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back to article Terrafugia flies first prototype: Flying cars 'within a year'

The much-delayed street-legal flying car from US firm Terrafugia has passed another milestone on its long road to mass production: a successful flight from an airport. Terrafugia's flying car It's not too pretty. But it can fly... The Transition carplane prototype passed its initial drive and conversion test before taking off …

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Anonymous Coward

even the

Slightest knock or bump would put the thing out of action. Imagine parking it and finding a long scuff down the side.

Aircraft are delicate items on the ground. I don't see this has mass market appeal, I'd rather take up my TB 10 than fly a brick.

I'd rather drive my car than drive a donkey.

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Re: "for around eight minutes"

You realize that was just the first test flight, right? Longer flights will occur as the TerraFugia flying car's performance and safety are confirmed. This is standard procedure with new aircraft.

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Re: even the

Indeed so. Although a noble attempt, this thing will combine most disadvantages of cars and airplanes, with no advantages. It really is no spinner.

Besides, and I think it was Arthur C Clarke who said it, perhaps it is good that nobody succeeded in building a real flying car as depicted in many science fiction works because we would have three-dimensional traffic jams by now.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "for around eight minutes"

I'm pretty sure I could kill myself in less than 8 mins with one of those!

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good idea

Let's just sell these 'flying bombs' to 'Islamic' suicide bombers. Yes. Flying cars are an awesome idea.

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Mushroom

Re: good idea

Surely you want the Timothy McVeighs to have their fair share too?

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Alert

Re: good idea

I'd be far more worried about some numpty getting frustrated stuck in traffic on his way home on a Friday afternoon and trying a take-off from the hard shoulder of the motorway - a much more likely scenario and just as likely to cause multiple fatalities/injuries and widespread disruption.

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Unhappy

Re: good idea

"trying a take-off from the hard shoulder of the motorway"

Failing in the process to notice the broken down bus, bridge, light standard, matrix sign and, of course, the numpty taking off from the other carriageway.

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Joke

@Blofeld's Cat Not to mention the exciting possibilities..............

............offered by equipping your flying car with a rapid firing cannon and the next time some numpty cuts you up really showing him what the concept "road rage" can mean. In fact just fit number plates on an A10 Warthog and you're good to go.

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Yag

A10 Warthog...

You'll probably beat some reverse speed records by firing the gun attached to this thing...

Erm... Sorry... I keep forgetting that it's a thing attached to a gun.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Black Helicopters

Yay

No more congestion charges!

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Holmes

I take it...

We'll have some sort of netting fitted to the tops of our office blocks?

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*That* is the production prototype?

I'd say "good luck to 'em", but this is just another iteration of an "I've got a great idea!" that's never succeeded yet, so screw 'em, I hope they're ripping off their suckersinvestors grandly and that they've got their new post-fly-by-night accommodations on the Caribbean all picked out already.

"Fly by night", that's a good one in this case, isn't it? I'd say they could do it in their own prototype, but with an eight-minute flight time it won't do them much good even there, will it?

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JDX
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So UGLY

Such a shame. It makes Homer Simpson's car look like a good design!

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Pirate

Re: So UGLY

Remember the Amphicar? Practical, a working product that should have appealed to millions of drivers Worldwide that lived near major rivers, which includes most of Europe. Sales were seriously anticipated to be 20,000 a year! Instead, sales were pitiful, eventually totalling only 4000 over four years. And that was despite the price gap between an Amphicar and a car of its day then not being as great as the massive price of the Terriblefugup compared to even a Porsche. The reason the Amphicar failed was it was a poor boat and a crap car, and ugly to boot. But, compared to theTerriblefugup, it looks like a Ferrari!

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Re Amphicar

I guess they failed to realise that in the parts of the world where people could afford an Amphicar, people could also afford building bridges...

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We don't want driving planes,

we want flying cars!

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Re: We don't want driving planes,

To-MAE-to, to-MAH-to, what's the difference. They're the same thing. The plane wins out in the shape war because airplanes are more sensitive to shape.

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Ru

So much negativity!

It is a plane which provides a convenient means for you to park it at premises of your choosing, saving you paying extra cash to an airfield, etc. It isn't supposed to replace your car, and it isn't supposed to be parked in a municipal carpark where bitter commentards can come up and key it.

Sure, it isn't a flying car... but it actually appears to be an acheivable goal. Too bad there's no UK/EU equivalent of the US light sport aircraft classification.

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Go

Re: We don't want driving planes,

We don't want either driving planes or flying cars. It's never been about planes or cars or even really flying; it's about being able to 1. lift off from your driveway and land at your destination with zero hassle, and 2. not spend the in-between time waiting for the car in front of you to inch forward, so you can inch forward, so the car behind you can inch forward.

This doesn't meet either criteria. But! I'm still glad someone, somewhere, is seriously working on it. So that one day, something else will fit.

