Flying cars are back in the news this week with the Terrafugia Transition gaining FAA certification
as a road-registerable aircraft. Exciting stuff, but the Transition doesn't quite satisfy our fantasies of being able to just press a button and lift off out of traffic, landing on the roof of our city office building to make that 9am meeting; it's basically a light plane with retractable wings that you can drive on the road – you're still stuck taking off and landing at airstrips. So here's a quick look over what else is out there and in development in the world of flying cars and motorcycles … with a bonus look at some personal flying saucers, a flying boat and a few concepts that will never
get off the ground.
Is this the first viable flying car
? It's a question we posed back in 2006 when we first looked at the prototype Terrafugia Transition
. It now looks like the answer is yes. The flying car (or “roadable aircraft,” as the Massachusetts-based company prefers), can fly like a regular plane and land at an airport before folding up its wings and hitting the road. In car mode, it can travel at highway speeds and park in regular parking spots. Terrafugia had been hoping the Transition could be classified as a light sport aircraft, as a sport pilot’s license is considerably easier to get than a regular private pilot’s license. Unfortunately, it was proving impossible to meet all the road safety requirements, while still keeping the vehicle weight under the 1,320-pound limit for a light sport aircraft. Well, it has just been announced that the US Federal Aviation Authority will make an exception for the Transition, and allow it to squeak in at 1,430 pounds. Things are looking up for this little aeromobile.
might still be a long way from becoming a commercial reality, but that doesn't stop designers letting their imaginations run wild when it comes to envisioning the airborne automobiles of the future... and they sure make for some gorgeous conceptual art. A case in point is the YEE, designed by South China University of Technology (SCUT) industrial design students Pan Jiazhi, Zhu Wenxi and Lai Zexin. Last month, their creation won the Gold Award for Best Creative Future at the First International Concept Car Design Contest in Beijing. One look at it, and it’s easy to see why.
Putting aside jet packs
, the other science fiction dream to perpetually elude us is the flying car. Gizmag is littered with stories on flying car inventions
and yet my Toyota Camry is mournfully clipped, fused to the road while my dreams of zooming to work in the 21st century remain unrealized. But this is not a story about a new-fangled invention, this is a story about the pioneering forerunner to these zippy young upstarts; the ancient grandfather of flying automobiles, Frank Skroback's Flying Car, which recently went to auction in Atlanta, Georgia.
Here we are in 2009 - televisions are thin, phones are smart and robots are on the rise, but still there's that nagging sense of disappointment each time you look outside and realize that cars don't fly. Samson Motorworks hopes to rescue us from this predicament, but realizing the weight and aerodynamic disadvantages of the 4-wheel platform, it has left the car in the garage and embarked on a mission to create a flying 3-wheeled enclosed motorcycle. Two dual-use Multi Mode Vehicles (MMVs) models are in development - the Skybike, which uses a patent pending telescoping wing design, and the Switchblade, which uses a scissor wing design to retract the wings when you swap the airway for the freeway.
Moller International is selling its Jetson-like M200X 2-passenger VTOL prototype on eBay. Although it's a long way from the latest designs to rise from the Moller drawing-board like the hybrid flying car
, the M200X is a significant piece of aviation history, having completed over 200 manned and unmanned flight demonstrations since 1989.
September 9, 2008 Moller International has announced that it has designed a hybrid flying car. The two-seater autovolantor is fashioned in the shape of a Ferrari 599 GTB with wings and is claimed to be capable of lifting off vertically from a traffic jam and flying at up to 150 mph for a short distance (about 15 minutes). The autovolantor is designed to function on the road very much like a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) using one of its eight Rotapower engines to generate enough electrical power to drive for up to 40 miles.
July 20, 2008 As the rate of technological advances continues at an astonishing pace there’s probably one question that gets asked more than any other by the average person in the street – or the average person stuck in traffic anyway - why don’t we have flying cars
yet? Well the simple answer is that developing a flying car is hard. But the long wait for the solution to car clogged streets could be coming to an end with Moller International announcing that it is in the process of completing its fourth M200 “Jetson” volantor airframe and it expects to complete forty of these fly-by-wire, multi-engine flying vehicles in 2009.
July 14, 2008 The race is well and truly on to develop a functional flying car, and innovators around the world are finding several different ways to accommodate the needs of a road-registerable flying vehicle. The Moller Skycar
and Cell Craft G440
use complicated quad-turbine tilting jet engines to achieve VTOL and flight capability. The Terrafugia Transition
roadable aircraft have decided to go for a folding-wing convertible aeroplane design, and Larry Neal's Super Sky Cycle
is a simple and cheap modification that turns a standard, safe gyroplane into a road-going trike. And now there's the Parajet Skycar, a Yamaha R1-engined, biodiesel-powered all-terrain dune buggy that's capable of extremely safe flight as a powered paraglider. The Skycar Expedition team plan to take the eye-catching vehicle from London to Timbouctou in 2009, using a combination of flight and driving to battle the tough Saharan terrain. There's a commuter model in the pipeline - and you won't need a pilot's license to fly it.
Nearly eight years into the 21st century and we still don't have flying cars… frankly, it's disgraceful. No point complaining about it though - while Dr. Paul Moller continues development of the intriguing and exciting M400 Skycar
, others around the world are also working to turn the cogs that will set the personal flight
revolution in motion. One of them is Italian Gino d'Ignazio Gizio, a helicopter pilot and designer whose Cell Craft designs are reminiscent of the Skycar with a few touches of his own.