Spark Design Engineering, a 20-person design and engineering company in Ridderkerk, near Rotterdam, Netherlands has developed designs for electronics, appliances and a wide range of other products, announced this fall that it plans to build a flying car prototype it calls PALV (Personal Air and Land Vehicle).


At first glance, the PALV illustrations resemble the Vandenbrink Carver, a three-wheeled enclosed motorcycle made in small numbers in the Netherlands. Spark had a hand in that design, too. Like the Carver, the PALV would be a nimble road vehicle, carrying two people tandem-style in an enclosed fuselage that’s hinged in the middle, allowing the cabin and front wheel to bank like a motorcycle while the rear wheels remain flat on the ground. As a three-wheeler, it would be licensed as a motorcycle.



But unlike the Carver’s 660-cc, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, the 1,200-pound PALV would be powered by a twin-chamber 213-horsepower Mazda rotary engine turning the rear wheels and spinning the propeller for flight.



In flight mode, the unpowered rotor blades would react to the prop’s thrust and spin like a pinwheel, providing lift.



Technically, the PALV is an autogyro. Though its owner would still have to take flight training, it would be far simpler to operate than a helicopter. It couldn’t hover, but it could make extremely short takeoff and landing runs. In flight, it would operate below 4,000 feet and in uncontrolled airspace, requiring no flight plans.



John Bakker, a Dutch entrepreneur, is developing the PALV with the Spark team. He has worked on the design for more than four years, trying to create a vehicle that would be fuel-efficient on the road and able to use the third dimension when traffic got too dense. “We wanted to build a vehicle that would operate as a 100 percent flying machine as well as a 100 percent driving machine with no deficits,” he said.



PALV users could fly between cities, land on the outskirts and drive to their destinations. “If you’re flying and the weather gets bad or it’s dark, just land and drive,” Bakker said.



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