It was once the stuff of science fiction novels and films like Back to the Future, but the concept of a flying car is now edging closer to reality after a prototype completed a 35-minute flight between two airports in Slovakia.
The AirCar is capable of flying around 1000km at a height of up to 2438m.
An ingenious cross between a car and an aircraft, it runs on normal petrol-pump fuel and is powered by an engine made by BMW, with a cruising speed of 190km/h.
The flying car made a successful flight between the Slovakian airports of Nitra and Bratislava, a distance of about 96km, on Monday.
A post shared by Stefan Klein (@kleinvision_official)
After landing at Bratislava airport, its inventor, Prof Stefan Klein, drove it straight from the runway into the city.
To transform from a car into an airplane takes less than three minutes. Its wings rise up and then fold along the sides of the vehicle.
One aviation expert described the flying car as looking like “the love child of a Bugatti Veyron and a Cesna 172”.
So far the AirCar, which can carry two people, has completed around 40 hours of test flights, but it is not yet certified for commercial flight.
Anton Zajac, the co-founder of Klein Vision, said: “AirCar is no longer just a proof of concept … it has turned science fiction into a reality.”
Michael Cole, the president of Hyundai’s European operations, said he expected flying cars to be widely in operation by the end of the decade.
“There’s some time before we can really get this off the ground. But we think that by the latter part of this decade certainly, urban air mobility will offer great opportunity to free up congestion in cities, to help with emissions, whether that’s intra-city mobility in the air or whether it’s even between cities.
“If you’d asked me a few years ago, were flying cars something that I would see in my lifetime, I wouldn’t have believed it.”
In a report in 2019, Morgan Stanley said that “autonomous urban aircraft may no longer be the stuff of sci-fi comic books”.
The management consultancy firm said that advances in technology, including much more efficient batteries, could create a $1.5 trillion market worldwide by 2040. The most bullish forecasts put the value of the market by 2040 at $2.9 trillion.
“The market could likely begin as an ultra-niche add-on to existing transportation infrastructure, similar to how helicopters operate today. They could later transform into a cost-effective, time-efficient method of traveling short to medium distances, eventually taking share from car and airline companies,” said Rajeev Lalwani, an analyst covering US airlines, aerospace and defence.
Flying cars could eventually compete with cars on the road and public transportation as well as commercial planes.
“The intersection of many technologies, such as ultra-efficient batteries, autonomous systems, and advanced manufacturing processes are spawning a flurry of activity in this space,” said Adam Jonas, the head of Morgan Stanley’s global auto and shared mobility research team.
The consultancy company noted that the dream of flying cars has been around for quite a while.
It quoted Henry Ford, of the Ford Motor Company, who said in 1940: “Mark my words – a combination airplane and motorcar is coming.”
The vehicle took about two years to develop at a cost of around $3.36 million, according to Klein Vision, the company behind the project.
“This flight starts a new era of dual-transportation vehicles. It opens a new category of transportation and returns the freedom originally attributed to cars back to the individual,” said Klein.
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