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SoloTrek developers planning two seat electric hybrid Air Car

By

June 30, 2011

The innovators behind the SoloTrek/Springtail Exoskeleton Flying Vehicle have announced pl...

The innovators behind the SoloTrek/Springtail Exoskeleton Flying Vehicle have announced plans to develop the world's first fuel-electric hybrid flying car

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If you've ever watched your Parrot AR Drone power through the air and wondered what it would be like to be inside such a craft, the announcement of the Air Car project could be the answer you are looking for. The folks behind the development of the SoloTrek/Springtail Exoskeleton Flying Vehicle have revealed plans to create the world's first fuel-electric hybrid flying car.

Michael Moshier and Robert Bulaga of Trek Aerospace are forming a new company to develop the hybrid Air Car, which will combine recent technological advances in materials and electronics with the kind of duct-fan technology that was used in the now-retired Springtail single person vertical take-off-and-landing (VTOL) vehicle.

Moshier and Bulaga are currently on the lookout for funding partners to help the multi-person transport project take off (sorry!) and a number of real world scenarios for its use have been suggested - from being useful for emergency services such as search and rescue, police patrol and medical support, to providing vital lifelines for those areas of the world where established transportation systems are lacking.

Given the probable cost of the first vehicles to roll off the production line, it's more likely that thrill-seekers with bottomless bank accounts will be amongst the very first to power up the four fans and take to the skies.

With the Australian Hoverbike heading for test flights in the next few months, the recently-announced EU myCopter project securing funding and Terrafugia aiming for 2012 delivery of its Transition flying car, those first Air Car flyers could well have quite a bit of company in the air immediately above and around us.

Source: Earth Techling

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden
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27 Comments

Granted it looks like it will get into smaller clearings but a conventional helicopter with its ability to auto-rotate (glide) to a zero velocity landing looks safer.

Slowburn
30th June, 2011 @ 02:41 pm PDT

more Moller and Falx cousins, can´t they understand engines are not that powerful

Alejandro Amaya
30th June, 2011 @ 06:15 pm PDT

You can plan to build this all you want. Not happening anytime soon. Moeller has been trying for 40 years.

I plan to build a starship. Has about the same chance of seeing success.

VoiceofReason
30th June, 2011 @ 10:18 pm PDT

Yes because I feel so safe on regular road. Now I have to be careful with all the flying brainless people.

Alexander Cardosa
1st July, 2011 @ 05:55 am PDT

Alejandro Amaya - June 30, 2011 @ 06:15 pm PDT--- You can fit a 2000hp gas turbine in your lap. The 502ci V-8 ( 8.2 liter) engine in top fuel dragsters produce over 6000hp. Wankel rotary engines each rotor acts like three cylinders in a four stroke piston engine. energy density in the engine is not the problem.

Control, reliability, air traffic control/licensing, and failure mode landing are the problems.

While it might make a great anti-tank platform, we will not have "Flying cars" until they can have an fender-bender without raining debris on the unsuspecting people below.

Slowburn
1st July, 2011 @ 06:12 am PDT

I agree with Alexander, people can't handle safe vehicle operation in 2 dimensions, why allow them to operate in a 3rd!

gormanwvzb
1st July, 2011 @ 08:23 am PDT

i want one...

Mel Zimmer
1st July, 2011 @ 08:29 am PDT

Slowburn - I agree Totally..... We are working on a hybrid gen-set system that's very compact and powerful (currently 50kw output and only 35kg all up weight).

Safety is key and the fewer moving parts (points of failure) the better...

If electric/hybrid aircraft are not viable, why are people like EADS, NASA, Airbus etc... working on them?

stovlair
1st July, 2011 @ 08:35 am PDT

Stov - Agreed, looks like fuelcells cld be the way ahead.

Anyhow, can you share with us any data on the hybrid gensets?

Would love to do a field trial asap, can even share r&d with you.

Currently spending a fortune on fuel.

tsibia
1st July, 2011 @ 12:01 pm PDT

YEAH, we have heard it all before!!. What about the Moller Air-Car. We r still waiting.

I would like to c a COANDA EFFECT aircraft. This requires 1 motor & 1 fan unit.

The payload sits underneath at the Centre of gravity. It & all none wing aircraft need electronics to make them stable in flight.

How-ever I am building a model to c for myself.

Cheers all

John M
1st July, 2011 @ 12:18 pm PDT

I look at this and I see possibility. When all you cry babies stop your whining and accept the fact flying cars show real promise. It might be true there are idiots on the road, but honestly the roads for the most part are pretty safe. People use their turn signals and people look before doing things.

