What if you could have avoided that traffic tie-up this morning by "flying" your car to your destination? Soon, combining driving and flying might not just be something out of a futuristic movie.
John Bakker, the original developer of the PAL-V (Personal Air and Land Vehicle) and CTO of PAL-V Europe, has secured investors, chosen a management team and hired employees to begin working on his fly-and-drive vehicle concept.
On the ground, the slim, aerodynamic 3-wheeled vehicle has the agility of a motorbike, due to the patented 'tilting' system. The rotor and propeller are folded away until the user wants to fly. Airborne, the PAL-V flies under the 4,000-feet floor of commercial air space.
The vehicle, which will be able to reach speeds up to 200 km/h on land and in the air, is environmentally fuel-efficient, too – it runs on gas, but it can also be used with biodiesel or bio-ethanol fuels.
Similar to a helicopter, the PAL-V has a Very Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (VSTOVL) capability making it possible to land almost anywhere. It can be driven to an airfield or helipad, and because it flies below 4,000 feet, can take off without needing a flight plan.
And at less than 70 decibels, it is quieter than a conventional helicopter due to the slower rotating of the main rotor. Autogryo technology allows the PAL-V to be safely steered and landed even if the engine fails, since the vehicle descends vertically rather than in a nose-dive.
To "drive" the PAL-V, users will have to obtain a gyrocopter license, which will require about 10 to 20 hours of training.
But will the PAL-V cause "traffic congestion" in the sky, defeating the purpose of getting away from land congestion?
If the vehicles become popular, Bakker concedes that a more structured use of the airways will become necessary. A technology similar to GPS-based car navigation systems is already available in the Highways In The Sky (HITS) program developed by NASA. This system allows flying vehicles to follow virtual corridors, complete with on- and off-ramps. Omni-directional radar could also be used to prevent collisions.
By using standard components and parts, Bakker hopes to make both the purchasing price and the maintenance costs affordable.
He envisions the PAL-V not only as a way to lessen congestion in cites, highways and the skyways, but also as a vehicle for professional uses such as surveillance, mobility for aid groups or post-war assistance.
He also sees his vehicle as bringing the convenience and thrill of private flying to the average consumer, and out of the exclusive domain of executives and celebrities.
With the PAL-V, telling your boss you arrived late for work "because of an accident on the highway" will not fly anymore.