We were promised jetpacks, but I’ll happily make do with a flying car in the meantime. That now looks one step closer as Slovakia-based company AeroMobil today unveiled its latest “flying roadster,” the AeroMobil 3.0.
The personal car-slash-plane is already being tested, and was unveiled at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna. AeroMobil says it made the vehicle in just 10 months after the release of its last pre-prototype, the 2.5 model. It describes this latest design as “very close to the final product.”
Speaking over the phone from the show in Vienna, AeroMobil CCO Stefan Vadocz told me the 3.0 has a newly designed exterior and landing gear in a carbon composite as well as an upgraded interior complete with leather seats and a dual steering wheel that combines a flight yoke with a more conventional car steering wheel.
“Also we upgraded the transformation procedure, which is patented, and we upgraded the software that governs the automatic wing-folding mechanism,” he said.
That’s because the flying car is actually more like a kind of transformer that can quickly metamorphose from car to plane. From the front it looks a lot like a car; from the back it looks a lot like a small plane. From the side it looks insane.
The vehicle specs explain it’s the size of “a limousine or a large luxury sedan” in car form and runs on regular gasoline, the idea being it could drive on regular roads. Take it to somewhere a little less crowded and you can swing open the collapsible wings and take off like a lightweight aircraft. Vadocz said the whole transformation currently takes about two minutes at the touch of a button (with a backup system in case something fails). “At that moment the car dies and the airplane is born,” he said.
As a plane, the AeroMobil can lift off from any grassy or paved runway a few hundred metres long. It reaches a maximum speed of over 160 km/h as a car and 200 km/h as a plane and can carry two people.
The flying machine is generally aimed at jet-setters looking to cut down on the hassle of travel, and it’s clearly got a high-end user in mind; another, more personal option for the rich and tardy. “You don’t need to change vehicles when you’re travelling somewhere,” said Vadocz. “You can drive to airports or grass strips and take off, go to your destination, and then continue driving.” He added that if there’s bad weather and you can’t fly, you could just drive.
Additionally, as it’s car-sized, you don’t have the trouble and cost of storing it in a hangar, as you would a light-sport aircraft. You know that pesky annoyance of keeping your car in one place and your private plane in another? “If you can keep your airplane or AeroMobil in a garage it’s more practical than having a car and a plane, one in your garage and one in your hangar,” said Vadocz. I’m sure it is.
You’ll still have to be a pilot to fly the car-plane, though; it’s designed to be equivalent to a light-sport aircraft, which would require a sport pilot license in the EU. In its prototype stage, only test pilots can take the thing for a spin.
The race to get the first vehicle from the road to the sky is on, as AeroMobil is not the only company in the flying car game. US-based Terrafugia has said it expects to deliver the first unit of its Transition vehicle in 2015. While the two vehicles look vaguely similar, a key difference is in the transformation mechanism: The Transition’s wings kind of fold up at the sides, as opposed to gliding round from the back.
Vadocz said the company welcomes others pushing development of this kind of vehicle. “We are really happy that maybe sometime we will be able to make a new category,” he said, and pointed out that while the word “flying car” is used a lot, there’s no real definition for the vehicle. Other terms include “roadable aircraft” and “multimodel vehicles.”
There’s no date yet for when the AeroMobil will be available for the public, as it needs to go through testing. “There’s a lot of things before us, but we will be working hard to do those as efficiently as possible to bring the vehicle to the market,” said Vadocz, who added that it would be irresponsible to suggest whether it would be available in a month or a year.
We’ll just have to entertain our flying fantasies with hoverboards for now.