Right now, on a big screen near you, Ryan Gosling's character in "Blade Runner 2049" is piloting a flying car known as a "Spinner" to hunt down renegade androids – replicants.
The flying car is an idea so old it's almost timeless.
But I trace its modern beginnings back to 1926, when Henry Ford himself showed off the "sky flivver" – a tiny, 350-pound, single-seat monoplane – to the press.
Call it a "sky flivver," a "plane car," a "personal aircraft," or a "flying car"… we've been waiting a long time.
In fact, "Where's my flying car!?" is the cliché many folks use when they're disappointed that the present fails to measure up to what they were "promised."
Just think of all the flying cars we've seen over the years in movies, TV shows, and other Hollywood concoctions: in the 1939 "Buck Rogers" TV show… in the 1950s "Space Cabbie" comic books… in the 1962 "The Jetsons" cartoon… in the 1980s "Back to the Future" flicks… Bruce Willis piloting a flying taxicab in the 1997 movie "The Fifth Element."
"Mark my word. A combination airplane and motor car is coming," Ford said a few years after he first displayed his sky flivver. "You may smile. But it will come."
Now mark my word. It will come.
You may smile, or even laugh. Feel free.
But the fact is, flying cars are coming – fast.
In fact, one company I've followed closely for decades just bought a startup focused on autonomous air taxis.
And I believe that company is the single best way to play this emerging tech trend.
Let's take a look…
From Overseas War Zones to Your Front Door
When it comes to flying vehicles today, drones – unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – grab all the attention. That's because they're here already – and they face a lot of growth.
You know about their military use thanks to what we see on the news every night.
You've probably seen hobbyists using them in parks and at big gatherings.
Maybe you've noticed industry and government exploiting them for law enforcement, agriculture, oil and gas exploration, and real-estate inspections.
MarketsandMarkets says the drones sector is growing at roughly 20% a year. By 2022, the global sector will be worth roughly $21 billion.
But the real killer app for this field isn't the end of the pizza delivery boy – it's the autonomous air taxi. Think of these as passenger drones.
With flying cabs, we'll ride to work or go out for a night on the town in a plane that flies itself. As futuristic as it sounds, the field is taking steps forward on an almost daily basis.
More than a dozen startups are developing flying cars. They're backed by such luminaries as Alphabet Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOGL) cofounder Larry Page, the ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc., and even the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority.
Check out Kitty Hawk Corp. During a recent test flight, an aerospace engineer used two joystick-like controls to swing a Kitty Hawk vehicle back and forth above Clear Lake in northern California, not far from the company's headquarters in Silicon Valley.
The flight, just 15 feet above the water, circled over the lake about 20 or 30 yards from shore. After about five minutes, the pilot steered the craft back to a floating landing pad at the end of a dock.
Enter Big Aerospace…
Then there's Aurora Flight Sciences Corp. The Manassas, Va.-based firm has garnered industry buzz for its autonomous systems that allow military and commercial aircraft to be flown remotely. The firm's software provides the technology that automates a range of flight functions.
About the Author
Michael A. Robinson is one of the top financial analysts working today. His book "Overdrawn: The Bailout of American Savings" was a prescient look at the anatomy of the nation's S&L crisis, long before the word "bailout" became part of our daily lexicon. He's a Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer and reporter, lauded by the Columbia Journalism Review for his aggressive style. His 30-year track record as a leading tech analyst has garnered him rave reviews, too. Today he is the editor of the monthly tech investing newsletter Nova-X Report as well as Radical Technology Profits, where he covers truly radical technologies – ones that have the power to sweep across the globe and change the very fabric of our lives – and profit opportunities they give rise to. He also explores "what's next" in the tech investing world at Strategic Tech Investor.