Flying cars are one of the coolest staples of science fiction, and we could be closer to making them a reality than ever before, writes Saoirse Kerrigan. There are plenty of companies working on flying cars at the minute, both major manufacturers and small start-ups.
In the wake of Uber’s Elevate Summit, which saw some of the greatest minds in engineering meet to discuss this new frontier of automobiles, it is worth checking out the latest advancements in the field. Here are just some of the visionary engineers who want to put cars in the skies.
1. Kevin Colburn – Terrafugia
One flying car that you can reserve now, which is set for mass release in 2019, is the Terrafugia Transition. The company’s COO and vice-president of engineering, Kevin Colburn, claims the vehicle is faster than a car and more convenient than a plane.
The company is following the Transition with the incredibly futuristic-looking TF-X. The TF-X boasts a cruising speed of 321.8 km/h and won’t require a landing strip, thanks to its vertical take-off and landing. Awesome as it certainly looks and sounds, we’ll have to wait until at least 2025 before any of us can take a test spin of the TF-X.
2. Douglas MacAndrew – Aeromobil
Is it a car? Is it a plane? Well…both, and neither. The Slovakian-made Aeromobil has been in the works for several years now, but its development kicked into gear last year when the company hired CTO Douglas MacAndrew. A veteran engineer with experience working for Jaguar, Mercedes, BMW and more, MacAndrew is working to reduce the vehicle’s weight and improve aerodynamism before it takes to the skies in earnest.
Its latest design, the Aeromobil 5.0, is expected to be ready for mass production in the next 10 years. Meanwhile, there is talk of a limited release of its 4.0 model in 2020. The 4.0 sports has a hybrid electric engine and can travel for 400 miles (650km) on a single charge.
3. Paul DeLorean – DeLorean
Where we’re going, we don’t need roads! If there’s any company that seems like the perfect choice for releasing a flying car, it’s DeLorean. DeLorean Aerospace is led by CEO, nephew of John DeLorean – the man who brought us one of the most iconic cars in pop culture history. Futuristic vehicle design must run in the family.
The DeLorean DR-7 features electric propulsion and is expected to be fully autonomous, meaning you won’t need a pilot’s licence to fly it. The company is expecting to build a full-scale prototype at some point this year.
Cora features 12 lift fans that allow for a vertical take-off and landing, which are also all-electric and move independently. It can reach heights of between 500 and 3000 feet (150-900 metres) and has a top speed of 180 km/h.
4. Jim Tighe – Kitty Hawk Cora
Google-backed flying car Cora, by Kitty Hawk, started its round of test flights earlier this year. Headed by chief engineer Jim Tighe, the vehicle is poised to become a safe and sustainable flying taxi to rival the efforts of Uber and Airbus.
5. Rodin Lyasoff – Airbus A³ Vahana
Vahana boasts one of the quickest progressions from initial idea to construction out of all the forthcoming flying cars. A mere two years after the idea was hatched, Vahana was being tested in the air. CEO and aerospace engineer Rodin Lyasoff has even said that the company’s MO is to “go as fast as possible“.
The project intends to become the first self-piloted all-electric flying car and, at the rate it’s going, it very well could be. It sets itself apart from many competitors by using sensors to ensure passenger safety and allow for sky traffic to pass without accident.
6. Robert Dingemanse – PAL-V Liberty
In March of this year, Dutch company PAL-V announced that its flying car, the Liberty, would be hitting the market in 2019. This would make it the first commercial flying car and, according to CEO Robert Dingemanse, it is just waiting on the final necessary certifications to make the vehicle market-ready.
The Liberty features dual engines – one for driving, one for flying. It boasts a top land speed of 160 km/h and can reach a speed of 180 km/h in the air. Pre-orders will begin in 2019, with an estimated cost of $400,000.
A big part of the project is the development of an automated air traffic control system, which would allow for the safe passage of all manner of flying vehicles in the near future. The first test sites for UberAIR are suggested to be Dallas, Texas, Dubai, and perhaps even Los Angeles, Californina.
7. Dara Khosrowshahi – UberAIR
Uber has become very serious about getting cars in the skies, so much so that it has teamed up with NASA engineers and even held a summit for flying cars. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi believes that flying cars will be commonplace within the next decade, and is hoping to make flying cabs a reality by 2020.