Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Fly­ing car to go on sale

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - BUSINESS - MI­LOS KRIVOKAPIC and AN­GELA CHARL­TON

MONACO — It may not be quite like the Jet­sons, but for more than a mil­lion dol­lars you too can soon fly around in a car.

A Slo­vakian com­pany called AeroMo­bil un­veiled on Thurs­day its ver­sion of a fly­ing car, a light-framed plane whose wings can fold back, like an in­sect, and is boosted by a hy­brid en­gine and rear pro­pel­ler.

It will be avail­able to pre­order as soon as this year but is not for every­one: be­sides the big price tag — be­tween 1.2 mil­lion and 1.5 mil­lion euros ($1.3 mil­lion-$1.6 mil­lion) — you’d need a pi­lot’s li­cense to use it in the air.

“I think it’s go­ing to be a very niche prod­uct,” said Philip Mawby, pro­fes­sor of elec­tronic en­gi­neer­ing and head of re­search at the Univer­sity of War­wick.

Sev­eral com­pa­nies are work­ing on fly­ing cars, ei­ther like Aeromo­bil’s two-seater that needs a run­way, or others that func­tion more like he­li­copters, lift­ing off ver­ti­cally. But not many com­pa­nies are se­ri­ously look­ing at mar­ket­ing th­ese ve­hi­cles any­time soon, Mawby said.

“The tech­nol­ogy is there ... The ques­tion is bring­ing it to the mar­ket at an af­ford­able cost, and making it a use­ful prod­uct.”

Among the big ques­tions is how to con­trol the air traf­fic if there are hundreds of such ve­hi­cles zip­ping through the air. There is no con­trol ex­cept for tra­di­tional air­craft, notes Mawby.

So while ve­hi­cles like the AeroMo­bil could be used for recre­ational pur­poses by peo­ple who have a large piece of land, fly­ing cars are un­likely to be­come a mass mar­ket re­al­ity any­time soon, he says.

The AeroMo­bil has a driv­ing range of about 100 kilo­me­tres and a top speed of 160 km/h. When fly­ing, its max­i­mum cruis­ing range is 750 kms, and it takes about three min­utes for the car to trans­form into a plane.

“You can use it as a reg­u­lar car,” said Ju­raj Va­c­u­lik, co-founder and CEO of Aeromo­bil, at the un­veil­ing in Monaco. Though it is not le­gal —yet — to take off from a high­way.

The pre­vi­ous AeroMo­bil 3.0 pro­to­type made news in 2014 when it was pre­sented in Vi­enna, but no test-flight took place then. It crashed dur­ing a test flight in Slo­vakia in 2015 with its in­ven­tor Ste­fan Klein on board. He es­caped largely un­harmed.

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