Consumer Energy Report is now Energy Trends Insider -- Read More »

By Samuel R. Avro on Jan 11, 2009 with no responses

World’s First Flying Car Set For Take-off

Tags:

The sci-fi dream seems close to becoming a reality. The Terrafugia Transition can convert into an aircraft in 15 seconds.

The world’s first ever fully-integrated flying car may be in showrooms near you within 18 months if it can survive its scheduled test flight.

The Terrafugia Transition is capable of transitioning itself from a sporty automobile into an airplane in just fifteen seconds.

The vehicle, which James Bond would surely love to own, has reached speeds of ninety miles per hour during road tests, and is said to have a cruising speed of one hundred fifteen miles an hour while in the air. Developed by former NASA engineers, it has a range of 500 miles on just one tank of gas.

The engine is fueled by traditional gasoline for both driving on the road and flying in the air.

“This is the first really integrated design where the wings fold up automatically and all the parts are in one vehicle.” says 31 year old Carl Dietrich who runs the Woburn, Mass. based company.

Dietrich research began as an extracurricular activity while he was completing his Ph.D. in aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. After winning the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for outstanding innovation, he spent most of it on developing the prototype of what now seems closer to becoming a reality.

Despite coming at a heavy retail cost, $194,000, Dietrich says that he has already received more than 40 orders.

Getting insurance may be a little tricky, however, and one will also need a drivers license, and a pilot’s license. Also, if one doesn’t live in Alaska, you wouldn’t be able to take off from your local highway as most people –both young and old– dream of.

This graphic shows how the flying car can be used as a practical vehicle, even capable of being stored in a garage.

The company says that it’s fairly easy to run and maintain, being that it can fit into a garage and runs on a standard gasoline engine.

The never dying dream of flying above traffic has been around for generations. Glenn Curtiss, the rival designer of the Wright Brothers, designed a flying car in 1917 which he called the Autoplane. It never flew, though it did manage a few short hops.

The Transition is the first plane/car to be fully integrated into one vehicle.

Dietrich is optimistic about the vehicle’s potential. “In the long term we have the potential to make air travel practical for individuals at a price that would meet or beat driving, with huge time savings.” he said.

If it were to become a reality, maintaining safe airspace would present a potential problem.

NASA has developed a system called Highway in the Sky, which would utilize both GPS and satellites in order to help flying cars navigate their way in a safe environment. However, if mass produced, the FAA would probably have to revamp their entire air safety protocols from the ground up.