It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s a Flying Car!

The Jetsons, Tron, Total Recall, Spaceballs, Blade Runner, Star Wars, and my personal favorite Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. When thinking about the world of the future, transportation is an area many peoples’ minds jump to: teleportation, hovercrafts, and last but not least, the flying car. The thought of zipping around in the air in your own little aircraft may seem a lifetime away, however what would you say if I told you that there is a flying car on the market right now?!

PAL-V (short for Personal Air Land Vehicle) started in the Netherlands in 2001 with the aim of creating a vehicle that could both fly and be road-safe. Adhering to all the current car and flying vehicle regulations so that the product would not only be the car of the future, a real-life flying car, but it would be a real-life flying car people would be able to purchase and use to travel, as opposed to it being a niche luxury toy. The company says it aims “To offer people the most flexible form of mobility and the highest sense of freedom imaginable, while enjoying the ride.” It is made of carbon fiber, titanium, and aluminum and weighs 1,500lbs.

After numerous remodeling’s and redesigns by a team of automotive, aviation, and motorcycle engineers a prototype was developed leading to the first flight of the PAL-V International B.V.’s proof-of-concept prototype in 2012. They aimed to create a product that drew from the best aspects, and eliminated the limitations of a car, small (gyro) plane, and helicopter, to create a kind of crossbreed that would serve its purpose as a new form of transportation that people could “FlyDrive” around in.

“After years of hard work, beating the technical and qualification challenges, our team succeeded in creating an innovative flying car that complies with existing safety standards, determined by regulatory bodies around the world,” says Robert Dingemanse, CEO of PAL-V. The next phase of development has now commenced, engineering the commercial version that can be pre-ordered today.

PAL-V currently offers two routes to get into the flying car game: PAL-V Liberty Pioneer Edition and PAL-V Liberty Sport. PAL-V Liberty Pioneer Edition costs about $599,000 and has the option to be personalised, and the PAL-V Liberty Sport costs around $399,000 and is the basic model. As part of these packages you get courses as to how to drive and control the vehicle. Currently you can reserve a PAL-V model online for $25,000 for the Pal-V Liberty Pioneer Edition, or $10,000 for the Pal-Liberty Sport. A drivers license is not enough to operate the Pal-V; you must also have a license to fly, which requires a minimum of 40 hours of flight time. The product can switch from drive to flight mode in about 5 to 10 minutes according to the companies website. It is safe to say this is not a vehicle for the everyday man; this is a luxury item for those wanting to be part of the future before it comes to anyone else.

Although on the surface this may seem like just another luxury mode of transportation like a Lamborghini, or a Ferrari, that only the super rich can afford and enjoy, however it is not only this demographic looking into PAL-V as a possibility for the future. Emergency service companies are looking into the vehicles as potentially extremely helpful in responding to fires, explosions, and other hard to reach locations, or situations.

A Few Specific Facts and Measurements:

General Characteristics:

  • Crew: 1
  • Capacity: 2
  • Length: 4 m (13 ft. 1 in) with rotor folded
  • Width: 6 m (5 ft. 3 in) with rotor folded
  • Height: 6 m (5 ft. 3 in) with rotor folded
  • Empty weight: 680 kg (1,499 lb.)
  • Gross weight: 910 kg (2,006 lb.)
  • Propellers: 2-bladed
  • Maximum speed: 180 km/h (112 mph; 97 kn)

Mark Jennings-Bates, Vice President of Americas, founder of a charity, aRally4life.org, and self-proclaimed adventure-junkie, joined PAL-V around 2008. He is originally from the UK, then moved to Canada in 1988, before ending up in New York. At the World Fair Nano in Brooklyn, New York, in early September he announced he wants to be the first person to ever fly around the world in a flying car. He spoke of having wanted to do it for a while and as he researched to see the plausibility of such as project he came across PAL-V.

^^Mark Jennings-Bates

Bates spoke of feeling like from the outside there are only two interpretations of what those developing flying cars are like: “Either a mad professor, or an MIT graduate who doesn’t have the funding to go forward and don’t have the commercial expertise,” however at PAL-V there are serious engineers and innovators, with just the right amount of mad scientist in them to see into the future. Bates’ current job consists of doing a range of different information and advertising campaigns, with the aim of getting the market informed, and getting a few pre-orders before the company starts selling officially in, they hope, 2018. They have already opened the first flying car school in the United Stares in Roosevelt, Utah.

When asked about the companies clientele and target audience Bates said, “we are trying to work it out ourselves” as early adopters of the idea they don’t have much, if anything, to go on concerning how it will do on-market. When pushed on the questions he answered “Those who don’t have to worry about money, probably not pilots, they want to be the first to say they have a flying car in their collection, or museum etc. They want to go to the country club and say they have one.” The interest according to Bates has been coming from across the world, with a substantial amount of interest being shown in China. Many analysts and contractors for the companies and individuals in China are advising the company to be ready for more than 1,000 purchases of the vehicles per year once they begin shipping. The company is expecting about 50 to 100 vehicles per month and to hopefully be selling in the hundreds in 2019.

So where do these vehicles sit in the grand scheme of things in the future? “We will never solve the worlds transportation problem“, Bates said. He went on to say “It’s a misunderstanding to think it will solve the problem.” Bates gave the example of how annoying it is when there are multiple drones flying around an area and there is a constant buzzing. He compares people flying the cars around to that except noisier and worse. At less than 70 decibels it is much quieter than helicopters due to the slower rotating of the main rotor, however on mass that would be unbearable, according to Bates. So they may not be the new mode of transportation any time soon, or not at least until they find a way to make them quieter, and lower the price, however they are undoubtedly extremely exciting.

Next time you’re walking down a street and you see people staring and getting their phones out, pointing them at what you expect to be some gold Lamborghini, or bright red Ferrari, it may well be that the phones are pointed up in the sky at a flying car.

If you are interested in learning more about the different flying cars in development and soon to be released look at companies such as: AeroMobil 3.0, Skyrunner, Moller Skycar, and Xplorair PX200.