Intro: Flying cars are no more a figment of one’s imagination. They are real and might soon help you move from one place to another in a fraction of your current transit time.
“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” Marty and Doc Brown refer to their flying DeLorean DMC-12, in the film Back to the Future that released in 1985. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Daily Prophet reports “Flying Ford Anglia mystifies muggles”. We have all watched sci-fi films and cartoons that show cars and dream machines flying around. But never really imagined them to be turned into reality. Now, what if we tell you that this is finally possible.
Sebastian Thrun, the CEO of flying car firm, Kitty Hawk, that is backed by Larry Page recently said at the World Government Summit, Dubai “Flying cars could be in the air within five years.” The firm had unveiled the demonstration video of their flying car last year and they are set to make a big announcement in March. In the demonstration video, one can see that the vehicle is an all-electric aircraft that looks like a cross between a jet ski and giant drone. Thrun had also indicated that people will be able to hail flying cars through smartphone apps just like Uber and Lyft. While everyone is keenly waiting the latest news on Kitty Hawk’s flying car, a Dutch company PAL-V has come up with PAL-V Liberty, the first car to go up in the air in 2018.
The PAL-V Liberty looks similar to a mini helicopter but works like a car, when it is on the road and transforms into a gyrocopter in the air. Even its dimensions are similar to that of a regular car owing to use of patented technologies. There are two unique characteristics of the PAL-V Liberty that need to be highlighted. It has an unpowered rotor that spins freely. The rotor uses wind energy to lift the vehicle and makes it float, while in the air. The other interesting feature is the three-wheeled design and the soft tilting motion in curves. This makes the entire driving experience like a joyride. With a speed of 170 kilometers per hour, the first of its active prototypes had been test-driven in 2012 and the car is set to take off from end of 2018. A release of 50 units by 2019 and 100 by 2020 have been declared by the manufacturer.
Next in line is the Slovakian designed, Aeromobil. Created by Stefan Klein, this ‘roadable aircraft’ looks like an airplane in flight mode and becomes a race car while on the tracks (only with its hood modified!). It is sleek, stylish and resembles a toy plane zooming in the sky. It comes with a digital control unit and an internal combustion engine. The high-power engine offers a wider range of transport (power during flight mode is estimated to be 224 kW) compared to the traditional alternatives like civil copters and drones. The remarkable features of the Aeromobil are its unique design and the smooth separation of its wings, like flower petals. Its design is inspired from an aerodynamic teardrop pattern. The first prototype of the Aeromobil was flown in 2013 and the manufacturers have been reportedly taking preorders for limited units of the car from late 2017.
The Terrafugia’s Transition flying car is still in testing phase but is being referred to as world’s first practical flying car. It is powered by a Rotax piston engine and can run on unleaded premium gasoline. Similar to the Aeromobil, the Terrafugia Transition has foldable wings and is a two seater. In the air, the vehicle will have an available speed of 400 miles to 100 miles per hour.
Even better is the Terrafugia TF-X, which looks like it’s right from the sci-fi films. It is a computer-controlled, four-seater and while in flight; it extends the two motor pods and looks like a mini robot extending its arms. The twin pods are charged by a distributed electrical system. The TF-X does not require a runway to take off or land, thanks to the electric motors with 300 HP and the megawatt of power, which lifts up the vehicle.
Often perceived as a distant reality, flying cars might take over the skies in 2020. They will reduce travel time and congestion for sure. But their safety is still up for debate. Uber is even planning to launch air taxi trials over cities like Los Angeles, Dallas and Dubai. Up until you board one, you have to only wait and watch!