Ryein Goddard
1st July, 2011 @ 12:19 pm PDT

Slowburn...a 2000hp turbine is fine....where are you going to put all that fuel? Fuel has to be carried which also adds weight. Most turbine Helicopters don't have 2000hp.

Also the Bell 206 carries 110gallons of fuel with a range of 324nm. I can drive that in my car under 10 gallons.

NEXT?

VoiceofReason
1st July, 2011 @ 03:22 pm PDT

"...technology that was used in the now retired Springtail..."? If it worked, why was it retired? Why aren't there millions flying? Are we to believe they build a successful single seat VTOL vehicle and then did not market it? But a 2-seat is planned? All they need is more money. Yea, right. I want an affordable 2 seat copter a lot but I'm not that desperate or gullible. Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for the Airscooter but I won't hold my breath.

voluntaryist
1st July, 2011 @ 06:05 pm PDT

Slowburn, autorotation is no longer necessary in the modern age of non-rotary wing VTOL craft. Ballistic parachutes are more reliable and don't require lots of training and practice.

Gadgeteer
2nd July, 2011 @ 12:57 pm PDT

VoiceofReason - July 1, 2011 @ 03:22 pm PDT---- I was addressing the question of energy density of the power plant, demonstrating that lots of power can come from small engines. Not discussing the power requirements of the hybrid Air Car.

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Gadgeteer - July 2, 2011 @ 12:57 pm PDT ---- The parachute increases your chance of surviving the crash. Controlled unpowered flight increases the chance of there not being a crash.

Slowburn
3rd July, 2011 @ 07:23 am PDT

I am thoroughly impressed with all these comments. Energy usage and power concerns aside, GPS simply isn't going to cut it in keeping the "blonde texters" from killing us in the skys, let alone the roads. I love all the ingenuity going into these systems, but we need travel Autonomy more than we need alternative means of transportation due to the current amount of accidents and deaths related to drivers who aren't paying attention to the task of driving, or in this case flying. Computer controlled landing, take off, flight guidance, traffic diversion, collision warning, emergency maneuvers, electrical failure; all of which need to be taken out of the hands of current drivers and squarely placed in the hands of Navigation computers. I love my 76 year old mother, but she almost killed us the other day because she wasn't paying attention. The phone rang, and she could not remember which button on the steering wheel to push to activate the hands free voice system. Seriously.

Raymond Johnson
4th July, 2011 @ 02:36 pm PDT

I agree that flight is not a good idea for everyone, but what most of you folks aren't (seeming) to consider is that to get a sport pilot's license takes 20 hours of training and money money money! If the aircraft costs between $250,000 and $350,000 (US) then that would also count most idiots and blonde texters out. I have always looked forward to being able to fly my vehicle, and although I can't afford something like this any time soon, I still hope to be able to before I get too old to get the license!

rwalker
8th July, 2011 @ 06:06 pm PDT

If you have interest in a Personal Air Vehicle that is more conventional in nature, that does have great auto-rotational capabilities, good speed, payload and range, and is easy to fly and maintain, with a luxury car like price, I suggest you take a look at the Helodyne (www.Helodyne.com).

VTOL Qwerty
14th July, 2011 @ 09:26 am PDT

are there any sites out there that are willing to take seriously any ideas regarding designs for PAV's? ive been sitting on a design for the last few years but am not sure what to do with it? please help if you can. anyone?

jai drew
15th December, 2011 @ 02:53 am PST

Under static thrust conditions (hover, in this case), getting the thrust you need for the power that you have is a matter of mass flow - getting more air going through the propulsors - and achieving the lowest possible exit velocity. Helicopters get high rotor lift per horsepower because their large-diameter rotors process a lot of air. Shrouded propellers are a way of getting more mass flow through a rotor than there would be if the rotor were not shrouded. Given that these basic physical facts are widely known, and that VTOL has been actively pursued for over half a century, it continues to surprise me how little systematic work has been done on ducted propulsors.

Once you've got enough lift, your engineering troubles start, because the ideal shroud shape for static thrust is no good for cruise...

Bottom line: it's physically possible, but not easy. Moshier and Bulaga seem to have a taste for tough problems.

piolenc
24th January, 2012 @ 04:09 pm PST

I read many intelligent comments and a few not so much. But I wanted to put my 2cents anyway.

While these systems can work in the real world there are a few problems with them in that same real world.

