Apr. 02: A Dutch company has successfully conducted a test flight of a car which doubles as an aircraft and hopes to put the machine into production. Andrew Potter reports.
From a distance it looks like a vehicle built for the road, albeit a slightly unusual one. But on a straight stretch of tarmac or grass this machine transforms, giving it the ability to take to the skies. This flying car is made by Dutch company PAL-V, or Personal Air and Land Vehicle - Robert Dingemanse is their CEO. SOUNDBITE: ROBERT DINGEMANSE, CEO AND CO-FOUNDER OF PAL-V, SAYING (English): "You can drive like a car with your normal car then you can fly like a plane but in one vehicle. So if you want to fly over a mountain you can do that and then drive at the other end and go to your destination or fly over water or past a traffic jam of course. All those kind of things are possible now." The PAL-V took its maiden flight in March, and is certified for the air as well as the road. It needs only 165 metres to take off and, depending on weight, can fly for up to 500 kilometres, or 315 miles. The top speed is the same on the ground as in the air, around 180 kilometres an hour, or 110 miles an hour. Lift is generated by an auto-rotating rotor on top, forward speed from a propeller on the back. This configuration is known a gyrocopter, and the company says it's quiet, easy to fly and safe. Before taking the controls customers must get their private pilot's license. But PAL-V hope to attract buyers beyond weekend flying enthusiasts. SOUNDBITE: ROBERT DINGEMANSE, CEO AND CO-FOUNDER OF PAL-V, SAYING (English): "Our customers are ranging from private persons but also police, we talk to police, but also aid, flying doctors for example to fly from island to island where there's no roads you can fly. The beauty is a doctor can fly himself, it's dead easy. He can also drive so he's much more efficient doing a much better job in that way." There are other considerations of course, like how would hundreds of flying cars in the skies operate safely? PAL-V say they've had plenty of customer interest, providing they can find investors to take the project into production. In any case getting home after a day's flying has never been easier. Andrew Potter, Reuters