Being stuck in traffic can make the imagination run wild; the longer the traffic snarl, the greater the desire for a flying car. While motorists across the world’s choked roads have been dreaming of a flying car – even if it’s as banal as the Weaselys’ Flying Ford Anglia – Slovakian company AeroMobil S.R.O. has conjured up a prototype.
AeroMobil has manufactured a car that can run on roads like an ordinary one and take off into the air when desired. This innovation, however, was not an overnight effort. Juraj Vaculík, co-founder and CEO of AeroMobil S.R.O, has been working on this idea since 1990. AeroMobil has seen many highs and lows during these 20 years of development. Of course, building a prototype with contrasting working principles is one of the biggest challenges anyone could face. However, AeroMobil overcame it and is gearing up to launch the car in 2017.
The concept of flying cars is not a new concept developed in the 21st century. Work on a prototype started as early as the 1920s, and in 1949 Aerocar International designed and built a roadable aircraft that it planned to release in the early 1950s. Aerocar International built six models of Aerocars; however, none of them entered production owing to the impractical design features.
With advancements in Science and Technology, a significant number of small/medium companies started working on the flying car prototype to make it a reality.
AeroMobil’s flying car is no different from a regular car in terms of fuel. It runs on gasoline and uses retractable wings that unfold before flight. However, the working principle of a car and aircraft are diametrically opposite – while a car requires downward force, an aircraft requires air lift. The Slovakian company worked on the exterior of the vehicle extensively to ensure its compatibility with road and air travel. The car requires a land strip of 200 meters for take-off and 50 meters of landing, making it currently unusable in traffic, except under specific circumstances. It can reach speeds of up to 125 mph and can cover a distance of 435 miles on a full tank.
This path breaking innovation has AeroMobil protecting it with ample IP. AeroMobil filed several patents across the world to protect its invention. One interesting and important patent is US patent application 20150028150 which discusses the transformation method involved in making the vehicle compatible for both ground and air transport.
The car is just not a basic car-aircraft transformation vehicle. It comes with cutting edge features and safety mechanics. The vehicle is equipped with auto-pilot functionality and advanced parachute deployment system to protect the rider in case of emergencies. The two-seater does not require a smooth land strip for takeoff or landing unlike other commercial aircrafts. The vehicle is stocked with sturdy suspension that enables it to take-off and land even in farm lands and rough terrains. Exciting!
However, competition is rife. Another firm, Terrafugia, founded by graduates from MIT, is giving stiff competition to AeroMobil by developing a competitor roadable aircraft, TF-X. Both vehicles are yet to be released and time will decide the winner.
Back in 2010, Terrafugia built a flying car The Transition. However, Federal Aviation Administration did not certify the vehicle due to non-compliances with respect to the weight and speed of Transition. Terrafugia worked on multiple prototypes for Transition, but was unable to bring it to production owing to technology feasibility and design complications. As a follow-up model, Terrafugia created the TF-X, a more sophisticated flying car both in terms of design and performance. Both cars are yet to enter the market. Even though, TF-X is slightly advanced in terms of performance compared AeroMobil, early release of AeroMobil might give it an edge in terms market capture when compared to TF-X which is slated for production between 2023-2025.
Then there are the PAL-V and I-TEC Maverick that are out to conquer tough terrains with ease, and at a cost that could prove quite competitive. However, the AeroMobil until now is still believed to be the one with the best features. While the initial cost of these vehicles can prove disappointing to a larger segment of automobile users, it doesn’t seem like a long wait for the common man to take to the skies.
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