TECHNOLOGY UPDATE

Flying cars get DARPA boost

Need to hop over roadside bombs may finally be the needed catalyst for aircraft–auto combo.


Lockheed Martin's bid for the DARPA Transformer contract will use ducted fans to reach speeds of 200 kts. A prototype should be ready to fly in 2015.

It is not clear when, if ever, either of these craft will be available. According to the company, the Neuera has flown with a tether more than 200 times.

A video on the Moller website (moller.com) shows it rising out of ground effect, and at times the line connecting it to a safety crane is visibly slack. CBS-TV once showed the M400 ascending briefly.

However, the Neuera's 1st flight took place in the 1970s, and the prototype is still the only unit in existence.

The company did announce in 2012 that it had received an investment of some $80 million and expected to have its first customer M400s in the air by 2014. We wait eagerly to see them.

Yet the favorite in this class has to be Ed Sweeney, now based in Black Forest CO. He bought the Aerocar brand from Molt Taylor's estate and went out to build a modern version of Taylor's final design.

FAA certified and legal for Florida roads, the Maverick flying car should be available as soon as the firm figures out why it crashed in May.

Like the Aerocar IV, the Aerocar 2000—the name tells you how long it has been in the works—mates a conventional car to a separate wing and powerplant that folds up to be towed behind the car.

The car is a 1510-lb Lotus Elise, its engine replaced by a light 3-cylinder model to save weight. A Lotus V8 racing engine churning out up to 500 hp mounts in the wing section to drive a tractor prop.

Design specs call for the combination to cruise at 138 mph for some 300 miles. Conversion from car to airplane could be accomplished by 1 person in a projected 30 seconds!

Super Sky Cycle is probably the least a vehicle can be and still qualify as a flying car—but you can buy one today.

Sadly, it begins to seem this latest revival of the Aerocar brand may never fly. In 2002, Sweeney estimated that his vehicle could be available as a $100,000 kit within 4 years.

"A production, ready-to-fly/drive Aerocar should be ready, as the many technologies and certifications mature, within 10 years," he forecast. To date, that remains the last we have heard from this effort.

Yet, for all its delays, it does appear that the flying car could at last be just around the corner. Terrafugia received an investment of $2.1 million in Jan 2013. The company says that should keep them moving until the Transition is ready for delivery. And the Maverick is such a simple aircraft that a quick fix for whatever problem grounded it seems not too much to hope for. The flying car—coming to a garage near you?

Marvin Cetron is a forecaster/futurist and president of Forecasting Intl. His study for the Pentagon, Terror 2000, written in 1994, offered detailed predictions of the subsequent course of terrorism.



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