Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Apr 06

Flying Cars by 2011?

Posted in Energy Inventions | Transportation

Terrafugia Flying Car If you secretly nurtured a dream of owning a flying car, the good news is your dream can be a reality by 2011. This month MIT students, from Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, have successfully flight tested the prototype of a winged car for the first time. This car took off from a runway in Plattsburgh, New York. It flew for 37 seconds. The engine used in this whole exercise was 100 hp Rotax engine that gets 30 mpg on the highway using regular unleaded gasoline.

The plane has a 20-gallon tank and 450-mile range. Its speed is 115 mph. The pilot can switch from one mode to another with perfect ease within 30 seconds. How this is achievable? From a pilot you can become a car driver by folding up the wings and shifting the engine power from the rear-mounted propeller to the front wheels.

The MIT students have floated a company named as Terrafugia. They will conduct further tests of the plane for longer duration of fights and hold trial for handling characteristics too. The timing of launch of this flying car is just right. The Federal Aviation Administration has created a new category of plane, Light Sport Aircraft. They have also made provision for a new license category just for pilots of such craft, including Terrafugia’s two-seater Transition. The “sport pilot” license requirement is quite lenient compared to regular pilot’s license. If you want to fly the Transition it will take only about 20 hours of training time.

Carl Dietrich is the Terrafugia CEO and co-founder. He is of the view that the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) rule change and the Transition could help alter the way public travels round the country particularly in country areas. He says, “One of the biggest problems pilots have right now is that most of the 5,000 general aviation airports in the U.S. don’t have any car rental facilities, or even a cab stand.” He made his stand clear by saying that the Transition could open many of these underutilized airports to easier, more convenient use by private pilots.

The vehicle may also lead to better safety. If you are a piloting such flying car, you can withstand the bad weather too. If you can detect the conditions of bad weather a little in advance, just fold up the wings and land at the nearest airport and start driving on the roads. Once the storm has passed, take off again from another airport!

If you want to be the owner of a flying car, the company is taking deposits now and hopes to start delivering its first Transitions (“roadable planes”) in late 2011.

  • Aaron

    Car company Moller may have beaten them to it.

  • Syed

    As the world looks for alternate solutions to present conditions, flying cars may reduce traffic. But can it reduce the expenditure of natural fuel? These vehicles need a lot of gas to reach an optimum torque to elevate. I feel that looking for more economic solutions is a better way to keep brilliant minds busy.

  • James Root

    Props (pun intended) on a great machine! I would love to have this or some other type of ultralight craft- just one of those hobbies that I haven’t been able to afford.

    While the pilot license criteria and maintenance have become prohibitive since 9/11, and while the Sport category would help address that, the primary reason that we will never see a large scale use of flying cars is due to the space required to operate any aircraft safely. Automobiles can pass within five feet on a secondary road- highways require considerably more following distance, but it’s still very little compared to a minimum quarter-mile radius for things that fly. The skies will saturate quickly and there is nothing that can be done to change that.

    I imagine that there will be heavy restrictions on which airports that will allow these craft to be flown into, or even around them.

    For example: The biggest general safety factor on roadways is difference in speed. Highway accident stats improved when the speed limits were raised to 65 because there was a smaller delta between the motorists who were literal about the speed limit and the drivers who had a pace that suited their personal comfort level.

    Large commercial airports today are already at the limits of speed differential. Smaller turbo-prop commuter planes have to approach at full throttle, or close to it, in order to get on the ground and out of the way of a large jet. We’re talking about cruising speeds of 300-400mp/h and >500mp/h, respectively.

    A flying car- at 115mp/h – would be a gnat on a windshield at a large airport, and any disruption to commercial flights would not be tolerated.

    For the small demographic who could afford a flying car and have a use to drive/fly from small airport to small airport, this is uber-cool. Time will tell how these will fair as a product. If you skimp on maintenance with your car, you might be stranded in an unpleasant and inconvenient place… the same for the flying car would result a huge penalty.

  • Marcus Grundvall

    This seems more like an alternative to transportation rather than energy?

  • Melissa Wilton

    Are you sure this wasn’t posted on 1 April? Sounds a bit too good to be true!

  • Tejaswi Subramanian

    That sounds cool, but hey, is it eco-friendly? at least it takes some traffic off the ground.

  • Aaron Hofman

    Car company Moller has made a flying car that they apparently want to put into production. Got a spare 100 grand anyone?

  • Debasish Chakraborty

    Will there be floating traffic signals?

  • Michael Smith

    What about this… you fly your cars, and leave the roads empty for cyclists and skateboarders… sound fair?

  • Sofia Costa Madeira

    Finally I am going to get my driver’s license. I said I would only do that for flying cars with no gas and no crashes.

  • Sally Peters

    While I do find this rather exciting, I’d be much happier if we could just progress on our EPA minimums, rather than going backward.

  • Emily Battle

    So how about a self driving one?

  • Sam

    Yeah, not really an advance in the field of energy, but an interesting step forward in transportation alternatives nonetheless!

