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back to article Moller Skycar to finally crash and burn?

(In)famous flying-car firm Moller International - whose four-decade quest to produce an Everyman aerial ride has seen no aircraft delivered and a 2003 fine from the SEC for selling "fraudulent unregistered stock" - has now announced "Virtual Test Flights of [a] New Flying Car". It seems that Moller has "created a full-featured …

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Boffin

About damn time...

Maybe this'll stop every bloody flying car piece printed/broadcast giving the idiot free publicity. Makes you cringe, seeing yet another flying car article online & just knowing that he's going to get another free plug with the same old tired stock photos.

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Joke

Well, OK it might not have flown

...but it was pretty, red and shiny!

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Paris Hilton

Good

May Dr. Moller's "business" "model" stall/spin into well-justified oblivion. It's a shame about all that capital he destroyed. I hope future enthusiasts are more circumspect with their investing.

<PH because of the giant sucking sound she and MI generate.>

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FAIL

Just what we need?

This whole flying car idea will not go anywhere for many years, or at least until it is completely controlled by computer(s) and there is a complete revolution in air traffic control. Throwing thousands of aircraft into the presently already overburdened ATC would be a disaster.

Besides the development costs, there will also be millions needed to certify the aircraft in the EU or US.

Ain't gonna happen anytime soon.

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Silver badge

Moller might be history but another scam will start up in its place

Hawkers of magic machines that defy the laws of physics are ten a penny. Moller just happens to be one of the more famous of these but there are plenty of others. I'm sure even if his company trots off the scene, another one will appear in its stead.

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Gilo Cardozo

Gilo Cardozo the Brit boffin built and flew his prototype flying car last year, and while it used parasail for lift rather than ducted jets it worked and flew / drove miles. Not very Sci-Fi but a simple solution to the problem.

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A new (old) plugin for a discontinued computer game?

Says it all, really.

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@DrXym

>Hawkers of magic machines that defy the laws of physics are ten a penny.

I was just thinkg of rebranding the pogo stick, probably each one ever sold has had more flight hours than all the Moller cars put together. Unfortunately I'm not a marketing bod so I've stumbled at the first fence.

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Moller is a good guy...

... with a crazy idea. It's worth pointing out that he has started several successful businesses and sold them to pay for flying car development. He's invested more money in pursuing this than most people will make in several lifetimes. Sure, he might have pushed the envelope a bit far in offering shares to too many people, but that doesn't make him evil, whatever the Reg thinks.

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It's not just him

OK, so he's lost $3m in cash and $3m in rent. His money, his choice. But what about the $39m of other people's money he's widdled away? Do you think they would have invested if they'd known how implausible - to put it mildly - his claims were?

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Alert

Impractical

Its quite easy to make an aircraft that can drive on the highway. Its not so easy to make something that is practical -- will be certifiable for both highway and air use. Another issue that will sink it is maintanance..... aircraft have very different requirements from cars, and the idea that every parking lot ding is going to require attention from a licensed A&P mechanic (and updating of relevant documentation) is going to make owning one of these things very expensive indeed.

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Go

Overcoming impossible regulations

The car exists but the regulations for such a thing are so impossible to over come that NO ONE has ever done it. This project has come further than any other at least.

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@tempemeaty 23rd November 2009 19:36 GMT

This project has come _further_, you say?

You mean, like tethered test "flights" where it doesn't seem to really fly so much as hover in the ground effect?

Don't get me wrong; those flying cars in "Blade Runner" looked cool as hell -- especially the '59 Pontiac taxicab retrofitted for flight -- but I'm really not holding my breath for it, owing to the needs for upgrading ATC systems, not to mention all those idiots out there who can barely control a machine traveling in _two_ dimensions, let alone three... oh, and don't even get me started on how any of these flying-car inventors plan to deal with the contingency of any kind of power/propulsion loss; as far as I can tell, any power loss on _any_ of those Jetsons-wannabe flying cars results in them immediately plummeting from the sky as they all seem to have about as much "glide" as a set of car keys.

Seriously, guys -- screw the flying cars for now, and get to work on my goddamn' Newspad:

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_aYFbU3YZ66Y/SeibZSKfBOI/AAAAAAAAAvw/REZqBvKvvJI/s320/space+2001.jpg

(and no, the Kindle -- and the Sony e-book reader -- don't frickin' count)

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FAIL

A note on the Moller

It is not designed to be roadworthy. It is literally a flying car. You take off here, fly to there and land in their parking space.

