Almost since the invention of the automobile, people have dreamed of building a single vehicle that could drive on the road and take to the sky. Over the years there have been numerous attempts to build a viable “roadable aircraft” – a self-contained airplane/car hybrid – but few of these concepts ever made it off the drawing board. And even fewer made it off the ground. But with advances in technology and engineering, modern designs for the flying car are making that dream closer to reality.
1. AFA Sokol A400
One such design is the Sokol A400 from the Advanced Flying Automobile (AFA) Company of Huntington Beach, California. At first glance, the A400 looks like a new model sports car, with its swooping lines and sporty appearance. A look under the hood would further your assumption, as you would find a Chevy Corvette engine, capable of reaching speeds of 100MPH. However, at the touch of a button, telescopic wings emerge from the roof; a rear propeller pops up from the trunk; the “spoiler” becomes a vertical stabilizer that extends up over the car; and, finally, a pair of horizontal stabilizers appear from just behind the rear wheels. James Bond would be proud.
The A400 is still in the engineering phase, though a one-quarter scale model is currently being tested. AFA hopes to have a full-sized prototype built in the next few years, with production to begin within five years if possible. The projected cost to consumers looks to be somewhere in the range of $300,000 – $400,000.
2. The Milner AirCar
Another promising design is the AirCar by Milner Motors in Vancouver, Washington. This flying car is a four-door, four-seater with wings that fold up over the rear of the vehicle when driving, making it about the same width as a Toyota Corolla. It uses dual ducted fans (a propeller mounted inside a cylinder, which allows for more thrust than a standard propeller) to reach air speeds of up to 200MPH for a 1,000 mile flight range. To keep you under the speed limit on the ground, a separate 40-hp engine operates the wheels while driving.
According to the Milner website, a working prototype of the AirCar is currently being constructed. Once the design has been put into production, the estimated price is somewhere in the neighborhood of $450,000.
3. Macro SkyRider XR2
One of the major concerns people have with the idea of a roadable aircraft is the safety issue surrounding a bunch of fast, flying objects all trying to occupy the same airspace. One company, Macro Industries, is taking this into consideration with the development of their four-passenger, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicle, the SkyRider XR2.
Macro is specifically building their flying car to integrate a “highway in the sky” computerized navigation system being developed by NASA. The new system will be similar to our current turn-by-turn GPS navigators, but will also be able to monitor air traffic to determine the best altitude and route to take to avoid other vehicles. SkyRider XR2 would take this system a step further by allowing you to simply program a destination and it will do the flying for you, making changes along the way based upon air traffic and weather conditions.
The SkyRider XR2 is still in the prototype phase while they look for investors to help fund the project. Once they’re able to start building, they estimate the cost to be $500,000 to $1 million at first, but hope to get the cost down to $50,000 once demand makes mass production possible.
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