There’s hope yet for the flying car. Really. The Jetsons-era dream of
personal air vehicles (PAVs) has recently received a few gasps of fresh air. An
advocacy group, the CAFE Foundation, has launched a $250,000 PAV challenge for
new and interesting flight concepts. Plus, companies from the aviation (Boeing)
and automotive (Honda) industries are pursuing mainstream airborne-vehicle
technology, though no designs or deadlines have been announced. (w/pics)
In the meantime, several
independent companies have been researching and developing fly/drive
vehicles you might see flying — someday — toward a driveway near you.
Moller Skycar M400
production versions promised by 2010, this four-passenger beauty is the
latest in a line of Moller Skycars dating back to 1962. Using four
pairs of Wankel engines, the vehicle is designed for vertical takeoff
and landing, and may eventually be capable of fully automated flight.
RANGE: 750 miles
ALTITUDE: Below 36,000 feet
TOP AIRSPEED: 375 mph
PRICE: $995,000. A $100,000 deposit holds one of the first 100 cars, refundable if FAA certification does not occur by Dec. 31, 2010.
PROGRESS: Tethered full-scale prototypes have hovered several feet off the ground.
POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS: Frequent delays and misleading claims led to an SEC fine in 2003.
Labiche Aerospace Flying Sports Car FSC-1
four-passenger FSC-1 has been in development since the late 1980s, and
reached preproduction in 2007. Like a Transformer toy, the FSC-1 turns
from car to single-propeller airplane in 30 seconds. A true hybrid, it
will operate via existing small airports and highways.
RANGE: 950 miles
ALTITUDE: Below 34,000 feet
TOP AIRSPEED: 275 mph
PRICE: $175,000. The FSC-1 is a kit, assembly required. The $20,000 deposit is refundable if performance benchmarks aren’t met.
PROGRESS: A prototype will be on display in Los Angeles this year; production is slated for 2008.
POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS: Plans to fly it to the 2007 Oshkosh air show were scrapped due to testing "conflicts."
Urban Aeronautics X-Hawk
by a former Boeing engineer in 2001, the 11-seater X-Hawk is marketed
as, among other things, an emergency vehicle (to go where choppers
can’t). It uses enclosed turbine-powered, ducted fans for lift and a
system of vanes for stability and maneuvering.
RANGE: 380 miles
ALTITUDE: Below 12,000 feet
TOP AIRSPEED: 161 mph
million to $6 million. The X-Hawk’s price reflects its proposed
emphasis: fewer civilian thrill rides, more military or medical
PROGRESS: Exists largely as a set of plastic moldings and a virtual computer simulation.
POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS: Based on 1960s "Air Jeep" technology, which has yet to prove itself in 50 years.