Date
21 August 2017
Terrafugia's Transition on display at an international auto show. The vehicle is actually a plane that you can drive, rather than the other way round..Photo: Bloomberg
Terrafugia's Transition on display at an international auto show. The vehicle is actually a plane that you can drive, rather than the other way round..Photo: Bloomberg

Flying cars: Fantasy vs. reality

It has long been the dream of many a harried motorist: a car that can take to the air at the flip of a button, liberating the driver from the chaos and the gridlock on the roads.

Well, research has been underway in that direction and some firms have unveiled prototypes of new vehicles that can operate in the air as well as on the roads.

But judging by the offerings on display, we can say that we are still a long way off from realizing the ultimate fantasy.

Earlier this month, a Slovakian firm — AeroMobil — unveiled the prototype of what it touted as the “world’s most advanced flying car”. 

The vehicle will use existing infrastructure created for automobiles and planes, fitting into a normal parking space when its wings are folded and taking normal fuel that is available at every gas station.

Promising a flight top speed of 124 miles per hour, the two-seater is in reality more of a flying sports car than a flying family car.

Now, an American firm Terrafugia has sought to create waves by announcing a new roadable aircraft named “Transition” that can convert from car to plane in a jiffy.

The vehicle has a steering wheel for ground navigation, which pilot-drivers can then switch out for a steering stick in the air.

Keeping the regulatory perspective in mind, the developer has built in safety measures mandated by both the US aviation and road transport authorities.

Thus, for instance, the Transition has both a parachute and airbags. 

But it is not quite the flying car that people fantasize about. It is actually a plane that you can drive rather than a car you can fly, the Washington Post noted.

To use both the flying and driving functions, one must have at least a sports pilot license.

Also, you’ll need a lot of room and a wide berth to take off, which can happen only if the vehicle gets to a speed of about 70 miles per hour.

That means it cannot be used on the typical highways.

For the future, Terrafugia is planning a flying car that won’t need a runway, but it won’t happen anytime soon. The development process alone for that model, according to the Post, could take 8-12 years.

So, for the moment, keep dreaming. 

– Contact us at [email protected]

RC

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