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Re: We don't want driving planes,

Unfortunately, physics kinda gets in the way. The only reliable ways we've found to take off and land in place involve very delicate designs (with strict weight limits) and the use of (a) rotors which are considerably wider than the vehicle itself or (b) very hot, powerful, and inefficient ducted jet thrust, both of which have such complicated controls and are so sensitive to ambient conditions that it's unlikely any computer can be made that can accommodate for all the variables (even modern commercial airliners have trouble when facing unexpected atmospheric phenomena).

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Happy

Re: We don't want driving planes,

Quadcopters and other multi-rotor designs are already quite capable of flying themselves* on complex courses using only GPS-assisted inertial navigation.

Collision avoidance remains an unsolved problem but that will come as processing power and camera technology gets smaller, cheaper and less power-hungry.

Scaled up, they just might work - a Y6 or X8 design even has built-in redundancy, able to lose at least one rotor without significantly affecting stability - though you'd still want to land anyway as it would be burning more juice to stay up.

*For the 20 min to half an hour until the batteries run out. Skynet they ain't.

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Unhappy

Re: We don't want driving planes,

It isn't a 'plane', young man, it's an 'aircraft'. First thing they told my father when they gave him a biplane at Old Sarum (with no handbook): "Machines are for sewing, Planes are for carpentry".

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JDX
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being able to lift off from your driveway and land at your destination

This is never going to happen in a world where we're trying to reduce fuel usage. Individual air travel with conventional flight is massively inefficient, surely?

We need proper sci-fi technology to achieve flying cars, not a conventional airplane with foldable wings... holding constant height without burning loads of energy.

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Boffin

Re: Re: We don't want driving planes,

".....The plane wins out in the shape war because airplanes are more sensitive to shape." Yes, but maybe that's the wrong approach. You can make a car fly, it's not an optimal aircraft, but it does the job. Simply strap on some wings, a flight powerpack (or just take a drive to an add-on prop from the car's engine), and some additional flight controls, and you're there. Examples include the AMC Matador conversion from James Bond "The Man With The Golden Gun", or even the flying tank experiemnts of the Russians in WW2. Further examples include the military's flying Humvee project. The Terriblefugup is no real advance on the Taylor Aerocar, in fact it seems a less capable road vehicle. The Taylor Aerocar, like many other flying cars in the '50s, was just as good as the Terriblefugup, but failed as a commercial venture.

And that's the rub - the real challenge is making the end vehicle a good enough car. Travelling on roads requires weighty features that aircraft just don't have - a tough chassis, rigidity, fenders and crumple zones, and a powerful transmission system to the wheels. No-one wants a car that can't keep up with motorway traffic, but at the same time they don't want one that will be a deathtrap at those speeds. In trying to make an aircraft that can be a car lies failure, it's simply more practical to make a car that also flies as it seems the ground environment is actually the one that is more demanding.

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Angel

I like it.

The nose has a friendly 5mph bumper rather than a whirling propeller. It’s kid-friendly!

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Devil

Re: I like it.

I'd call it kid-friendly if the nose had rotating mower blades ;-)

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M7S
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Go

It will be an interesting one to valet park

"Paging Joe McClaine"

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Meanwhile...

PAL-V have just flight tested their gyro based 'flying car' here

I am curious as to where they have done this, because the Netherlands is not a very gyro friendly place. But, seeing this prototype has a Dutch reg, maybe things are finally moving.

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Happy

Re: Meanwhile...

"I am curious as to where they have done this, because the Netherlands is not a very gyro friendly place. But, seeing this prototype has a Dutch reg, maybe things are finally moving."

I wouldn't say that.

I've heard Top Gear is often to be found in the Netherlands.

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Re: Meanwhile...

Ohhhh! That looks nice. Would even be worth dusting off the licence just to have a play in one when they get to the UK.

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Re: Meanwhile...

PAL-V have just flight tested their gyro based 'flying car' here

Not only that, but compared to the Terrafugia, it's way better looking.

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Thumb Up

RE "it's way better looking."

Just had a look at that picture, thanks for posting the link. It is a little beauty is it not? The contrast with the seriously fugly subject of this article could scarcely be more obvious.

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Re: Meanwhile...

Little Nellie on designer steroids, Frederic Bloggs, ......... http://pal-v.com/ ...... and inherently a much safer concept and bug ugly attractive in a strange sort of way with some really well engineered features.

I know which one I would feel safer in and which one most likely buyers would be perceived to be cooler/less of a tube to be driving/flying in .... which is always an important factor in fashion accessories/performance vehicles?

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early adopters

No, I don't want one of these myself but that's not the point. This is an initial introduction of a new technology and only those with the money and inclination should acquire a Terrafugia. Perhaps these things will take off (sorry, couldn't resist), perhaps not, but this is the way new things enter the marketplace.

I'm glad flight testing of an early production model has begun (and eight minutes is not out of line for early flight test), and I wish the company and its clients and investors the best of luck.

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Mushroom

Where to start?

@PaulW: Eight minutes is the duration of the test flight _NOT_ the endurance. An aircraft with 8 minutes endurance would never be legal, as you need 30 mins fuel/endurance in reserve on top of your anticipated fuel for the journey before taking off for a VFR Flight (and Light Sport Aircraft are all VFR only) or you are breaking the law.

