Flying cars has always been a dream for human beings! Now with technological advancement, that dream is slowly becoming a reality! Humans have witnessed many successful and unsuccessful attempts to make flying cars, and some could even take off.
The significant development in this sector made many people even believe that cars would be able to fly by the 21st century. But, there have been a lot of barriers that stopped this dream from becoming a reality. However, it seems like the wait is finally over, and the world is going to get flying cars soon. The Aerospace Industries Association and Deloitte Insights estimate that the air mobility business might be worth $115 billion (0.5 percent of US GDP) in 2035, according to joint research conducted in January 2021. Some manufacturers have successfully portrayed their prototypes and completed test flights in recent years. A few of them have even promised to start making them commercially available in the coming years. If you are already interested, in this article, we will discuss the current updates on flying vehicles and let you know about the first commercial flying car. So, let’s get started.
History of Flying Cars
Flying cars has a very long history. In fact, ever since the first car was manufactured, man has fantasized about transporting it to the skies. Even before the Wright brothers invented the airplane, the first flying car was patented in 1841 by William Samuel Henson and John Stringfellow. However, they have never been able to make a functional version of the car. The first-ever roadable winged automobile to lift off the ground was the ‘Autoplane’, made in 1917 by Glenn Hammond Curtiss. The two-seat AC-35 Autogiro flying vehicle was another early effort, which could take off and land in 52 m (173 ft) of space. When the rotors were folded back, the vehicle could provide power to the rear wheels and reach a top speed of 25 mph (40 km/h).
The Aerocar, which flew for the first time in December 1949, is known as the world’s first practical flying car. This two-seater roadable aircraft could fly at a maximum speed of 177 kilometers per hour (110 miles per hour) and had an on-road top speed of 96.56 kilometers per hour (60 miles per hour) and a range of 300 miles. It was even approved by the Civil Aviation Authority. Ford created the ‘Levicar Mach I’ concept hover car in 1959. The Ford Rotunda in Michigan showcased a full-scale prototype of this, but it was never put into production. Many significant flying automobile attempts were made in the years that followed, both successful and unsuccessful. However, none of the models could make one commercially available.
The research on flying cars or smaller vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (VTOL) has gone so far, and we will probably watch cars flying in the sky very soon. Boeing, Uber, and Airbus have all claimed to be developing their own flying car models. Plus, only in the US are there 36 flying car startups, and the number is a lot bigger worldwide. While some cars are completing their test flights, some others are planning on going to full phase production. Some of them are hopeful of introducing fully functional air-borne vehicles by the year 2030. Although such promises and claims are made every year by the companies, it is undeniable that the flying car era is not very far away now.
The First Commercial Flying Car
While there are a bunch of companies and start-ups that are working on flying cars, few manufacturers are ahead of this competition. While searching on the internet, you can find at least 3 cars that are similarly titled to the first commercial flying car. However, none of them are commercially available in the market yet. Let’s check out which of the vehicles is going to win the race.
The Dutch company PAL-V is ready to market the world’s first flying car, Liberty. It’s called the Personal Air and Land Vehicle (PAL-V), and that’s exactly what it is. It’s a hybrid of a Carver and a gyrocopter, to be exact. The vehicle made its first flight in 2012, ahead of the competition. The two models of PAL-V Liberty are equipped with a rotor and propeller. On the ground, the propeller and rotor are kept folded, and power is sent to the wheels. This allows the vehicle to travel as a three-wheeled car, making takeoff and landing more convenient.
In February of 2017, PAL-V began its marketing campaign with the public unveiling of the PAL-V Liberty and made the announcement of sales of the first commercial flying automobile. The production model debuted in public on March 6, 2018, at the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland. Carlo Maasbommel, vice president of international business development, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian state of Gujarat on March 9, 2020, to establish a manufacturing and export facility there. In 2021, the company planned to ship PAL-V from India to the United States, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, among others.
As of March 2022, the PAL-V Liberty has acquired European Road Admission for road use and reached an agreement with the European Aviation Safety Agency on the flying certification basis (EASA). PAL-V is currently in the final phase of compliance demonstration, after which it will be fully approved, and production deliveries will start.
