There’s a popular Threadless shirt called “Damn Scientists” that bemoans the failings of the 21st century in bleak blank verse: “they lied to us/this was supposed to be the future/where is my jetpack/where is my robotic companion/where is my dinner in pill form/where is my hydrogen fueled automobile/where is my nuclear powered levitating house/where is my cure for this disease”.
Burt Rutan of Scaled Composites (the same guy who built the plane that made it around the world without refueling in 2005) might not be able to help designer John Slabyk with those, but he could offer a flying car. Does that make up for it?
Called the BiPod and identified as a “roadable aircraft”, the personal flyer features lithium-ion batteries charged by half-liter internal combustion engines. In drive mode, the batteries power an electric motor that drives the rear wheels; in flight, two motors on the wings and two on the tail’s stabilizer provide thrust. The wings can be stowed between the vehicle’s twin fuselages when not in use. The prototype hasn’t been fitted with propellers as of now, but a few hops down the Mojave Air and Spaceport runway have proven its flight capability.
Meanwhile, Terrafugia of Woburn, MA, is edging another car/plane hybrid closer to road clearance. The Transition, a stubby little jet with retractable wings, just received approval from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—a major step on the way to commercial release.
While the tiny plane, with only room for a pilot and one passenger, carries a hefty price tag of $250,000, the appeal of a Jetsons-adjacent flying car could still draw customers—those with the money and space for such a thing, at least. Meanwhile, the European Union has kicked off a multimillion-Euro research project called MyCopter for the development of collision avoidance systems for these personal aircraft.
Still no news on levitating houses, but hold on, John Slabyk—those damn scientists are working on it.
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