Back in the thirties of the last century, science fiction writers claimed that in the XXI century mankind will give up conventional cars in favor of flying cars. And this prediction has almost come true – flying cars have indeed become a reality. The service scrap car removal has also become a reality.
This is a three-wheeled flying car, which is being developed since 2009 by a small American company Samson Motorworks. Since the company is small and has very limited resources, the work on the creation of the flying car is going on at a slow pace. However, the order book already has more than 1,300 applications from those wishing to buy this extraordinary vehicle. Potential buyers are not even embarrassed by the price of $120,000.
For this money they will get a three-wheeled car with a two-seat plastic body, which is equipped with a motorcycle engine rated at 160-190 hp, depending on the modification. The Samson Switchblade weighs only 700 kg, can reach speeds of up to 160 km/h on the highway and 320 km/h in the air. It takes three minutes to take off – the car unfolds its body-fuselage wings, the tail boom is telescopic and lengthens by 40 cm, the driver redirects torque from rear wheels to the propeller with a special switch and the car is ready to soar into the sky. A driver’s license and a pilot’s license are required to operate the Samson Switchblade.
The creators assure that they have created a safe and comfortable flying car. In case of emergency, a parachute is fired and a special transmitter is activated, sending a signal about an emergency situation. The car also boasts leather seats, all-around cameras, a premium stereo, navigation and a small trunk that can fit two sports bags. Samson Motorworks engineers have already flown a smaller model of the car and will soon move on to full-scale tests of the first prototype. But it is unknown when Samson Switchblade will get the first buyers. Each time different terms are called, which are constantly “adjusted”. Therefore, it is possible that we will have to wait a few more years for the first commercial vehicle.
AeroMobil and AirCar
Stephan Klein, a Slovak engineer, can be considered the guru of aero-mobile construction: over the last twenty years he has developed as many as two flying cars. The first one, AeroMobil, Klein started making back in the late noughties, and in May 2015 the engineer almost crashed during one of the test flights. The first version of the Slovak flying car had a fuselage body, wings made of composite materials and was equipped with a 100 hp Rotax 192 engine. Maximum speed on the highway was 160 km/h, range 875 kilometers, air range 200 km/h, range 700 kilometers.
AeroMobil was built under the traditional scheme: the pusher propeller was located in the rear, the wings were folded, and the saloon was a two-seat vehicle. The length of the vehicle was 6 meters, width (with wings folded) was 2.24 m, price – 200 000 euros. Series production was planned to start in 2017. However, this year it was developed a new version of the car, which received not only a modified exterior and other wings, but also a hybrid power plant with 300 horsepower. This increased the speed to 260 km/h and the range to 740 kilometers. Now AeroMobil is positioned as a premium flying car, which serial production is planned for 2023.
Stefan Klein was no longer actively involved in the development of the updated AeroMobil, having founded his own firm Klein Vision by that time. As you can guess, Klein continued to develop the ideas behind the AeroMobil, which is why his new flying car AirCar looks like a twin brother of the Slovak engineer’s previous brainchild. On June 28 this year, the AirCar completed another test phase, making a 35-minute flight from Mitra Airport to Bratislava, covering 75 kilometers.
The two-seater weighs 1,100 kg, is powered by a 160-horsepower BMW engine, and is capable of speeds up to 200 km/h on the highway and 190 km/h in the air. According to Klein, in the future AirCar will be further developed, in particular the car will get a more powerful engine. Then there will be another cycle of tests, including certification, and only then will be called the date of beginning of mass production. Now Klein has attracted 2 million euros of investment which should be enough to finish the car “up to the mark”. But in any case, expect the appearance of serial AirCar should not be earlier than three or four years.
The safest flying car, according to its creators, has been developed by the Dutch company PAL-V (Personal Air and Land Vehicle). The company was founded in 2008 by the Dutch businessmen Robert Dingemans and John Backer. That is why it was decided to refuse from the airplane scheme and develop a hybrid of a car and a gyroplane. According to the developers, the main rotor, which does not transmit torque from the engine, constantly operates in autorotation mode and the car, in fact, always flies with an “open parachute”. What makes the flight safer in comparison with airplanes and helicopters. The three-wheeled two-seater flying car was named PAL-V Liberty and is interesting because it is equipped with two motors. The first one with 100 hp transmits torque to the rear wheels via a chain drive, and the second one with 200 hp rotates a pusher propeller mounted in the rear of the body.
Because of the roof-mounted main rotor blades, the center of gravity is high, so the PAL-V Liberty is equipped with anti roll system to prevent it from overturning. On the highway, the machine reaches a speed of 170 km/h and can travel 1,315 kilometers. In the air, it can reach 200 km/h and fly 500 kilometers.
The first test flight of PAL-V Liberty took place back in 2012, but funding problems have consistently slowed down the project. Dates for the start of mass production have been postponed several times, and it was decided to choose India as the place of production instead of the Netherlands, where it is planned to organize the assembly of the first flying cars next year. Despite the relative simplicity of its design, the PAL-V Liberty would not be cheap – a car in the basic package will cost 300,000 euros.
In 2006, graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology received a grant to develop their startup Terrafugia, which has been refining the flying car Transition for almost 15 years. During that time, the car has undergone serious changes, but most importantly, this startup has become of interest to the Chinese company Geely, which bought Terrafugia in 2017.
The American-Chinese flying car Terrafugia Transition has a folding wingspan of 8.4 meters, a two-seat plastic fuselage body, weighs 570 kg and is equipped with a 100-horsepower Rotax 912 gasoline engine and a push propeller. On a highway vehicle can reach a “maximum speed” of 105 km/h and in the air – 185 km/h. The range is 780 kilometers. In case of emergency, a parachute is used. Features of the Terrafugia Transition can not be called outstanding. However, Geely bought this project, as they say “for growth. Based on the Transition, a more advanced flying car Terrafugia TF-2 is being developed. In addition, the Chinese are planning to move the company to China, which is why virtually the entire staff of American engineers and workers were disbanded and only key figures in the project were left. And even then only those who agreed to move from the U.S. to China.
However, the Chinese should not be short of their own personnel, so they can expect the next model of the flying car in the near future. Meanwhile, Terrafugia Transition has received a certificate of airworthiness in the U.S., which allows the car to make flights. The most interesting thing is that the Terrafugia Transition is still not certified as a car. That is, it can fly, but it can’t drive on roads yet. It is expected that road certification will be completed next year, and then anyone who is ready to shell out 250,000 dollars will be able to become the owner of this American-Chinese flying car. Not forgetting to get a pilot’s license at the same time.