Flight, the one idea that humans have been most fascinated with since the dawn of humanity. In the year, 1908 when the Wright brothers executed the first flight, it was revolutionary as nothing like that had been done previously and the entire world was astonished and since then the miracle of flight has been evolving. From uncomfortable and slow planes to the comfortable jumbo jets of today, air travel has become truly amazing, but it is still a form of public transport and some people are trying to build personal vehicles, especially cars that are capable of flight. One name that appears to become the first one in this field is AeroMobil.
History of Flying Cars
In the year 1940, Henry Ford stated that a combination of aircraft and motor vehicles is coming and to this day we have yet to see flying cars being commercially produced. However, attempts to produce such vehicles had already begun years before his statement as the first recorded example goes back to 1917 when an aircraft designer Glenn Curtis designed something called Autoplane, which had a propeller and wings on the body of a car. It was able to hop every now and then but that cannot be considered as flight.
After this, multiple people have tried their hands on producing the first commercially successful flying car but ultimately all failed, either because it was not known by the general public or the vehicles were not much capable. Even in the early 2000s the race to build a functional flight-capable automobile was ongoing and even the US defenses in 2009 initiated a project with famous aircraft producers like AAI Corporation and Lockheed Martin to build the same vehicle but for armed forces, however, like other projects, it was canceled in 2013 for reasons not disclosed to the public. Another company by the name Terrafugia introduced a product in the year 2009 known as the Transition, it was one of the promising ones and was part of many documentaries as well. It was capable of reaching a land speed of 70 miles/hour and a flight speed of 107 miles/hour. The few advantages that made it seem reliable were that it had automated foldable wings and a flight range of 400 miles, it took over 3 years to develop and still was under prototype phase. After many years of legal issues in 2021, it received the permit to be used as a flight-only vehicle, this is a small win but it fails the purpose it was built for.
In the year 2013, a Slovakian company entered the race of flying cars, AeroMobil. Unlike other products that were basically shown as prototypes and then had hollow promises or other issues, Aeromobil took a different approach, the lead designer Štefan Klein spent over 20 years perfecting it. As people started asking for the product finally in 2013, Aeromobil 2.5 was released for the press as a proof-of-concept and by the name you can guess prior to it, there have been many developments into its design. This version was shown in Montreal at SAE AeroTech Congress and Exhibition and received overall positive feedback. Following year, AeroMobil 3.0 was introduced at the Pioneers Festival in Australia.
- AeroMobil 3.0: The first model that was promised to be sold to the public was flown in October of 2014. Though at that point it was still a prototype, it appeared like the first car to be sold to people. It was designed with a steel frame that was covered with extremely light carbon fiber, and thanks to this material engineers were able to keep the weight down as it is essential for flight. Despite being a car, it was huge given it only seated 2 passengers as the wingspan was about 27 feet across but thankfully they were foldable. Additionally, it could reach speeds of 120 miles/hour with a range of 400 miles. It was powered by Rotax 912 engine that was first approved for usage in 1995, even though it was old it was capable of producing 100 horsepower and not to mention the reliability. Ultimately, it was looking hopeful for this car, unfortunately, a prototype was crashed in 2015 which was set to be delivered in 2018 to a customer. After that doubts were rising if it was safe or not and this led the company to ask for funds. Eventually, they were able to raise USD 3.2 million which allowed them to produce AeroMobil 4.0.
- AeroMobil 4.0: In the year 2017 the company unveiled the production model of their new flying car and stated it would begin taking preorders for the new vehicles at the end of 2017 and only 500 of these will be made and out of these first 25 will be considered as the founders’ edition and were promised to be delivered to the customers in 2020. But as you can see it is not the case, because just like Terrafugia, the company is still trying to get licenses and overcome other legal issues. As for the vehicle itself, it is now a hybrid and is capable of running on gasoline and electricity. In addition to that, it now has 4 seats, which is more like a car and its appearance now is more suitable for the roads. At the heart of this vehicle is a Subaru’s 2.0L Boxer engine which is capable of producing 110 horsepower and combined with complex electronics the maximum output of AeroMobil 4.0 is 300 horsepower. It now also has adjustable suspension that one can change depending on the situation. But ultimately, it is still a prototype, and the company is already working on AeroMobil 5.0 which will be a VTOL (Vertical take-off and Landing) capable vehicle. But will that be sold? Who knows.
Overall, the concept of the flying car seems really interesting on paper and some of the production models even appear something that can be utilized in the future. Even though we have the technology to produce them, the real question here is are we smart enough to utilize such a product? Judging from how people drive regular cars, it is best to leave these ideas to the paper.