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CLEVELAND- Flying cars? The movies have been promising that for years.

Now, a team at Case Western Reserve University is part of a nationwide effort to get one in the air.

There is currently a flying prototype of an air taxi being tested in Dubai. But, what a team at Case is trying to figure out, is how to make one that leaves a small environmental footprint.

“The big innovation that we’re looking for is not powering this by gas engines, but rather batteries,” CWRU School of Engineering Professor Vikas Prakash said.

Prakash has received $1.3 million of a $10-million grant from NASA to make a taxi actually fly.

So why do we need a battery-powered flying taxi?

Besides the fact it would just be extremely awesome, it could be a vehicle that helps a lot of people.

“A flying taxi could be taking passengers from one place to another, but it doesn’t just have to be passengers; you could have payload that has to be delivered like maybe a battlefield, or it could be a disaster area where you need to bring in logistics very quickly and by the air only,” Prakash said.

Prakash and a team of grad students have already begun some of the very preliminary work on the project.

Once they have a working design they have to figure out how to make it work and make it practical.

“Vertical takeoff and landing would be required because people don’t have runways in their houses,” CWRU engineering grad student, Utah Moffett, said. “And so something  that is autonomous would be cool, too, and you could read the newspaper while flying to work.”

Prakash said they’re still years away from seeing this in the sky.

But a clean, efficient flying taxi could help move society in directions that it has never thought of before.

“Having it electric, that’s the big motivation for this project, having an electric vehicle that will cut down on the noise pollution, that will also cut down on the environmental pollution,” Prakash said.

Case Western is just one of a consortium of colleges and private businesses working on this project.

Ohio State, along with Boeing and GE, are also working on this battery-powered concept.

Besides a group in  Dubai,  Uber is also developing their own concept.