Wednesday, 16 June 2010

What's Hot, What's Not! - Sky Cars - The Only Way is Up


Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly, but 
the bumblebee doesn't know that so it goes on flying anyway.  
~ Mary Kay Ash


Mid flight to England this summer, trying to take my mind of the nausea provoking turbulence, I noticed in the in-flight magazine an interesting addition to the gadget section. Nestled on the page in between this years ‘must haves’, of a pair of Skull-crusher headphones, a weird USB stick and an ugly suitcase cover was a cherry red PAL-V (Personal Air & Land Vehicle).

For one horrible moment, I thought that the makers of the Reliant
Robin (a 3-wheeled car from the 70’s, infamous for toppling over whilst cornering) was trying to make a 21st century come back. Upon further inspection, it became apparent that this is far more superior. Intended to be the world’s first practical ‘flying car’, the PAL-V is a single seated, three-wheeled vehicle that can fly as a gyro-copter, drive as a regular car and handles with the diversity of a motorbike. Now how cool is that, in these days of increasing gridlock and road rage! Its foldable rotor means that it can be driven from your doorstep and then flown to your destination of choice. This could revolutionize personal air travel, as just getting to the airport and one’s flight is a nightmare these days.


The PAL-V is due to appear in 2012. Conceived by John Bakker working with Spark design (amongst others), it has taken 6 years to develop a vehicle concept that can fly as well as drive. The PAL-V has a possible speed of up to 125 mph on land and 120 mph in the air, as well as being able to soar to heights of 4,000 feet.

With transport going vertical, our highways may soon look like something out of the film ‘The Fifth Element’, with Bruce Willis. But it’s not all plain sailing or should I say flying? In order to be able to drive/fly one of these you will need a plethora of licences. For starters, an aircraft certification: “Small Rotorcraft”, road certification: Three wheeled Motorcycles, Class L5e, car drivers license, 20-40 hours of flying experience and approximately $ 7000 to pay for it all! That’s all before you have bought the aircraft, which will only set you back a paltry $75,000.

The PAL-V on the other hand is ‘cheap’, compared to the middle of the range priced, Terrafugia at $194,000. This one looks rather like a plane and has been dubbed ‘not a true skycar’, by its critics. Then there is the top of the range (not on sale just yet) Moller Skycar M400 at $526,634.35. This can comfortably seat four people and travels up to speeds of 380 mph.




Of course in order to fly with the happy abandon of a Jetsons cartoon, (Hanna Barbara), a foolproof GPS navigation system will also have to be implemented for transport that is going to be land-air, at a moments notice, otherwise it could be disastrous. But all said and done, I must admit I like the idea of this mode of transport and should I decide to invest in one, it’ll land nicely on the roof of my vertical garden!



Sources: Pal-V    Moller    Terrafugia

© Alison Day 
First published in the Connections magazine #25 Autumn 2009

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