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Terrafugia announces its plans for a VTOL "flying car"

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May 6, 2013

Terrafugia has announced its plans to develop a vertical-take-off-and-landing flying car, ...

Terrafugia has announced its plans to develop a vertical-take-off-and-landing flying car, known as the TF-X (Image: Terrafugia)

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Although countless small companies have tried to commercially develop flying cars over the past several decades, we’re still not seeing Blade Runner-esque vehicles cruising over our rooftops ... yet. Terrafugia is one of the groups currently trying to change that situation – a fully-functioning prototype of its Transition fixed-wing “roadable airplane” is currently undergoing flight tests, and was recently cleared for civilian use by the US Federal Aviation Authority. It still requires a runway for take-off and landing, though, which kind of clashes with many peoples’ flying car fantasies. Well, today Terrafugia announced its plans for a hybrid-drive vertical-take-off-and-landing (VTOL) vehicle, known as the TF-X.

Like the Transition, plans call for the 4-passenger TF-X to feature wings that fold into its sides, allowing it to fit on roads and in garages when in fully-electric ground mode. When it’s time to take off, however, those wings will extend into their flight position, and retractible propellers will open out of two 600-hp electric motor pods – one on each wing tip. Each pod will contain 16 separate motors, to keep everything in the air should one or more of them malfunction.

Initially, those props will be pointing upwards, allowing them to pull the TF-X up off the ground. Once the vehicle is sufficiently airborne, however, the propellers will rotate forward, allowing it to move ahead. Once the TF-X has gained enough forward momentum, the two wing-mounted propellers (but not the wings!) can once again be retracted, with a 300-hp internal combustion engine powering a single large rear-mounted ducted prop while cruising. The wing props will be re-engaged as the landing site approaches.

The engine will charge the batteries used by the electric motors, although they can also be charged simply by plugging into an electric vehicle charger when parked.

The engine will charge the batteries used by the electric motors, although they can also b...

Before you start picturing yourself flying a TF-X off of your driveway, however, Terrafugia does state that the vehicle will require a clearing at least 100 feet (30.5 meters) in diameter for takeoff. This means that users will most likely drive their vehicle to and from designated landing sites similar to those used by helicopters, and fly between those sites.

That said, unlike the case with a helicopter, the designers believe that it should only take about five hours to learn how to fly the TF-X. This is largely because users will have the option of flying it in automatic mode, in which they just input the location of their destination landing site (along with some back-up secondary choices), then leave the navigation to the vehicle.

It will subsequently travel at a cruising speed of 200 mph (322 km/h), going up to 500 miles (805 km) without needing to refuel or recharge. While cruising in automatic mode, it will be able to automatically avoid other air traffic, along with inclement weather, restricted airspace and tower-controlled airspace (which pilots would require additional training to fly in). It will also automatically land itself at the destination (if weather allows), although the pilot will be able to override that function if they notice any hazards at the chosen landing site.

The TF-X will have a cruising speed of 200 mph (322 km/h), going up to 500 miles (805 km) ...

Should the TF-X just crap out completely in mid-air, the pilot can activate a parachute system to keep it from crashing to the ground. Likewise, if the onboard control system detects that the vehicle is being piloted in an unsafe manner, it will automatically declare an emergency and contact the relevant authorities. Should the pilot be unresponsive to prompts by the system, it will automatically land the vehicle at the closest airport.

All of this is still at least 8 to 12 years away, though, as that’s how long Terrafugia figures it will take to develop a commercially viable product. The only estimate on price is that it could be “on-par with very high-end luxury cars of today.”

Animation of the TF-X in flight can be seen in the video below.

Source: Terrafugia

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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24 Comments

I think with the technology available right now,4 motors with fixed pitch,makes for a very safe and stable platform.As a added safety feature,it can be fitted with a ballistic chute.I think I would pas on two motors,look at the V-22, and all of it's problems.

Thomas Lewis
6th May, 2013 @ 02:13 pm PDT

That's awesome, it actually looks pretty damn nice too. If any company has the ability to make this happen, they are it. Since they currently already make the closest thing to a flying car.

Their timeline unfortunately is probably accurate, and it'll likely be around a million dollars......sadly, that's "slightly" outta my range.

Derek Howe
6th May, 2013 @ 04:13 pm PDT

That's really fantastic...but late. Dr? Moller already tapped the easy money while somehow avoiding jail time, by always promising the "big moment" is coming in the next year. Eight to 12 years is too far over the horizon to capture current interest.

Paulinator
6th May, 2013 @ 06:07 pm PDT

Typical unresearched comment. V-22 has a prang rate comparable or better than existing marine corps helos. Don't believe everything you read.

BTW, the V-22 has a cross shaft connecting both propellors, so it one engine fails the remaining one can power both props.

Marc 1
6th May, 2013 @ 06:28 pm PDT

Blimps would make a much better flying car. With shrouded props the could have minor crashes without raining debris.

Slowburn
6th May, 2013 @ 06:35 pm PDT

I still personally like the PAL-V much better, as the Autogyro flight mechanics are much safer and more reliable than either tilt-rotor or even conventional fixed wing for the type of mission the craft will probably be operating in (its also STOL, at least most gyroplanes are at least). Not to mention, it actually looks cool and fun to drive!

Look it up, seriously I wish it would be getting more attention than this thing!

(http://www.gizmag.com/pal-v-flying-car/22032/ Ed.)

