PAL-V ONE–an interesting entry in the flying car realm

PAL-V Europe NV started in 2001 to design a roadable aircraft.  What they came up with is very interesting indeed.  It’s a two-place (two seater) gyroplane which behaves like a souped-up 3 wheel motorcycle on the road (yes, it leans!)

There are always compromises when trying to come up with a machine that works both in the air and on the road.  Historically, companies working in this area emphasize the air, and give you a “roadable” machine which has pretty lousy performance, but gets you from your garage to the airport, and that’s about it.  PAL-V, on the other hand has really worked on the road part of the equation, producing a vehicle which delivers high performance (112mph), has good range, and seems like it would actually be fun to drive.

As far as the airborne side goes, an gyroplane is an interesting approach.  It is a rotary wing craft, but the wing is not powered, it rotates from forward air pressure.  This means you can’t land or take off vertically, but it is a lot simpler and cheaper than a helicopter’s rotor mechanism.  It is quieter than a helicopter as the blades spin much slower, it takes off and lands at low speeds, and can’t stall.  In the event of an engine failure, it can be auto-rotated to a safe landing.  It’s designed to fly below 4,000 feet in uncontrolled VFR (visual flight rules) traffic.  They say it will do 112mph in the air as well as on land!

Roadable high-performance gyroplane
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Terrafugia flying car–getting closer to reality!

Terrafugia has been working on some interesting things in the flying-car realm.  I wrote about them a couple of years ago, but now we are getting closer to being able to actually go out and buy one of these.

Driving to flying, and back to driving again

Here’s some interesting inside-the-cockpit footage:

Inside the cockpit

Now, they have announced that they are working on a hybrid-electric VTOL car!  At the moment, it’s at the concept stage, but it certainly would be really cool if they can get it off the ground (er, sorry, I couldn’t resist)

VTOL hybrid gas/electric

Moller Skycar M400X demonstration postponed

Today is the day Moller Interational was supposed to demonstrate untethered, manned flight with their Skycar M400X prototype.  There have been no announcements on their website, and the blog section where this (among other things) was being discussed has been taken down, supposedly due to abusive fake postings by people impersonating Moller employees.  Hmm… doesn’t seem like it would be rocket science to secure THAT, now does it?

After doing a bit more digging today, I unearthed an article in Yahoo! Finance which states that the demo has been postponed.  This was released Sept 27, 2011.  I find it very curious that Moller’s website does not have any of this information.  One would think that platform would be an obvious way to communicate with the public and investors, and that from a PR standpoint, transparency would be a good idea.  But hey, what do I know, eh?

According to the Yahoo! press release: “The new flight date will be announced once the final approvals have been given from the FAA, event sponsors, Moller's flight preparation team and an acceptable weather window can be identified.”

There’s lots of spin on there, but they say the rescheduled demo will be conducted at Lake Minden, a private 41 acre lake resort located 20 miles north of Sacramento International Airport.

The date, of course has not been set.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  You’d think that Moller would want to regain a bit of credibility by setting a date (soon) and then actually (gasp) going through with it.  But again, what do I know, eh?

I tend to agree with one of the followup posters on the above article: “Surely 35+ years is enough time to successfully overcome the relevant challenges. It might be time to let a more practical, results oriented leader take the reins. I suspect Burt Rutan could get the thing up and running in about 20 minutes.”  Let’s give him a couple of months so he can do a really bang-up job!

Terrafugia flying car

Another company has joined the development effort to produce the elusive flying car.  As I mentioned in a previous post, this isn’t a new concept, and there have been several attempts over the years to address this market.  The “Transition” by Terrafugia is probably one of the better looking and more interesting ones though.

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The wings unfold at the push of a button in less than 30 seconds.  You do your preflight and redirect the engine’s power to the pusher prop instead of the wheels, and you are ready to take off.  Here is a video of the prototype’s first flight:

In contrast, one of the early and better known original flying cars is the Taylor Aerocar.  This vehicle (below) has a “pod” which attaches to the back of the car containing the wings and propeller assembly.  This pod is manually detached and left at the airport when the car is converted to road use.  This conversion reportedly took 30 minutes.  Clearly, pushing a button and staying in the comfort of the cab is much more convenient, especially in inclement weather.

File:Taylor-Aerocar-III.jpg
The Taylor Aerocar

The Fulton Airphibian AF-3-101 had a similar design:

File:Fulton Airphibian FA-3-101.jpg

The Maverick (the subject of my earlier post) flying car is interesting, but as it’s basically a ram-air parachute wing attached to a rather goofy looking sand buggy, it doesn’t win style awards in my book.  Also, conversion takes time:

File:Maverick Flying Car.jpg

The only other variant I am aware of is the PD-1 Roadable Glasair being developed by Plane Driven.  This one has an engine pod below the center of the fuselage which is slid on rails toward the tail of the plane, then the wings are manually folded against the sides for road use.  The conversion is more manual, but doesn’t seem to awkward.

Of course, I’m not forgetting about Moller’s Skycar (see my posting here).  That vehicle is a radically different design due to it’s VTOL capabilities.  It’s quite pricy, but very swoopy looking:

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There are many others, of course. Check out the Wikipedia article.  I chose the ones above to talk about because they seemed the most practical and actually affordable.  There are several interesting units being developed, but their pricing is ludicrous.  Take the Urban Aeronautics’ X-Hawk for example.  This has a projected price of $3 million.  Maybe that’s OK for government search & rescue use, but it is obviously not useful to the general public.

A flying car? Yes, and a new take on an old problem

There have been several different “flying cars” throughout the years, and it’s always been a dream of many people.  However, there have always been problems with the designs.  Usually, while they do fly, they are terrible on the road.  As a pilot, this sort of thing holds a particular fascination for me.

These guys decided to design a vehicle that was good on the road first, and then make it fly.  They use a ram-air parachute for the wing, and have created a really unique and clever vehicle.  Check out the video on their website.  Amazing stuff!

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