Having said that V/STOL flight is very tough without some kind of aerodynamic lift. The design has very little wing area and as any fule know thrust > mass to takeoff at all. Bad rockets manage 40:1. Very good jet engines 10:1. I don't know what Moller's Wankel manages.

Looks like it will (finally) joint the Dupont DP2 and NASP in the museum of cash sucking never happeneds. At least (AFAIK) Dr Moller never persuaded Uncle Sam to kick in any cash. The latter two existed exclusively on government handouts (in fact they were both the brain children of one man)

Only time will tell if this is the DeLoren of flying car techn and rise again.

I hope not.

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Boffin

Problem solved

I have an anti-gravity device based on magnets and hot air. Who'd like to invest?

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Silver badge

Moller did alright

It's a colourful piece of history.

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Shift investment to something else...

How about Steorn's Orbo, for instance? Safe as houses.

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Boffin

It will never work, not with current tech

The problem with flying cars is the same that with airplanes, you must check them continuously. If a car fails in the middle of the road you just stop and that’s it. The worst failure that a car can suffer is in the breaks or a tire blowing, and even those are not serious unless you are going at high speeds.

Trying to create a small airplane is not the right approach to the true flying car, even with a perfect computer assisted flight, the problem of the unexpected failures remains. The breakthrough tech necessary is something capable of elevating a mass and that in case of failures it doesn’t fall down, or if it does, it does it at a non lethal speed. Parachutes for the whole apparatus come to mind but they are not enough, they are complicated, also require lot of maintenance, and worst of all, time will damage them considerably.

A true “levitating” engine is necessary, and it must be such as that if power is off, its levitating effect doesn’t stop immediately, such tech doesn’t exist and will probably never exist, at least not in a size and power consumption level that will allow it to be installed in a car sized apparatus, which is the whole point.

I don’t see it happening anytime soon, even with serious scientific people behind it.

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Pint

Sod the car......

I want a hoover board like in Back To The Future. Come on egg heads I want to see a real live usable one before I pop my clogs please.

Beer, because I would never drink & use a hoover board at the same time....

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BROKE!

rciafardone got it on the nail.

BTW what with the stupid comments only covering 60% of the screen width??

why do posters names need a whole column!! than god "TheManWithNoNameFromMarsWhoWritesRubbish" didnt pst

why cant comments go all the way across the page AFTER the adverts have run out.

stop breaking stuff!!

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Coat

No worries - just say it's electric

That should secure a lifeline of a few more billion$ of venture cap and taxpayer cash :-(

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Happy

a skycar is possible

They just miscalculated a few engineering constraints. The power source has to be bigger, something along a turbojet. The power transmission has to be as light as possible, so either directly coupled mechanic (see: joint strike fighter) or a compact electric (see: nasa test drones). And the fans have to be _much_bigger_. (like on a helicopter) Since it should be designed for common people, the car can't rely on forward motion and conventional lifting surfaces, it needs long time hoovering capability. Forward motion and turning is best controlled by extra pusher fans, not by turning the lifting fans. This makes it much simplier from the engineering perspective. Just use a lightweight but big turbogenerator, power 3 or 4 _big_ horizontal ducted fans for lift and tilt control and 2 verical ones for forward motion and steering. Safety can be solved when the ducted fans have free rotational capability, since a stopped car would just feather down to the ground like a helicopter.

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Alien

Somebody call my name?

I was just parking my car...

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@Big-nosed Pengie

Invest? No! But sue you for infringement of my patent - Yes!

One look at Moller's sky-car should be enough to convince anyone that it can't fly. Just how many aeroplanes do you know of that replace wings with propellers?

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Coat

RE : Sod the car......

"I want a hoover board"

presumably it's for the wife (ducks for cover)

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FAIL

Mugs

FTA

"Moller International has an accumulated deficits of $45,525,462 and a working capital deficit of $11,376,885 as of September 30, 2009."

The people who gave Moller this money must have more money than sense. The 419-ers must be making a mint.

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@Lord Lien

"I want a hoover board like in Back To The Future. Come on egg heads I want to see a real live usable one before I pop my clogs please."

This might be closer than you think.

In 2000-2001 a team sequenced the genes for the motor which drive the tails of sperm cells. They went on to add sulphur containing side groups, which would allot it to be anchored into a suitable framework. Force generated per motor is roughly 1x10^-9N and it runs on ATP ( A common cellular fuel).

I billion of these would not cover much area but would generate 1N of thrust. 980x that area would give a surface that could lift a 100Kg passsenger (average merkin size).

However if experience of the Segway is anything to go buy getting the lift (provided you have a supply of ATP) is the easy bit.

