chinese bamboo dragonfly toy finally reached Europe marking the beginning of helicopter invention and was imprinted in this piece of art and some others. Though being something so much ahead of its time, that only many years and toy-size models later, developed by such famous inventors like Leonardo Da Vinci, Mikhail Lomonosov, Sir George Cayley, and Gustave de Ponton d'Amécourt, a real human-carrying vehicle was created and demonstrated by Hermann Ganswindt in Berlin-Schöneberg, 1901. In 1907 the world was presented with the first quadcopter Gyroplane No.1 developed by French brothers Jacques and Louis Breguet. It was not an astounding flight as the craft turned out to be unstable and required a man for each rotor to control the vehicle still the flight lasted for a minute on a height of two feet (0.6 m) and is considered to be the first successful attempt at rotary-winged aircraft. Further experiments haven't resulted in any really good and reliable technology but produced multiple prototypes and concepts, still the potential of quadcopters remains very high.
Breguet-Richet Gyroplane No.1, 1907/https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d3/Breguet_Gyroplane_1907.jpg/300px-Breguet_Gyroplane_1907.j
Mechanically helicopters and multicopters are basically the same, they use rotors to fly and are classified as rotorcraft. The main difference is visually obvious - helicopter has one large rotor (and sometimes one small tail rotor to deal with torque effect) and multicopter has several, quantity depends on chosen configuration. This is, of course, not the only difference and it is not just a design choice, it has a great impact on all the mechanism. Quadcopters are considered to be simpler but only when it comes to a small size as when the whole thing is scaled up a lot of issues arise with stability, efficiency, safety, well, everything to be honest.
Currently, there is a number of companies involved in the development of different types of flying cars and it is great news as it means that something worthy can eventually be produced. Still, I am not 100% sure that it is not science fiction and is really happening soon. Introducing of flying vehicles itself will require special traffic solutions for three-dimensional usage so perhaps humans will never be allowed to control such a device. Unfortunately, most of the developers aim exactly at an autonomous application - Airbus Pop.Up, Ehang 184, UBER - they are not planning to give you or me the chance for our dreams to come true. On the other hand, I am a great hypocrite as I want to fly a car but I don't want everyone to be able to do it. People are too irresponsible and if I cannot trust some people with driving a car or even crossing a road, how can I trust someone to fly over my head? This is exactly the point where the whole implementation process comes as the most important step, flying car technology is here but no regulations, no infrastructure is created yet.
Realistically, we are looking at no flying-cars future for at least 10-15 year from now. Still, I have a favorite concept that represents the features I expect from a flying vehicle.
Workhorse Surefly promises us a two person, 8 rotor helicopter with a gas engine and a backup battery to provide an estimated 70-mile range at a maximum speed of 70mph. It is also supposed to be small enough to fit inside a standard size garage. For emergency purposes that may arise during flight, the aircraft will be equipped with a ballistic parachute for a safe landing. One fact that makes it my number one is that it is aimed at being controlled by humans and not automatics. There will be a joystick for controlling direction and buttons for other options, of course, there will be a self-flying option.
It has flaws but i am sure that real flying vehicle will have nothing in common with this concept if it is mass produced but if it was available today, I would definitely get one. If I could afford it, of course.