Richard J. Auchus
6th May, 2013 @ 07:59 pm PDT

Looks like the rotors block the doors, do you use the "Dukes Of Hazard" method of getting in and out?

Womp
6th May, 2013 @ 08:46 pm PDT

Is it just me or does this thing bear a passing resemblance to some of the Star Trek shuttle-craft over the years? Overall I think the aesthetics are rather impressive.

Wesley Dart
6th May, 2013 @ 11:08 pm PDT

Will never be permitted to fly over populated area without licensed pilot at controls. It is a very cool vehicle but few real world non military applications. Basically it is an aircraft which trailers itself to the airport.

waldoor
7th May, 2013 @ 12:09 am PDT

Looks like an angry trout.

Pelotoner
7th May, 2013 @ 06:09 am PDT

I still think the electric-motor-powered multi-copter is the better design direction to take

as it provides robust redundancy. Making such a design roadable would then be the challenge, but certainly do-able (perhaps using a 2D version of a Hoberman Sphere mechanism). Would need a central electric generator, perhaps traditionally-fueled, but much more feasible than following the questionable safety-track-record of the Osprey.

Another direction that has potential is the fanwing concept. This design, however, needs to be shifted to a dual-axis layout to provide a stable flight platform at very slow speeds. Would recommend foregoing vtol for vstol with that concept, too. Lots of potential.

MzunguMkubwa
7th May, 2013 @ 07:29 am PDT

"A megawatt of power lifts you"?

Assuming that the motors run at 1,000 volts, that's 1,000 amps. At a more realistic (but still unlikely) 250 volts, 4,000 amps.

That means some very hefty conductors for a start, then there's the control gear...

Plus, just imagine the pyrotechnics if a power transistor lets go at that sort of current, great fun at 10,000 feet!

Catweazle
7th May, 2013 @ 08:18 am PDT

This is worlds apart from Terrafugia's last effort. While I'd still like to see the wings fold more subtly into the car, this is a vast improvement, and I wouldn't be embarrassed to drive this one on the road, as opposed to their last model.

Dave Andrews
7th May, 2013 @ 09:13 am PDT

What about the wind and noise on takeoff?

mrkim
7th May, 2013 @ 09:54 am PDT

Yet another toy for the ultra rich while the rest of are allowed to rot. It is time for a French style revolution in the US and UK.

Nelson
7th May, 2013 @ 10:08 am PDT

EVERYONE - Be very careful with this company. Press releases like this are a major danger sign. Some of the biggest scams in history come from the experimental aircraft industry, Remember Jim Bede? This company is taking down payment orders on their first contraption that has had so many problems I don't think it will ever make production. There may be a lot of people out of a lot of down payment money very soon. Press releases like this are generally what happens when non-viable companies run out of money. They start coming out with wacky ideas looking for uneducated people to throw money in their direction. Being an EAA member I have seen this over and over again. It's nice to be able to dream big, but it's not nice to rip off unsuspecting investors that share the same dream. How about this - GET THE FIRST PLANE TO FLY WELL FIRST! Then start working on your production promises.

Joe123
7th May, 2013 @ 10:10 am PDT

Too many systems to fail.

Kevin Crowley
7th May, 2013 @ 11:26 am PDT

Does the price include the $10,000 private pilots license required to fly it? The big question is - WHY? It will be a poor car and a poor plane. Ya just can't have both!

donwine
7th May, 2013 @ 08:00 pm PDT

Amazing concept. Talking about breakthroughs in modern science, this thing will really be something that will stir people's thoughts and dreams. But of course the main concern of people is if this vehicle is safe to fly. Another important thing is if it is practical to have which considers fuel consumption and vehicle maintenance.

Jacob Wadsworth
8th May, 2013 @ 07:31 pm PDT

So Many issues to comment on & so little time.. Yup, it does look like a later model Starfleet transporter and this piece of imagination would have a better chance of flying by waiting for high specific impulse thrusters powered by a small di-lithium array. On the other hand, it would be great if this Piece of Crap were available now since I would be happy to support giant tax subsidies for One Percent buyers. Nothing like a shiny new dangerous toy to help thin the ranks of the One Percent. I would be delighted to subsidize the Koch brothers to sail above the rest of us. And then a major systems burp at 10 thousand would be just about right.

This is a cool idea and a dreadfully bad investment idea.

StWils
9th May, 2013 @ 02:24 pm PDT

Looking at the concept I just can help feeling that there are just not enough lift generating surfaces. My thumb-suck feeling is that the Terrafugia Transition has at least 2x more wing area. Perhaps the higher airspeed will make up for it?

Riaanh
10th May, 2013 @ 06:33 am PDT

Why don't they make a flying Limousine first? Plenty of space inside for heavy jet engines and retractable wings. Gordon Gecko types would rather roll around in an inconspicuous Limo than these ugly not-this-not-that carplanes. And, those people really need to fly between major cities in the country.

The Reekly
12th May, 2013 @ 12:54 am PDT

Is Marc 1 really defending the Osprey?

Joe Renteria
14th May, 2013 @ 11:12 am PDT

This is way too boxy to be a decent airplane. The wings are also way too small. In order to generate enough lift you would have to burn through all your fuel getting that box moving through the air fast enough. You can buy a decent stol aircraft or autogyro very cheaply and enjoy using fields or small airstrips and buy decent car for far less. The maintenance on this would be murder. This is NOT a V-22 by any stretch of the imagination.

Gee whiz
19th May, 2013 @ 10:21 pm PDT
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