March 31, 2018
Man has been dreaming for a long time to own a car that can also fly. In fact, the founder of car manufacture, Henry Ford, was once heard as saying that a combined car / aeroplane will come on the scene one day.1It has not been for the lack of trying, over the last decades it seems that flying cars might start to materialize sooner than you think.
Aeromobil, a company located in Slovakia, was planning to introduce a flying car in 2017.2 This is 55 years after the flying car cartoon series The Jetsons begun in 1962. The four-wheeled powered car can be changed into an aircraft. It is quite easy – you drive the car to the runway, unfold the wings and take off into the air. Aeromobil’s vision is to provide a mode of transport that is super-efficient. The latest news is that the car/aircraft requires about 200 metres (two rugby fields) to take off and only 50 metres to land. The first commercial flying model is likely to be a two-seater having an approximate 650-km range, travelling at speeds close to 200 km/hour.
In April 2017, a new flying car called Aeromobil was displayed by the company Aeromobil at the Top Marques Monaco supercar event.3 The flying car has a price tag of between USD1.2 million and USD1.6 million, and is said to be ready for sale in 2020. The obvious challenge to Aeromobil is to cut costs drastically when production starts in order to make it more in reach to the many interested enthusiasts.A recent survey conducted in the USA showed that a considerable number of people would love to use a flying car, but also felt it should be equipped with parachutes.The design and manufacture of the Aeromobil is the culmination of years of hard work by the best brains in motorsport and aerospace.
Some of the specifications of the Aeromobil include the following: 3• It takes less than 3 minutes to change the car into the flying mode • It has one propeller at the rear • It has an estimated road range of 700 km • The flying range is about 750 km • The top car speed is 160 km/hour • The air speed is about 360 km/hour • It can carry a load of 240 kg.
While Aeromobil launched its car at the Monaco event in April 2017, a German company called Lilium displayed its flying car prototype.1Lilium’s vision includes the manufacture of an autonomous or pilotless flying car for use as a taxi service. Even though motorists would not need to be trained as pilots, they would still have to deal with the psychology of sitting in a pilotless airplane. In a recent US survey,1 only 1 in 10 people were happy being a passenger in a driverless car. The difference between Lilium’s prototype and the Aeromobil is noteworthy – with its wings that fold out, the Aeromobil needs a normal runway to take off and land. This means the Aeromobil always has to make use of an airport. This is not the case with Lilium’s prototype, which has a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability, similar to that of a helicopter. This makes it extremely useful, as it can basically land anywhere.
The prototype is an all-electric flying car. A total of 36 movable jet engines are fixed on long wings. Upon take-off, the engines point downwards providing vertical lift, and then point backwards to provide forward thrust. A most efficient battery provides the airplane with a 300-km range, and a top cruising speed of 300 km/hour.4Although developments with various types of flying cars are most exciting, the industry is still in its embryonic stage. Time will tell how it all pans out.
What still needs to be addressed is how such flying cars will fit into the current transport infrastructures and international aviation regulations. Regulations governing the use of flying cars in the US and other countries still need to be designed and promulgated before the whole project can actually take off commercially. It would be quite a challenge – it is difficult enough to control those driving their cars just on the ground, never mind in the air. In addition, drivers of flying cars such as the Aeromobil would also have to be licensed pilots.1,3 In fact, the cost of the flying car and that of a pilot’s licence means that mass production of such cars is still far off.
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