Monday, July 9, 2018

Flying Car Debuts in Geneva

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If you happen to be stuck in a traffic gridlock right now, wouldn't you wish you can switch to "fly"-mode and escape from the maddening road congestion? 

Well, Dutch aircraft manufacturer Pal-V have launched a flying car that can convert from 'drive to flight' in under 10 minutes. 

Billed as the "world's first flying car production model", the Pal-V Liberty debuted at the Geneva Motor Show (March 08-18, 2018). 

Pal-V described it as "a car that flies" and "a plane that drives." 

It is certified to fly under the US Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency, and also meets standard road-safety requirements. 

The hybrid vehicle has a 200-horsepower engine that can reach driving speeds of up to 160 kilometres per hour in nine seconds, and a maximum flying speed of 180 kilometres per hour. 

It accommodates a driver and one passenger, and drivers will need a licence to both fly and drive the roadable aircraft. 

After Geneva, the product is going through the final step of the safety certification process, meaning it could be on the roads and in the skies by next year - if all goes well. 

"The production model is the moment of truth", said Pal-V CEO Robert Dingemanse. "A production model is the last stage in the research and development process before starting full production and delivery". 

However, the vehicle is already available to buy. The limited-edition Pioneer design, manufactured in a limited edition of 90, was the first PAL-V Liberty model on the market, retailing for €499,000 (approximately £444,000). 

The PAL-V Liberty Sport models will be made available next. This will offer less personalisation of features such as carbon-fibre detailing and dual controls, but will come at a lower price of €299,000 (about £265,000). 

The vehicle will be more affordable to own and operate than a standard helicopter, while also being able to operate as a car. Besides, costly hangar space is also spared, since owners can park the vehicle in a garage.

PAL-V are by no means the first company that have tried to put a flying car into mainstream production.

Aircraft manufacturer Bell Helicopter have revealed the cabin for an electric, self-piloting air taxi at the International Consumer Electronics Show (January 08-12, 2018) in Las Vegas, USA – designed for Uber's scheduled 2020 aircraft taxi service. 

And Airbus' autonomous, electric passenger drone successfully made its first test flight a month later. 

But Pal-V believe they are ahead of their rivals, because their Liberty model doesn't rely on entirely new or immature technologies – which would take a long time to regulate. 

"Our design philosophy of complying with existing road and air regulations saved us many years in time to market", said chief engineer Mike Stekelenburg. 

Pal-V guarantee safety for the vehicle. In adverse weather conditions, it can switch from flying to driving. It can also take off from either concrete or grass airstrips – it just requires a space for take-off of between 90 and 200 metres. 

Thanks to a dual-engine propulsion drive train, based on two fully airplane engines by Rotax, the probability of power failure is expected to be very slim. But if this were to happen in the air, Pal-V said that the underlying gyroplane technology would guarantee a safe landing. 

The PAL-V Liberty will take flight at the Farnborough International Airshow, taking place July 16 to 22 in the UK. 

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