Segway uses a bunch of sensors to implement the go-where-you-point-it idea. Moving that into 3d (even working out how to do a simulated hover board to begin control system development) will be challenging.

Case in point. The board is too far off the ground to use your feet to stop. Your going directly toward a wall. How do you avoid the inevitable?

Thunbs up for the idea but I think there will be a *lot* of lawsuits issued before this one gets onto the shelves.

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Coat

Flying car project?

It'll never get off the ground...

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Flying Car

There actually is a flying car built a long long time ago, you drive it to the airport and then afix the airplane parts. James May has flown in it. Once you've had your flight, you take the airplane bits off and stick it in a trailer, then use the car to fly home. He did point out that you needed a whole raft of certificates for it, as well as a proper pilots licence, and that it was impractical, but yes, a "flying car" does exist, just not in the format people would want.

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Headmaster

hover versus hoover

At first, I thought that people on this forum just had the usual spelling-blindness that seems to infect 90% of all web users, but then I looked at the pictures, and realised that this device might actually be useful...

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Anonymous Coward

No big surprise

I've followed the Skycar for a long time, and most of its problems come down to the engines.

The Bell X-22A (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_X-22) is proof that the concept isn't totally nuts, and that something like this is capable of flying out of the ground effect. Even the suggested horsepower that the Skycar would need to fly seems to be proportionate to the horsepower of the X-22A, adjusted for the differing weights of the two craft. The fact that the X-22A was never developed into a practical military vehicle suggests that the concept wasn't considered practical for actual military operations, but nonetheless, the X-22A is proof that something like this really can fly.

The problems are with the claims that Moller makes for the Wankel engines, and also the projected range and speed for the craft. Moller claims that these engines will generate very high power-to-weight ratios. He also claims that they will run on a wide range of fuels, including gasoline, diesel, ethanol and (of course!) bio-fuels. The problem with this is that in general, engines that are configured to run on a wide range of fuels are not particular efficient with any single fuel, because the engine settings aren't optimized. Conversely, engines that delivery a high specific power output are generally finely tuned and optimized to a particular fuel.

There are also some interesting musings about the range and fuel economy claims for the Skycar here: http://hamiltonianfunction.blogspot.com/2009/03/moller-sky-car.html and here: http://hamiltonianfunction.blogspot.com/2009/03/horsepower-fuel-efficiency-and_31.html. I don't agree with all of the assumptions that the author has made -- He has made fuel economy calculations assuming that the Moller's maximum fuel economy occurs at the craft's stated cruise speed (275 mph), while the most efficient cruise speed for the Skycar is claimed to be 140 mph. Nonetheless, the calculations do suggest that many of the claimed performance figures for the Skycar are most likely fantasy. In any event, making range and fuel economy claims for a craft that has never even made a forward flight (to say nothing of transitions from hover to forward flight and back) is nuts.

So I don't find what appears to be the downfall of the Skycar to be surprising at all.

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Anonymous Coward

People still believe in this twit?

I've been watching this asshat since I was an elementary school kid in the early '70s. I find it hard to believe that he's managed to continuously screw over investors and attract the attention of editors of "scientific" magazines in the the decades hence.

Apparently, there's very little institutional knowledge retained in these publications. Maybe, just maybe, this lapse in editorial rigor will be mitigated by, um, tools like Wikipedia that make it pretty simple to identify just such an asshat?

Perhaps the guy actually believes he can build a Skycar for the masses. As a commercial pilot though, it's pretty easy to dismiss him as a crackpot when his latest iteration is a freakin' four-engined death trap. Ask any engineer or pilot whether they think this configuration is a recipe for success or disaster.

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Anonymous Coward

The real problem is...

The real problem is he tried to build a flying car.

A single person carrier, designed to carry a maximum of 200 pounds in addition to its own weight, could have been built, and built at such a level that the overall cost would not have been to much more then your standard motorbike. (Think of the "bikes" used in Star Wars)

Such a device, designed for a flight level of no more then 5 feet, could be used for multiple purposes, and could have been sold to show a viable option for now, with the incoming money being used to further fund future air vehicles.

The trick is, you need to take it in steps, with a low flight option that would be more manageble on todays road systems, while you wait for ATC/Traffic systems to be put into place to control vehicles at a much higher height.