@AC 16:18: Agreed, TB10's are quite fragile, what with being made by the French out of wafer thin aluminum and all. At least if you prang a transition you can most likely still drive it home - if you make a boo-boo with the Socata you're stuck at some remote airfield, either at the mercy of the resident maintainence contractors (if there are any) or facing a huge bill for de-rigging (can you even take the wings off without killing it?) and transportation back to your preferred CAMO. Of course the transition is also built of gel-coated composites, so will have a much better tolerance for minor dings/scrapes than the TB10. The usage case also makes a lot more sense in the USA where it is quite common for light aircraft owners to use them for business travel for intermediate length (300-500 miles or so) journeys. I'm guessing you live in the UK and mainly use your A/C for bacon butty runs/bimbling rather than serious travel?

@Bruceld:So how exactly does being roadable make it easier for terrorists than using any other existing light aircraft?

@Ian McNee: Yep the thought of this terrifies me too. Luckily the level of intelligence/effort involved in learning to fly tends to filter out the kind of numpty who would think to try this.

@Aaron Em: I'm pretty sure they have already taken quite a few pre-orders - probably more than enough to make this financially viable without further sales. Although it's a lot more expensive than your typical car, it's really not that expensive compared to most other LSAs.

@Ru: Well said - i don't think anyone who buys this is going to use it to do the weekly shop. As for the comment on no LSA equivelent in the UK/EU, there is, at least on the aircraft certification side - it's called VLA, and it's less restrictive than LSA (no 120kt speed limit, no restriction on VP props, extra 100kg of MTOW), yet very few aircraft have been certified under it. In fact introducing VLA is one of the few (only) good things EASA have done IMHO. There is also a reduced license in the works (LAPL) which will be somewhat akin to a light sports pilot's certificate when it is introduced in 2014.

Now for my two penneth: IMHO the Transition is hideously ugly as both a car and an aircraft and I can only shudder at the thought of how it most likely handles - any aircraft with a ballistic recovery chute as standard makes me wonder about likely spin characteristics! If a flying car it must be, I'd rather have a vintage Taylor Aerocar any day of the week - much classier.

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Re: Where to start?

Looks like a good application for that self-healing plastic:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/03/27/self_healing_plastic/

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PAL-V

Well I'll be blown! I had to double-check the date wasn't yesterday on that one - I always assumed that the PAL-V was blatant vaporware, what with nothing but CG renders on the website when I last checked a few months ago. Now they have pictures of the prototype up and everything.

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Joke

Ok, if the flying car has been sorted

When will we get jet-packs?

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Boffin

Re: Ok, if the flying car has been sorted

When we develop asbestos legs. The exhaust temperature from any kind of practical pack - one with more than a minute's worth of thrust - would be something you don't want to be anywhere near.

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Trollface

Screw the jet-packs !

- wake me up when robot wives are cheap and reliable

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Screw the flying cars, jet packs and robot wives!

- wake me up when they can rejuvenate my telomeres and give me the body of a 25-year-old for the next 500 years!

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Happy

Re: Screw the jet-packs !

If you've got a robot wife, why would you screw the jetpack?

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Re: Screw the jet-packs !

Mr Bartlett, it say's much about the day that you now owe me a new keyboard.

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Boffin

Just like a Morris Minor

That is, no ground clearance and built with the expectation of billiard table smooth surfaces to run on.

Do they seriously expect to land this thing under all conditions? If the thing hits with any kind of impact it'll bottom out and probably catch a wing tip. Or are they relying on intense ground effect from the just-above-the-tyres wing? I wouldn't want to be in a cross wind fighting ground effect to get wheels on the tarmac.

Any plane that tries to be a car, or vice versa, usually winds up being useless at either job.

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Trollface

Reminds me of a Messerschmitt

The bubble car, that is.

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Silver badge

Others are closer to having flying cars on the road than Terrafugia. For real flying cars, look to the Parajet Skycar. It's on sale now (preorders only with delivery expected later this year) and has already proven itself sound by completing a 9000km road/air trip. Granted it flies through the use of a parawing, but it actually drives like a car on the ground and doesn't need an airport to get into the air.

I just can't understand why Terrafugia gets all the glory while Parajet and Moller (another promising flying car) get ignored. Especially since Parajet has a proven concept while Terrafugia has several more rounds of testflights to go.

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re: Parajet Skycar

Well, it's certainly slick in "car mode", but in "flight mode", it's... a parawing? Basically it's like a futuristic dune buggy with an ultralight hacked onto it. I'm just wondering what happens when you land it and have to re-pack the parawing. Actually, it kind of reminds me of the origiinal proposed landing system for the Gemini CM.

I think the main objection a lot of folks have here is that none of these proof-of-concept vehicles are anywhere close to the flying cars we've come to know and love from films like Blade Runner. (Personally, my favorite Blade Runner flying car was the battered old '59 Pontiac station wagon carcass retrofitted with VTOL "spinner" drive)

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