Flying cars: The companies that want to take motorists into the skies

Flying cars: The companies that want to take motorists into the skies
The TF-X… coming to a driveway near you soon? (Picture: Terrafugia)

Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.

If a flying car was something you thought belonged in Back to the Future, think again: the future is here.

A number of companies are in the race to produce a soaring motor vehicle that will capture the public’s imagination – and their money.

Last week, the government announced that driverless cars will be allowed on Britain’s roads from the beginning of next year, but those with a more adventurous streak – and a lot of cash – might want something a bit more exciting than a robotic chauffeur.

‘From the discovery of the first kites in China, to the earliest attempts to fly with wings made of feathers and lightweight wood attached to arms, flight has been the oldest dream of mankind,’ said Dan Wareham from Gilo Industries Group, based in Dorset, the aviation company behind the Parajet SkyRunner, a flying car that is part all-terrain road vehicle, part light-sport aircraft.

‘We live in an age where almost anything is possible and almost everything is available. Strange then, that the well-established fantasy in which flying cars are part of a futuristic landscape has remained completely out of reach to the captured imagination of millions.’

The SkyRunner, developed by Parajet International, uses a propeller and a parachute to glide through the air. It can reach up to 55mph in flight and has a maximum soaring altitude of 15,000ft.

The SkyRunner combines a propeller with a parachute in flight (Picture: Parajet)

A pre-production version of the vehicle has undergone test flights and has been granted an airworthiness certificate by the Federal Aviation Administration in the US. Further testing will take place over the next 12 months and it will go into production next year, retailing at about £75,000.

Parajet says it can train non-pilots to steer the craft in just two weeks, and while its initial target market is recreational, the company believes the SkyRunner could be used by the emergency services, farmers, police and the military.

‘For us, the concept of building a practical flying car was too much of an opportunity to pass by,’ said Wareham.

‘The challenge was to design and engineer a vehicle that was capable of long periods of flight, yet tough and agile enough to tackle tough terrain and city driving. We also wanted to create an aesthetic look that captured the essence of adventure; that worked both as a car and an aircraft.’

Two other vehicles which use a similar propeller/parachute combination are the Pégase from French company Vaylon, which will be available to buy next year, and the Maverick flying car, which is already on sale in the US for £55,000.

However, some manufacturers have taken a different approach: combining a car with wings. US company Terrafugia has built the Transition, a street-legal flying car with retractable wings that fits two people. You can reserve one now for a total cost of £165,000. In addition, Terrafugia is developing the TF-X, a four-seater hybrid electric flying car with vertical take-off and landing capabilities.

The Terrafugia Transition has collapsible wings (Picture: Terrafugia)

Meanwhile, in Slovakia, AeroMobil has made and tested a flying car with foldable wings. The AeroMobil 2.5 has a range of 700km (430 miles) and has a top flying speed of 200km/h (124mph).

An advanced prototype – the AeroMobil 3.0 – is in development, and is expected to go on sale in 2016.

‘The next AeroMobil will be a fully autonomous vehicle, which we hope will change how we travel for short and middle distances,’ said the company’s chief executive, Juraj Vaculik, who explained the fascination with flying cars.

‘They save us lot of time, whether traveling at medium distances of up to 500 miles or in crowded large metropolitan areas. They are more efficient as they consume a lot less gasoline and fly to the target point directly, so they are more environmentally friendly.’

The AeroMobil 2.5 goes for a spin (Picture: AeroMobil)

But isn’t the idea of a flying car just pie in the sky, something that can only be enjoyed by The Jetsons and Marty McFly? Not so, said Vaculik.

‘When we did our initial research, we were surprised how crowded the market for flying cars seems to be getting. There is a possibility of thousands of flying vehicles in the skies in the not too distant future.’

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3 August 2014 | 11:01 pm – Source:

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