Fans of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” may soon see their airborne automobile dreams become reality, with the unveiling of the latest prototype of a flying car on Wednesday (October 29).
Fifteen years in the making, AeroMobil’s Flying Roadster is currently on display in Vienna at the Pioneers festival for entrepreneurship and digital technology. Weighing just 450 kilograms with a wingspan of 8.2 metres, it can fly around 700 kilometres, easily far enough to cope with most journeys across the UK. There is even room for a flying companion, if they don’t mind squeezing in fairly close.
It may sound like something from a science fiction film, but AeroMobil co-founder Juraj Vaculik is adamant that the flying car is more than a “boy’s toy” and could become a viable transport option by 2017, once it has undergone extensive testing. Consuming just 7.5 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres travelled, it could be an appealing option for commuters and holiday-makers. It has particular potential in countries where light aircraft are already frequently used, such as the United States and Australia, and those with underdeveloped road infrastructure, such as some African countries.
The project is the brainchild of engineer and designer Stefan Klein, head of Transport Design Studio at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava. He had dreamed of creating a flying car since childhood, but began seriously working on the idea at university in the early 1990s. An amateur pilot himself, at the time he saw the travel opportunities across Europe expand with the fall of the Iron Curtain at the end of the Cold War. More than 20 years later, he may soon finally be able to roam Europe’s skies in his dream invention.
Vaculik believes this is the start of a transport revolution, with the potential to “make freedom more emotional, more democratic and more efficient.”
The vehicle can be used both as a plane and as an ordinary car, and is equipped with two steering wheels, one for each function.
The transition from road to air poses one of the biggest challenges at this point, as the car requires a run-up of several hundred metres to become airborne. The AeroMobil development team hopes that runways will eventually be built at airports and near motorways and large cities.
It remains to be seen whether the invention will truly take off or whether infrastructure problems and environmental questions will keep the project grounded.
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