These futuristic flying cars take air travel to the next level
The future of travel looks set to take off with these aerial-road hybrid air taxis.
Photo: Klein Vision, Samson Sky, PAL-V, Volkswagen
Look, our cars fly now! Flying cars are a well-worn trope in sci-fi movies to show just how far humanity has come. But, fun fact, they’ve been around since the ‘50s. Seriously — the American-made Aerocar (designed by Moulton Taylor) actually took flight back in 1949, though it never reached commercial viability and was never produced on a large scale.
Many companies are trying to change that. Some are opting for the VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing; meaning no need for a runway) route by cramming as many rotors as they need onto a vehicle to get it airborne. Meanwhile others have taken a purist approach by insisting on designing flying cars that literally switch gears from a car to plane mode.
Coming Soon: Flying cars in Singapore
Even Singapore is getting in on the action: Volocopter and Skyports promised to co-launch commercial air taxi services in Singapore by 2024. But some questions remain unanswered: how much would it cost to own one? And is one technically breaking the law if they take to the air and fly over an ERP gantry? These have to be addressed at length before we can safely say that flying cars are a thing. In the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the best and brightest aerial-road hybrids currently on the market.
1. Volkswagen’s V.MO
The German car brand’s Chinese division, Volkswagen Group China, recently unveiled news about its electric VTOL passenger drone prototype dubbed the V.MO (but unofficially called the flashier Flying Tiger for its black and gold colours). With ten rotors in all — eight providing vertical lift and two for horizonal flight — it’s estimated that a production version could carry four passengers, luggage in tow, for up to 200km.
2. Samson Sky’ Switchblade
The Switchblade is an American-made, street-legal three-wheeler decked out in a vivid Ferarri-esque red livery. With some help from a 335m runway, it is capable of a top-end speed of 210kmh that unfolds its wings and takes flight in under three minutes. The air-trike (three-wheeled motorbike) has been deemed airworthy by the Federal Aviation Administration in the US. This means that after rounds of flight tests and further development, this baby might be yours to take to the skies.
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3. Klein Vision’s AirCar
Credit: Klein Vision
Klein Vision’s AirCar is another convertible plane-car — this time constructed in Slovakia. Following over 200 takeoffs and landings, it recently saw the green light from the Slovak Transport Authority.
Taking all of two minutes and 15 seconds to fold or unfurl its wings, the petrol-powered two-seater cruises at a breezy 170kmh with an estimated range of 1,000km. The proof is in the pudding — the petrol-powered two-seater completed a 35-minute flight between airports in Nitra and Bratislava, Slovakia in June without a hitch. It will be commercially available within the next year, but it’s reported that a pilot’s license is necessary to fly it — as well as anywhere between S$750,000 to S$1.5 million.
4. PAL-V’s PAL-V Liberty
The third convertible vehicle in our list comes courtesy of the Dutch. This three-wheeler, which tops out at a not-too-shabby 170kmh, turns into a gyroplane at the flick of a switch. While it looks like a helicopter due to its rotor, gyroplanes’ rotors are unpowered; they spin freely and generate lift, but the plane itself is propelled by a rear-facing engine. Anyway, the PAL-V is rather unique in that it’s been approved for both roads and air — models are already available for reservation (for an asking price of around S$422,000), with deliveries slated for 2023.
Richard Ng, Journalist