As a result of drone technology, the world of aviation is rapidly changing. Multiple companies are working on eVTOL aircraft that will, in a few years, whisk you over congested urban centers or to nearby cities without the hassle of that full airport experience. But it’s not every day we see a flying car.
If you’ve ever look at an old issue of Popular Mechanics, you’ll have seen concepts for flying cars. Though they didn’t have online metrics in those days (there was no internet), you can bet that those stories picked up a ton of eyeballs. And why wouldn’t they? I mean, think of the convenience if you could have a vehicle that could drive you to the office and fly you safely to a neighboring city?
That vision persists.
The flying cars of old
There were a lot of dreamers in those early days. And a lot of concepts that made it onto the pages of Popular Mechanic, but no further. One of my favorite blogs, which appears to now be dormant, used to be ModernMechanix.com. There was something great about seeing those old articles, which the blog described cleverly as Tomorrow’s Future Today. Get in there and do a search for “Flying Cars” and you’ll pull up some amazing concepts like this one:
Convair, which produced the car illustrated above, briefly did make flying cars. One of them is on display in the US at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s museum:
A new flying car…
And now comes word that another company is entering the modern flying car era.
The firm is called NFT Inc. and is an Israeli-American startup. Its planned vehicle is called ASKA, and it looks pretty interesting. The company bills it as “the world’s first consumer drive & fly eVTOL,” where eVTOL stands for Electric Vertical Take-off and Landing. It’s part of a coming shift in aviation where we’ll see drone-like vehicles transport goods, and people, over urban areas and to nearby cities. It’s often referred to as UAM, or Urban Air Mobility.
The whole VTOL world has gotten a massive kickstart from the work that’s been done with drones. Variation of the flight controllers that keep our drones stable in the air are used in these machines, which make many hundreds of calculations per second, adjusting power to individuals motors in a non-stop flow to ensure stable flight. There have also been breakthroughs in battery power management, allowing these machines to be powered electrically.
In fact, this bird can be plugged in and charged up just like a Tesla. It can use existing charging stations and you can park it in your garage.
The ASKA has a ton of cool design features, including four motors mounted on foldable arms and two on its wings. The wings and those two motors rotate upward for vertical takeoff, then forward (like a regular airplane) for forward flight. The airfoil also provides lift, which assists with range.
The machine also comes with a ballistic parachute, and training for a pilot’s license is included with purchase.
A full-scale prototype is being build over this year and 2022, with aircraft certification and production slated for 2022-2025. It is, after all, a big deal to get certification for a brand new aircraft.
Modest infrastructure required
Of course, you can’t just go and unfold those arms and just start flying from, say, your local Costco parking lot. You’ll need a pad with required clearance, along with a lockable fence to keep people from walking over and saying: “What’s tha…” thwup. So the fence is kinda important.
“ASKA™ requires minimal infrastructure investment; vertiport needed for ASKA™, lift-off and land in a space of 65×65 ft / 20 x 20 meters, security gates to drive in and out,” says its website. But that’s a small price to pay, considering the advantages:
Drive, fly, and then drive to the final destination in one vehicle – uninterrupted. No need to take a car to an air terminal, park, wait for an air taxi, then search for transport to complete the journey.
Take the whole family
The ASKA is a four-seater vehicle, and the company is aiming for a highway certification of 70 mph.
It also offers very good range, along with some future options for fuels such as hydrogen.
ASKA™’s cutting edge electric power system with range extenders provides effective flight range and increased power source reliability. ASKA™’s initial signature model is offered with a range of up to 250 miles. Full electric system architecture of ASKA enables future models to convert range extenders to any other energy source such as hydrogen.ASKA website
Though I’d love to fly a machine like this (I really would), I’m not the target market. Why? I simply don’t have the dough to drop $729,000 for a flying car. You probably don’t, either.
But some people will be able to afford this, and some people will indeed buy it. The company is already taking pre-orders for the ASKA. It’s also a signal that the age of the flying car, finally, is nearly here.
And for the rest of us? Well, it’s nice to dream.
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