  • Emily Battle

    I was thinking a hybrid for people with disabilities who don’t live near public transportation.

  • Mike

    We have seen the flying traffic, featured in sci-fi films like Star Wars, 5th Element & Bladerunner… and congratulations on MIT’s achievement. But I don’t think this is gonna help us much, without first discovering a fuel cell that can power such craft cleanly & efficiently. Otherwise, aren’t we just gonna burn more gasoline?

  • Jos Conil

    The flying car prototype is a great leap forward in personal transportation. Hats off to its inventors!. But it needs a closer examination to determine whether it is a positive step towards an eco friendly future.

    If this technology is not used in a controlled manner, it can be a recipe for a greater disaster than our clogged roadways. Apart from the high energy requirements for personal flights, just imagine the situation if everyone starts taking to the skies for commuting. It will be a repetition of the clogged roads up there in the skies.

    Now only the rich can afford this, but so was the automobile when it was introduced, but has it not later become a commonplace transport mode? The same thing can happen to the flying car also in course of time.

    And a clogged skyway is much more dangerous and fuel guzzling than a clogged roadway. So if this technology has to serve humanity in a sustainable manner, it may need a few alterations in it’s concept right from this development stage.

    1) An alternative means of propulsion has to be considered. Electric power with nanotech batteries may hold the key to this development.

    2) Rather than just developing it as a means of personal aviation, why not try to use it for public shared transport also – electronically guided, fixed route flying mini buses! . Of course the space required for take off and landing is one constraint to be overcome before that can happen.

  • garan

    It’s great if it can be operated at a few hundred feet and it can use a more eco friendly fuel than petroleum. Plus it needs tons of collision avoidance technology added, but that will come just as cars got better and better.

  • Doug

    This could be the birth of a new industry that could create jobs and opportunities for new businesses who serve it. Of course a lot of hurdles must be leaped, But if history repeats itself, it could be a new economic development and creation of wealth within the next ten to fifty years. It would be great for America if the vehicles operate on fuel derived from algae or cellulose created here at home.

  • Harthos

    I agree about the fuel. If we are ever going to have efficient flight, we have GOT to get away from liquid fuels! They are JUST TO HEAVY. That is why Space shuttles do not take water up with them-they take the INGREDIENTS (oxygen and hydrogen) up with them and then make it.

    It is also a matter of humans becoming intelligent again, (as right now, we seem to be getting dumber and dumber) Right now, we can’t even handle 2 dimensional manoeuvrability without banging into one another, how the heck could we ever manage 3 dimensional travel?

  • James Root

    The best way to deal with congestion and the pollution on roadways is to revitalize public transportation with light rail (subway/trolley/tram). Zurich(CH) is a wonderful example of electric rail helping move a city in a safe and clean manner.

    Nationally, when the cost of the airlines is normalized (instead of subsidized), the cost of passenger rail will be much more attractive!


  • iCar 101

    Do you know the iCar 101 flying concept car ?

    The iCar 101 project is based on the use of Magnus effect, telescopic spinning wings.

    More information and photos at

  • TJ

    Would it not be more practical to create a flying car that you can take off from the highway and land on the highway? The airport situation would be out of the way in a lot of areas of their destinations. Highway takeoff and landing would allow the public easy any where access. Think of vertical take off for example, as part of the solution.

  • Kim Fairchild

    Reply to :Doug:
    August 10th, 2009

    This could be the birth of a new industry that could create jobs and opportunities for new businesses who serve it. Of course a lot of hurdles must be leaped, But if history repeats itself, it could be a new economic development and creation of wealth within the next ten to fifty years. It would be great for America if the vehicles operate on fuel derived from algae or cellulose created here at home.


    Let this happen to correct AMERICA

  • Rich

    Scherer Systems has a program for the development of a “flying car”. The craft is powered by alternative energy (I believe some sort of resonant technology).

  • Mustapha Seidu

    I think if they are built to operate on solar energy it will help a lot especially in the tropics. and i really cant wait to see this out.

  • TC

    I want a flying car. I can’t fly and don’t want a flying license but it would be cool to say I have a flying car.

  • khairiah abdullah

    it is a fantastic idea – what about converting the existing car into a flying machine. meaning to say all vehicles can be converted into a flying machine upon the engine or fuel conversion?

  • saphron watson

    Somehow I don’t believe that this concept will ever work. There are safety implications to be considered such as: if this became popular what what air regulations would be used to deal with heavy usage. Will someone then invent an invisible speed camera in the skies to prevent speeding?

    It is a concept only driven by less than 40 seconds thrill but practically it will not progress any further anymore that scientist claiming that we will all someday live in space

  • Bobby

    hey Aaron,
    I went to that website you posted and a crane is totally holding up that UFO thing so they didn’t beat this guy!

  • Mr. Childs

    Well it’s about time. I’ve been very patient waiting on my flying car. Weren’t these things supposed to be out in the 80’s? Anyways, when they finally make these things, they need to make them more stylish. The one in the picture looks like gremlin with wings. Not very futuristic looking.

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