Aeromobil AM 4.0
AeroMobil, the flying car, was inspired by the mythical winged horse Pegasus. It is a high-end vehicle that is equally adept on the road as in the air. It combines cutting-edge automotive and aerospace design and engineering, innovative materials, high-end functionality, and flawless aesthetics. The AeroMobil does what no supercar or private jet can: in less than three minutes, it may go from being a car to an airplane. This crew of engineers and designers has been working tirelessly on AeroMobils for over a decade. It has experience working with top automakers like BMW, Aston Martin, McLaren, Mercedes Benz F-1 and Ferrari F-1, and aerospace leaders Lockheed Martin, Rolls Royce, Airbus, and Diamond Aircraft, among others. As of September 2020, live test flights of AeroMobil’s latest iteration are in an advanced stage. To date, over 10,000 hours of simulated and real-world flight testing have gone into the development of AeroMobil’s most recent version.
With two people aboard, the AeroMobile has a claimed range of 600 miles on land and 460 miles above the ground. Moreover, it can achieve a top speed of 160 km/h on-road and 260 km/h while cruising in the sky. It also features a ballistic Recovery Parachute System for the entire vehicle, an integral carbon-fiber structure, and autonomous flight via current autopilot technology for the safety of the driver. The business promises that the product will be available for pre-order soon, with a delivery date in 2024.
The Klein Vision AirCar is a two-seater flying car that was made in Slovakia. In January 2022, it was approved as a type of airplane. AirCar is designed by Professor Stefan Klein, a former maker of AeroMobil. After working for AeroMobil for over 3 decades, he left the company to work on a new idea called the AirCar, and he and Anton Zajac started Klein Vision.
The car is designed in a way that the aerodynamic fuselage provides sufficient space for passengers while also contributing to improved lift characteristics during flight. The retractable wings, foldable tail surfaces, and parachute deployment system are examples of advanced technologies. As with traditional aircraft, the folding tail surfaces contribute to improved longitudinal stability and takeoff characteristics. In the automobile mode, the retractable tail folds into a smaller size. Since October 2019, the AirCar prototype has undergone rigorous ground and flight tests in the experimental category. The prototype AirCar flew between the airports in Nitra and Bratislava in June 2021, which is about 35 miles away. After a run of 300 meters, the prototype takes off at about 75 mph (120 km/h). The average speed of a plane in the air is said to be 170 km/h.
Barriers To Flying Cars
One of the main problems is that a flying automobile would require an apparently incompatible combination of two separate technologies. While a car can stay on the road because its weight is distributed in such a way that it creates a downward force, an aircraft would be unable to operate with such an arrangement. For this reason, designers and engineers must come up with a flying automobile that can swiftly modify its structure and weight, depending on the consumer’s preferred method of transportation. Moreover, a flying car is a highly sophisticated piece of technology, and present automobile assembly lines are unsuitable for mass manufacture of lightweight roadable aircraft. New assembly lines and specialized machinery are required for the efficient production of flying cars.
The current city infrastructure is unsuitable for flying cars that need runways or have big side wings that fold up. Vertical take-off and landing vehicles (VTOL), on the other hand, work better in today’s world because they can be made to land using existing helicopter pads. Moreover, they can land, pick up, and drop off passengers effortlessly in crowded cities as they can operate vertically. Because of this feature, big companies like Uber, Hyundai, and Airbus are more interested in the idea of eVTOL flying taxis than flying cars.
Flying cars are facing barriers to Regulation, Certifications, and Policies. Several flying automobile prototypes have completed flight tests and are awaiting approval from the government. Flying cars will need a lot of new rules, laws, policies, air traffic control systems, and rules. Insufficient batteries, extravagant prices, and noise are also some significant barriers to look at.
Flying cars has been a long-cherished dream, and it grabbed the attention of the world many times with each step of success. Though slowly, we can see this dream coming true. But to be successfully implemented in the current setting of the world, cars have to overcome a series of challenges. The makers can focus on VTOL functionalities that will make flying cars more practical.
Although few companies have claimed to make the first commercial flying cars, none of them could actually bring their vehicle to the road. While it seems like PAL-V is a little ahead of the race, AeroMobil has already announced that they will deliver their cars by 2024. On the other hand, Klein-Vision has completed an inter-city trip that creates some hope too. Now even though it’s really hard to assume which of the competitors will hit the road first, do not wonder if you see cars cruising through the clouds anytime soon.