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Pirate

Finally but some good stuff needs to be salvaged from this mess

Well, the Rotapower engines have performed and have been flying UAV prototypes and demo configurations. But since they've been associated with Moller International the view of any buyer has always been biased ... and justifably so. Like a lot of other good ideas that have been built/studied over the years, the present management team has ... performed subpar of what a number of people would like. MI kept pushing for a flying car when, in it's heyday, it did some great tech development work. Rotapower engines are a case in point. Great idea, good enough exicution in materials and mechanics for cars of the late '80's and '90's. They took that base and rebuilt it with uptodate materials and better engineering. Salvaging that out of the mess should be a major goal ... and the way it's set up as a business makes me think that the stockholders desided to hedge their 'flights of fancy' investments.

BTW, with modern computer controls you see in regular car engines on the road and coming on the road today, shifting the optimization settings for fuel types can happen as fast as the fuel sensor notes what kind of fuel is going into the combustion chamber(s). This takes care of getting the best output from a given fuel in a single type engine, it takes care of itself. And fuel flexablity is, overall, a good thing.

As for the Flying Car Meme ... I've been watching Urban Aero go from working the numbers (engineering sims and flght sims) to test models to bigger test models to Engineering Test Article(s). Building a little, testing a little, building a little more. All the while doing a nice, steady, milestone based pathway (that they are *WELL* along, btw) aimed at finding problems and testing components with a penciled in economical Manned Flight Vehicle as a goal.

So, flying "cars" aren't dead yet. But one of the major drags may be on the way out.

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Paris Hilton

Lets face it ...

... most people have a problem driving properly on a 3 lane motorway.

Paris : as I find the whole thing just too hard to swallow

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Happy

Urban Aero and the X22

Urban Aero

Mad looking vehicle. The enclosed rotors do look like a good selling point, while the ability to slide sideways looks handy. But can they finish development work beofre they run out of money? If they do will it at least match a helicopters abilities. If it can't the improvemtns are unlikely to give it the edge needed to justify purchasing.

X22.

Simple looking and judging by the Wikipedia article (OK not exactly the final word in accuracy) its development process seemed *fairly* straightforward.

Why did this get flying in less than 4 years (RFP from USN 1962, 1st flight 1966) when the XV15 and the F22 Osprey have consumed 15 years and billions of taxpayer dollars?

I note that when Short Brothers (Based in Northern Ireland UK) did a VSTOL (4 jet engines vertically mounted in the body) the control system (fly by wire with 4 analog channels IIRC) was a royal PITA. When the Kestrel demonstrated relatively simple control with engine bleed from the Pegasus engine and limited control system stability augmentation this became the preferred (only) UK VTOL option.

So maybe the engine out question was too big a concern and they through fewer engines = more reliability.

Just a thought. In hindsight *perhaps* the US might have had more luck with fixed engine pods exhausting to nozzles in the end of hollow blades.

Temperature would have been an issue but design approaches exist from both boundary layer control (blowing engine gases over the leading edge of the Bucaneer halved its wing area requirement) and missile hot gas thrust vector control systems. It seems that *every* phase of F22 testing threw up a further stage of unexpected interactions between elements (the latest one IIRC was exhaust interaction with the ground, because the pipes move through 90 degrees. Umm. This was a surprise)

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The Terrafugia Transition

I too watched Moller with ever-hopeful expectation. I also watched developments of the SoloTrek (crashed literally thanks to a tether that caught in the vanes), and a few wannabees that are still at the drawing board stage a decade later.

In the meantime, a bunch of ex-MIT bods quietly and without much fanfare managed to do in only a couple of years what everyone else has signally failed to do in decades. No tethers, no flying over silted artificial ponds, no repeatedly broken promises. Real flight, a real machine, and real video of take-off and landing with a real pilot, who even talks about the experience. Nice.

The Transition from Terrafugia (http://www.terrafugia.com) is a reality. Now whether it can become an everyday product is anyone's guess. But I want one.

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Stop

It's not going to be the flying car that is the problem

It's the bigger picture.

Is it wise that any and everyone who can buy and fly one should?

What about bad 'flying'? Accidents? Engine failure? It's not like these cars are likely to come to a halt as easily as road-borne traffic.

A mishap (or a deliberate act) could easily cause an enormous amount of mayhem and grief.

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So, Tell Me...

When are Moller Skycar and SCO going to announce their merger?

Two losing propositions that refuse to die, sounds like a natural.

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The Terrafugia

Well it's not pretty but it is pretty clever.

rather more Captain Slow than Skycaptain and the World of Tomorrow.

But for a first-of-its-kind its pretty impressive and for its capabilities just less than $200k is not bad (by aircraft standards. we're in supercar territory pricewise)

Speed wise it not great either but this is likely to improve over time. And 30MPG from an American car (of course they are US gallons) is little short of astonishing.

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