Ever wanted to buy a flying car? You only have a couple more years to wait, says a company that has built prototypes that can both drive and fly.
The flying roadster, a sporty two seater that transforms into a light sports aircraft, aims to go on sale in just two years from Slovakia-based Aeromobil.
"We believe that 2017 we’ll be able to launch this to market," said company co-founder and CEO Juraj Vaculik at a presentation at the South By Southwest Interactive conference in Austin Sunday.
The limited edition vehicle targeted at “wealthy supercar buyers and flight enthusiasts” will have a flying range of almost 700 kilometres on regular gasoline, Vaculik said. It is equipped with partial autopilot and a parachute that will automatically deploy if the pilot falls ill.
"Nobody has to jump out," he said.
He said pricing has not been set, but will be in the range of hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars.
Next, the company is already planning a flying car for the masses — one that is fully autonomous, self-driving and self-flying.
He envisions it as being both for private and shared usage.
"If something like a flying Uber and flying Lyft will be on the market, I think many users will find this a very efficient way to move," he said.
Vaculik says flying cars would be ideal for trips of up to about 640 kilometres where travel time to and from the airport, along with security checks, can currently double travel times by air.
They might also be useful for getting to places that aren’t connected by road and could reduce the need for expensive roads in the future, he added.
Finally, they could reduce traffic congestion, since cars could be spread out in different “layers” of airspace. Vaculik expects the flying cars to stay below an altitude of three kilometres.
Aeromobil, co-founded by Vaculik and his friend Stefan Klein, wowed the world with its first working prototype of a flying car at the 2013 Montreal Aerotech Congress in Montreal.
Last fall in Vienna, it showed off an advanced prototype of the flying roadster, Aeromobil 3.0, which can fit into regular parking spaces and take off and land on grass strips 200 metres.
"Now we don’t even need airports," Vaculik said.
He added that he envisions such landing strips could easily be built on the sides of highways, or alongside gas stations. Gas station owners could even charge for their use, he suggested.
He acknowledged, however, that regulations and certifications are still a big obstacle to the mass adoption of flying cars.
"We need to match 100 years of bureaucracy in the air and 100 years of bureaucracy on the ground. It’s not easy," he said.
But he added that so far, the company has strong support from the European Union.
Vaculik said the flying roadster is designed to fit into existing regulatory categories for both cars and planes. Drivers will need to have a valid pilot’s license in order to operate the vehicle.
He said the mass-market flying car is likely to get its own new, regulatory category of vehicle.