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Flying cars are coming!

Posted on 01 May, 2017

Forget autonomous and electric vehicles, look up and you could be lucky enough to spot a flying car.  Although the technology isn't quite at the stage of the much-loved cartoon, The Jetsons', the trend is becoming so popular that the New York Times recently dedicated a full page story to the subject. The flying car getting the most coverage in the news just lately is the Kitty Hawk Flyer, which has been backed by Google Founder, Larry Page.  The Kitty Hawk Flyer was unveiled recently and has been designed to fly over water. "You don't need a pilot's license and you'll learn to fly in minutes," it states on the official website. Launched recently on the company website, the vehicle has had mixed reactions from critics but for those who are interested, there is already an offer on the table to donate $100 towards a Flyer Discovery Membership, in order to get first dibs on the machine and a $2,000 discount.  For those who want something a bit more modern and aerodynamic, the Terrafugia X is a concept which looks high-tech and according to designers, it "won’t require an airport for takeoff and landing, and it will drive on all roads and highways - providing the convenience of true door-to-door transportation". Terrafugia translates as "escape the Earth" in Latin and was founded by five MIT graduates in 2006.  At present, the team at Terrafugia is completing final production vehicle design for the Transition, a less high-tech looking vehicle which the company is preparing to deliver within the next three years. According to the company website, the Transition has already received all of the special legal considerations necessary to enter the US market, which means that we could possibly see it in New Zealand within our lifetime.  The Transition has a folding-wing, with two seats inside the aircraft and at the moment, it runs on premium unleaded petrol. The designers plan to incorporate autonomous flight technology in the future.  Although the future of flying cars seems exciting, to some, it is not a new trend, in fact people have been designing flying cars since before Chitty Chitty Bang Bang took to the skies! In 1841, William Samuel Henson and John Stringfellow patented a flying car called 'Ariel' which had a wingspan of 150 feet.  It was incapable of flight, however an updated version was built in 1848 which was able to fly short distances.  The first successful flying car to achieve type certification in the United States was the 1923 Pitcairn PCA-2 which was built by Harold F. Pitcairn and sold in the mass market.  And even as recently as the 1980s, the Sky Commuter was developed by Boeing engineers and a concept version of the vehicle could be purchased for (US)$71,500.   The vehicle worked via a gas turbine engine and cost Boeing $6 million dollars in development costs.  Whatever your feelings are about flying vehicles, their are people out there who are determined to develop a vehicle that will be sustainable, affordable and safe.  The question is, who will succeed?