Drones flying over Honolulu cityscape, Hawaii, United States Colin Anderson/Getty Images

无人机飞行梦想

波士顿——几乎没有哪种现代硬件能像无人机那样令人们兴奋异常。虽然非军用无人机(UAVs)最初被当作纯粹的娱乐用品上市销售,但企业家和工业巨头没过多长时间就抓住了无人机所提供的无穷无尽的可能。到2020年,美国的无人机年销售量预计将达到700万架,而许多人已经在预测无人机将通过远程送货、机载监控或现在仍然无法预见的应用方式重塑我们城市的未来。

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但其中一种可能性更能吸引人类的集体想象力:那就是无人机将很快成为大量载人的工具。飞的能否有一天将我们从花园里提起,而后在电影院或我们最心爱的餐厅前再将我们轻轻放下?

在我们为下一代空中出租车心花怒放之前,我们先来思考一下如果天空充满了将人们运抵下一个目的地的成群结队的小型直升机实际将意味着什么?虽然无人机在将来会有很多重要的用途,但我不相信民众的城市交通将会或者应当成为其中的一个。

无人空中交通的梦想并不是现在才有的。当弗里茨·朗为其1927年的突破性影片《大都会》创作未来城市景观时,天空中布满了令人眼花缭乱的高楼和精巧的飞行器。而后,到了20世纪60年代初,汉娜-巴伯拉动画工作室制作了《杰森一家》,这是一部大胆描绘全美家庭未来派生活的卡通系列剧。影片一开始这家人乘坐一辆能折叠成手提箱大小的悬浮车围绕轨道城市旋转,之后一家之主乔治将折叠好的悬浮车带进了他的办公室。1982年科幻大片《银翼杀手》中出现了被称为“旋转器”的飞行警车。

今天,如此虚构版的未来似乎即将变成现实。优步正在投资研发飞车技术。今年初,空客推出了Pop.Up ,这是一种用于个人交通的垂直起降概念车。而Volocopter是一家承诺“为所有人制造飞机”的德国初创企业,这家企业设计了2X,这是一架有18扇水平旋翼的微型直升机,将于今年晚些时候在迪拜开始进行测试飞行。

所有这一切是否都表明都市人很快将像乔治·杰森那样飞行在城市上空?事实恐怕并非如此。尽管拥有巨额投资和远大前景,但我们的城市不太可能在短期内充满空中飞人却有着物理和现实的理由。

首先来看看物理规律。任何曾在直升机起飞前站在附近的人都会明白需要大量能量才能将重物垂直抬升到空中。无人机水平旋翼实际就是大型风扇,向下挤压空气才能实现飞行器向上抬升。不产生巨大噪音和空气扰动实现起飞根本不可能。

纽约市民都很清楚这一点。人们对纽约哈德逊河上一座城市主要直升机停机坪的噪音投诉曾导致对旅游业经营者监管的增加。但即使在该法案出台前,每月游客的飞行次数也少于5,000次。现在想象一下如果纽约市800万居民哪怕每人每隔几周飞行一次:这座城市将会变得无法居住。

限制我们热情的还有其他技术性因素。即便电池性能大幅改良延长了无人机航程,但人们对大批人员空中运输车辆的迷恋会造成令人望而生畏的安全风险因素。现代汽车可能充满了危险,但一架飞的电池耗尽或水平旋翼破坏将会导致沉重的车辆坠入密集居住区之中。而且我们还不知道这些无人机能否抵御黑客、恐怖分子或其他犯罪分子的进攻,也不知道空中交管系统将怎样为人们提供安全指引。

但无人机仍将对未来民众的生活、交易和互动产生革命性的影响。事实已经证明小型无人机在诸多方面拥有潜力——从人道主义援助物资运送到安全保障提供。无人机无需大规模基础设施建设即可飞越地理障碍,而且可以将边远社区与世界其他地方密切联系起来。比如在巴西,政府正在利用装有摄像头的无人机来对偏远农场是否违反劳动法进行检查。而无人机已经在监测空气质量并为医疗突发事件提供援助

但城市交通不属于无人机技术的适用范畴。大众交通问题脚不用离开地面就完全可以解决——而且可能很久之后飞的才会成为可行的选择。随着数字网络和实时数据的不断改进,自动汽车、卡车和船舶——就像我和同事在阿姆斯特丹已经完成原型设计的Roboat那样——其快速和有效性完全可以满足我们的需求。不离开地面将能避免建设新的基础设施网,比如像昂贵的“垂直起降机场”项目。

人类社会乘坐私人飞车从城市上空掠过的梦想一直吸引着电影制作者的想象力——现在甚至吸引了某些投资者加入其中。但由于大大小小的实际因素,这样的愿景仍将停留在梦想当中。

翻译:Xu Binbin

http://prosyn.org/dX17f5I/zh;
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