* Safety. It is difficult to get a pilots license because there are a multitude of things that need to be monitored/watched/thought about while flying. It takes allot of concentration or you can kill yourself...or worse, someone else. And with the ever worsening, so called 'skills' of automobile drivers, I shudder at the thought of them being able to fly.

* Safety 2. No glide characteristics; Yes ballistic parachutes are reliable and very effective. However they do require time to open, even though they are launched. If you are too close to the ground, the parachute may not have time to catch your fall before you hit the dirt. And...will you be able to move your hand fast enough to launch the 'chute in time?

* Efficiency. Compact power systems are not fuel efficient. It is just physics. And in our current economy that is a major concern for most of us. Burning through 20 gallons of $4.99/gal fuel in 30 minutes gets expensive.

* Reliability. One poster mentioned that a top-fuel dragster engine produces up to 6,000bhp. Which is sort of correct...they actually produce up to 8,000hp and run at over 10,000rpm. Which is a problem; those high performance engines wear out fast. In the case of a top-fuel dragster, 'fast' is 3-8 seconds. I had a Subaru Impreza STi which produced 350hp from a 2.5L 4 cylinder engine which only weighed about 370lbs. But while it was reliable, I wouldn't trust that engine in an aircraft with no glide ability. (As a side thought; transmission becomes an extra weight with high RPM engines. Even ducted fans have RPM limits.)

* Cost. Building very light-weight, high performance vehicles is always very expensive. So far these prototypes (if they get that far) cost hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars to produce. Granted, prototypes cost many times more than production models; but if you look at production aircraft in the compact, high-performance segment, they still cost $200,000 - $350,000. And they aren't nearly this complicated.

Other than those thoughts I think most of you have covered the other points I was thinking of.

All that said...I really would have fun in something like that! Definitely interesting compared to the Piper Warrior I fly.

Eric Bear Nyhof
25th January, 2012 @ 06:57 am PST

We have a high efficiency, multifuel, inexpensive, lightweight engine, for UAV/ Aircar. VTOL, vertical fixed wing, air effects, airplane applications versions can exceed 10-12 HP/LB.

sannerwind@gmail.com

Sannerwind
25th January, 2012 @ 08:43 am PST

Hybrid land vehicles make sense (?) in that the batteries act as a buffer to better match the power production to the moment to moment load, as is quite logical in bumper-to-bumper traffic. There is no such requirement for air or marine applications. Not only are you adding weight and reducing efficiency by going from chemical to thermal to chemical to mechanical power INSTEAD of: chemical to thermal to mechanical power (whew!), but, due to the added complexity, you are also adding more failure modes (in a machine that would appear at first glance to be not tolerant to ANY failure).

All that would lead me to believe that the word "hybrid" is being used as a marketing ploy to bilk would be investors. I'll stand by while they figuire out how to add "environmental" and "reduced global warming" to their lexicon.

If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, it's a duck. By the same token, if it's sqishy when you step in it and makes your shoes stink... it's bullshit.

Burnerjack
3rd February, 2012 @ 11:22 am PST

Has anybody seen a concept more like a gyrocopter that uses two counter rotating ducted rotors instead of the single conventional rotor? The gyrocopter is a proven design. I would think you could adapt the ducted design to one fairly easily?

James Palmer
18th February, 2012 @ 02:47 am PST

I think they need to add a wing to make it efficient, either fixed wing or one that is vertical when taking off to limit air resistance and then rotates to horizontal mode when flying.

Christian Nygaard
17th December, 2012 @ 06:01 am PST

This has been done before by Moller and Falx. And by done before I mean "flying car" concepts used to fleece naive investors of their cash. If this, or any of the other VTOL concepts were viable they would have been done by the Military. Anybody doubting this should ask a reputable aeronautic engineer.

Dennis Roberts
18th December, 2012 @ 11:40 am PST

I like this design and see tremendous applications that could get certified based on competent pilots purchasing and using these crafts with some unique enhancements to overcome every objection I have read thus far. To be clear I am not your next door Savant in on specific aerospace field but I have worked with about a dozen, some Aero Hall of Fame engineering designers over the years on some intense projects, both for the DOD and private aircraft most have read about or flown in within the past 10 years.

There has to be Safety, and one way to overcome that is ultra efficient airfoils (will not elaborate further) since I am working on this with others and have been for past 18 months. Second, the power plant, or hybrid power plants (combined synergies) has to be stellar , just bleeding edge, jaw dropping clever, powerful and efficient to includ High , just bleeding edge, jaw dropping clever, powerful and efficient/ weight/ SPFC and reliability. Who says you need a diminutive power plant (physics) push one aero engine or small helicopter turbo shaft and drive the electric motors with one (1) large efficient engine...solves many other issues.

