Udacity has announced a Flying Car Nanodegree Program in September. They want to teach students the skills necessary to build the future of smart transportation. Students will develop the software skills and conceptual understanding for building an autonomous flight system for quadrotor and fixed-wing drones.
The program will start in early 2018. Price wasn’t announced yet. The curriculum will take two terms.
Nicholas Roy is building the curriculum in collaboration with Sebastian Thrun (CEO of the Kitty Hawk Corporation, co-founder of Udacity), Raff D’Andrea (co-founder of Kiva Systems), and Angela Schoellig (professor at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies).
“In the first part of the curriculum, you’ll focus on the basics of autonomous flight including mission and path planning, state estimation, control, and perception. As you advance through the program, you’ll gain an understanding of the bigger picture of autonomous flight as part of the air transportation system. Through a series of hands-on projects, you’ll develop the software skills to make drones fly autonomously—skills you can apply directly to hardware drone kits.”
Udacity built a flight simulator that students will be able to use to test their software. Based on the video on Udacity website, the simulator is developed using Unity game engine.
Those who are interested in the program can join the Slack channel. I looked through a quite random subset of users’ introductions on the Slack channel to get some sense of the audience. The audience of the channel is very diverse regarding geography and background. It covers all continents. There are people from Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Sweden, Argentina and at least 20 more countries. About 40% are from the US. Germany, France, India have a significant presence too. Interesting that I couldn’t find anybody from China. Among US flying car enthusiasts, 30% is in SF Bay Area.
About one-third of participants have software engineering or computer science background, two-thirds – other kinds of engineering, including aerospace, electrical, mechanical, robotics, self-driving cars. A lot of people are currently studying Udacity self-driving car nanodegree program.
How far are we from the future of flying cars? Four real flying cars that actually fly:
How interesting is this from the business perspective? A year ago, in October 2016, Uber Elevate team published a whitepaper “Fast-Forwarding to a Future of On-Demand Urban Air Transportation.” It contains a lot of interesting details about market feasibility barriers, safety, noise, the performance of vehicles, infrastructure, riding experience and economics. In April 2017 they organized Uber Elevate summit to bring together vehicle manufacturers, regulatory bodies, and other stakeholders. Watch video recordings.
The field is far from widespread commercialization but is definitely interesting. No doubt one day we’ll be able to fly from San Francisco to San Jose in a self-flying vehicle.
Sing up for updated on Flying Car Nanodegree Program here.