By Aryaman Bhatia, Science and Tech Editor, The Pawprint
The Slovak Transport Authority has awarded a certificate of airworthiness to a flying automobile capable of reaching speeds of more than 100mph (160kpm) and heights of more than 8,000ft (2,500m).
AirCar, a hybrid car-aircraft, is powered by a BMW engine and operates on conventional petrol-pump gasoline.
The transformation from automobile to aircraft takes two minutes and fifteen seconds. According to the business, the certification came after 70 hours of flight testing and more than 200 take-offs and landings.
“AirCar certification opens the way to mass manufacture of extremely efficient flying automobiles,” said Prof Stefan Klein, the project’s inventor. “It is formal and final validation of our potential to permanently revolutionize mid-distance travel.”
The automobile performed a 35-minute trip between Nitra and Bratislava, Slovakia, in June. According to BBC News, the business intends to “fly to London from Paris in the near future.”
Dr. Steve Wright, senior research fellow in avionics and aircraft systems at the University of the West of England, said the development was “a positive step down the road” for the firm and made him “cautiously hopeful that I will see a few AirCars one day – but I believe there is still a long way to go.”
Other businesses are working on cars that can both fly and drive on the road. The three-wheeled PAL-V Liberty, which flies like a gyrocopter, is road legal in Europe and is being certified by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.
Dr. Wright, on the other hand, is skeptical of the broad attraction of flying automobiles.
“Are flying automobiles the way of the future?” “Yes… and no,” he said.
“The personal-transportation revolution is unquestionably on its way, but it does not appear to be in this form.”
“From a transportation standpoint, it has a niche – although a very intriguing one.”
The AirCar, like a normal plane, takes off and lands and requires a pilot’s license to fly.
However, a number of businesses are developing unpiloted air-taxi services that feature autonomous flying and vertical landing and take-off.
Promoters anticipate that they will be a convenient and flexible mode of transportation, and several are garnering major investment.
Also on Monday, Boeing announced a further $450 million (£334 million) investment in Wisk, the California-based autonomous-air-taxi firm it co-owns with Kitty Hawk, a company founded by Google co-founder Larry Page.