However, there is one other propulsion system certainly off the radar the works synergistically with turbo prop/ NxGen Electric rare earth metals that uses the heat to produce 45% of the power with very little extra fuel itself. Harmonize these very different propulsion systems and incorporate Ultra/Super Capacitors into the integral structure (serving two purposes) you have 75% of the fail safe equation for viable VTOL operations for 3 to 5 packs...at considerably higher speeds than the remarkable Sikorsky X2.

There are other multi-use components and structures that further enhance every day operational viability further reduces weight, Ops Cost and makes it quite easy to operate responsibly. I do not believe nor have I EVER thought you can Idiot Proof anything, especially this type of transportation. To do so would be an unmitigated Disaster for this specific niche of aviation this would likely destroy mass acceptance and eventual FAA certification.

"If" we are successful in this current commercial black project, privately funded, the requirements will be intensive training and buddy pilots for stated period of times. Yes a BRS is helpful, but if you need one with Six (6) fail safe technologies and inherent design backups...then quite frankly you need to be a passenger or at best, sit with your hands in the lap and let the Buddy Pilots take you from point A to B seamlessly, with ease, at high speed, and quietly land you within feet of your intended destination.

What I am referring to in no way resembles the Moeller Sky Car which a good friend Test Piloted for a year and is working on his own "cloaked" public project...which will be successful. Our own, I believe, and hope which I call an S-VTOL will be an Ahhaaa Moment for many. It is not being built for Mass Production, but could be in the future with the "right" general contractor (noted). To address the uses for your fine design which perhaps needs some further refinements there are a plethora of uses.

Business men, Ranchers, Oil/Gas, Chemical Companies, Security, Eco-Tourism, Humanitarian Efforts, FEMA, All Emergency Response needs, and folks with income in the $150K and above range but also for the masses. I can walk down any effluent community, especially close knit communities (reasonable net wealth) that are outlying the major cities by 200 miles to 50 miles and sell time shares with dedicated pilot for probably 30% to 50% higher than their current lengthy commutes but save them 3-4 hours per day, a lot of stress, and be accessible to their families for additional lifestyle benefits. Those 50-200 mile private neighborhoods and small community taxes are 30% lower than the cost in and around (15-20 miles) of major cities and schools and environment are better.

If you read this far, I believe you can see how to drastically reduce the "costs to customers" and one venue to sell these VTOLS. However, I for one am not a NOT fan of compromise road-able (driving) this type of VTOL other than around resorts, farms, or private property or very limited use roads for short distances. There is a place for those as well but "I" see them in the streamline three wheeled close Trike's with modular wings or flush folding wings.

This is just my two cents folks...worked in this industry for nearly 35 years in various capacities from Military, Commercial & Corporate Pilot, Check Pilot, Training Development Course, CEO (small company) and CSO of a large Humanitarian Airlift Operation. I AM NOT Gods Gift to Aviation, nor near as smart as some specialist commenting here, I have only been blessed to work with some incredibly gifted designers, intensely dedicated workman, insane perfectionist, and gifted and generous specialty and technology pushing individuals like myself.

But I do like honesty on these posts and I see most of that, I know there are opinions, detractors, and cheerleaders and all them are helpful, they really are All Very Helpful. But what I won't do myself is shoot down a dream or aspiration with a lot of effort behind it without creative criticism, and possible solutions or potential alliance partners to move things forward if my Gut Tells me its time to Get Help.

I am currently looking for a Bleeding Edge Diesel Engine that pushes the envelope in all dimension, with a weight in the range of 170lbs. pushing out 380lbs/T and 230+ HP that is small with many features and unique operational benefits. I would like to get both Supercharged and turbocharged varients to push it further during times of critical needs only...any ideas or suggestion please let me know...CraigKash12 and I am on yahoo. I did have explore some new helicopter engines which are very good but I need low altitude efficiency and “think” the high altitude is taken care of with one of the three synergistic harmonized power plants.

I Greatly appreciate any suggestions, options that anyone of you see for engines in this range wit lower profiles but will sacrifice the profile for operational performance Specs...Calling All Savant’s and Experts for Guidance here and I can be reached at “CraigKash12” and again I am on “yahoo” or you can find me by my given name of “Craig” and Sir Name as “Ash” with a period in between first and last name and then add Gmail...Thanks for your thoughts and expertise...Need it Much!

SpeedBird2014
9th October, 2013 @ 09:15 pm PDT
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