Flying cars are usually the stuff of James Bond and science fiction movies, but they are now on the verge of becoming high-priced toys for the super-rich.
At least three companies that have been working on flying car prototypes say they are ready to roll out retail models of what the industry calls “roadable aircraft” next year or the year after.
“[Customers] range from private persons for mobility use, professionals and business people for more efficient and effective mobility to police, aid organizations and military applications,” said Monique Habets-Verduijn of PAL-V, a company in the Netherlands that is getting ready to roll out a $395,000 “gyrocopter” called the PAL-V ONE in 2016.
Moller International, based in Davis, Calif., is hoping to roll out a two-passenger personal vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle next year that will sell for $350,000, says company founder Paul Moller. The Skycar 200 is awaiting Federal Aviation Administration approval.
Terrafugia, a company founded by a group of MIT engineers, has accepted $10,000 deposits from 100 customers for purchases of its vehicle, which is expected to take to the streets and skies in 2016. The vehicle, called the “Transition,” will cost $279,000. It has been under development since 2006.
The Transition has retractable wings that allow it to switch from driving and flying modes in under a minute, according to the company. It can fit into a one-car garage and is equipped with a parachute. It has a range of 410 miles in the air and 805 miles on land.
“A steering wheel and gas and brake pedals on the ground make it familiar to drive while a stick and rudder pedals provide responsive control in flight,” the company says of the Transition on its Web site. “Converting between flight and drive modes is comparable to putting down the top on your convertible.”
The PAL-V ONE is a three-wheeled hybrid car that can be customized for military, medical, surveillance and law enforcement uses, according to the company. It can reach speeds of 112 mph on the road and in the air and has a range of up to 750 miles on land and 315 miles in the air, according to the company.
“Flying a PAL-V is like a standard gyrocopter,” PAL-V says on its Web site. “It is quieter than helicopters due to the slower rotation of the main rotor. It takes off and lands with low speed, cannot stall, and is very easy to control.”
Terrafugia and PAL-V say their vehicles will require drivers to have both pilot's and driver's licenses.
PAL-V, Terrafugia and Moller are also working on their next generation products. Terrafugia, for example, is working on a four-seat vehicle it hopes to launch in eight to 10 years.
Moller, meanwhile, has its own four-seat prototype, the Skycar 400, which is expected to cost about $500,000 and has at least four years left in development.