Fly­ing car could be yours this year; need pi­lot’s li­cence and $1.6M US

Times Colonist - - Business -

MONACO — It may not be quite like the Jet­sons, but for more than a mil­lion dol­lars you 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 $1.3 mil­lion-$1.6 mil­lion US — you’d need a pi­lot’s li­cence 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 twoseater 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 said.

The AeroMo­bil has a driv­ing range of 100 kilo­me­tres and a top speed of 160 kilo­me­tres per hour. When fly­ing, its max­i­mum cruis­ing range is 750 km, 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.

CLAUDE PARIS, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

AeroMo­bil dis­plays its lat­est pro­to­type of a fly­ing car in Monaco on Thurs­day. The light-frame plane, whose wings can fold back like an in­sect, is boosted by a rear pro­pel­ler. The com­pany is plan­ning to ac­cept first pre-or­ders for the ve­hi­cle this year.

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