The race is on for first affordable flying car

Not since the Wright brothers flew the first powered aircraft near Kitty Hawk in 1903 has the competition been so intense. The technology that can give us the world’s first affordable and easily pilotable flying car is almost here.

Several start-ups are already moving their prototypes forward and the race is on.

But just like the early days of flight, there are several schools of thought about which model will be the most efficient, workable and worthy of being the template for the future.

“For me, it has to be vertical take-off and landing,” said Daniel Lubrich, the managing director of Krossblade Aerospace Systems. “I think this idea of an aircraft you can drive on the street but you still have to find an airport for is nice, but it doesn’t really solve the problem.”

His Arizona-based team has developed a concept for a hybrid five-seat transformer airplane called a SkyCruiser.

Looking a bit like the lovechild of a futuristic light plane and the flying vehicle known as “The Bat” from the movie “The Dark Knight Rises”, the SkyCruiser sports foldable wings and four foldable rotors with electric motors powered by a Wankel rotary engine generator.

The quadcopter concept would allow the flying car to take off vertically from a traffic jam, for instance, without the need for a runway.

Once airborne, it would switch to horizontal flight, using two 150 bhp electric motors in the tail to power it through the air at more than 300 mph. The designers claim it could fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco in little more than an hour — faster than any other drivable aircraft currently in development.

On the ground, its 31-foot (9.5 meter) wingspan can be stowed, its four rotors retracted and electric motors in the wheels can drive the vehicle along the road at 75 mph (112 kph). However, with a total length of 8.4 meters (27.5 feet), don’t expect to park it on any city block with ease.

Lubrich says he envisages the hybrid could fly almost three times faster than equivalent projects; a necessary advantage in his native Germany, where cars can already travel as fast as 85 mph on the country’s autobahns, with some stretches even free of any speed limit.

“I think you need to fly significantly faster than that to really have an advantage,” he told CNN. “If you only fly at 110 mph, you’re only going a little bit faster, you have to pay a lot more money in fuel and you still have to land at an airport.

“A flying car really needs to be optimized for flight — if you have to drive a little bit it should only be a mile or two.”

Currently its prototype, a model called the SkyProwler, has worked according to plan and the company says it’s only a matter of time before it can be scaled up into five-seat, fully operational flying car.

Source: CNN

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