News / USA

Flying Cars Closer to Reality

Terrafugia's experimental concept vehicle called the 'Transition'
Terrafugia's experimental concept vehicle called the 'Transition'

Multimedia

Vehicles that can be both driven and flown have long been a fantasy in the realm of science fiction.  But advances in technology have paved the way for just such a vehicle to enter the realm of fact.  Moreover, it could be available to the general public as early as next year.  Some of the concept vehicles were recently on display at the Experimental Aircraft Association's AirVenture in the Midwest state of Wisconsin.

Aviator Steve Saint comes from a flying family.  His father was a bush pilot in South America, where Saint spent much of his childhood.

Steve Saint
Steve Saint

"I grew up down in the Amazon jungle in the country of Ecuador where there are no roads, and down there, you either fly or you die," he said.

Saint is the founder of a company called "Indigenous Peoples Technology and Education Center," or "I-Tec," which serves people in remote areas isolated from most technology.  

To get him in and out of some of the roughest terrain on the planet, he turned to an old concept that has remained largely in the human imagination - a flying car.  Saint's innovation is called the "Maverick."

"This is primarily a car, but you can also fly it, and it only takes a couple of hours to master the flying," he said.

I-Tec's 'Maverick'
I-Tec's 'Maverick'

The Maverick can travel at speeds up to 150 kilometers per hour on a traditional roadway.  When it deploys a wing, that looks something like a parachute, it takes off, and can travel up to 100 meters in the air at 65 kilometers an hour.

It might not be very high or very fast, but Saint says the Maverick's function was the driving force behind its development.  

"People in frontier areas, humanitarian use, mission use, that's our primary focus, but we need to find a commercial market up here [in the United States]," he said.

Chief Operating Officer Anna Dietrich of the aircraft company "Terrafugia" believes there is such a market in the U.S. for her company's experimental concept vehicle, called the "Transition."

Anna Dietrich
Anna Dietrich

"We wanted to show that the same vehicle platform could fly, could drive, could fold up its wings in a reasonable amount of time under a minute, and would be able to park in your garage," she said.

The Transition is still an experimental concept vehicle, but it has flown during test flights.

I-Tec's Maverick has also achieved flight during testing.

While both are considered major innovations toward bringing the flying car out of the imagination and onto the highways and runways, some pilots and aviation enthusiasts are less than excited about the current design concepts.

"They never will be a really neat-looking car, and they will not be a real efficient airplane.  We're asking too much," says John Monnett, the founder of Sonex Aircraft, which is developing an electric-powered sport airplane.  He says the flying car concept still has major technological and aesthetic hurdles to overcome.

"It's a novel idea, and time will tell really," he says.  "Aircraft have to be built to a different standard than cars, and when you mix the two, what have you got?  Something that's mediocre."

Terrafugia's Dietrich disagrees.

"We feel like we have hit on a compromise that still meets the needs of our customers, still allows you to do more than you would be able to with either a plane or a car as two distinct vehicles," she says.

Dietrich says Terrafugia is moving forward into the next phase of developing the Transition.  The first commercially available Transition is scheduled for delivery in about 18 months, and the cost to purchase the flying car when it hits the market is estimated at about $200,000.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs