I want one of these
Flying Cars Nearly Ready For Take-Off
The Scotsman - UK
We already have amphibious cars that can take us over land and sea and jet packs that allow us to take off like a spaceman.
Now some of the world's leading engineers are trying to advance the technology of travel further by developing cars that can fly.
The new vehicles are seen as becoming necessary, with motorways growing more clogged, and commuters prepared to travel further.
California-based company Moller International has built a prototype of its Skycar. The streamlined vehicle - think sports car meets the hovercraft Luke Skywalker drove in Star Wars - is designed to make vertical take-offs, fly around 700 miles and drive short distances.
Jack Allison, who retired as a vice-president at Moller but still works there, said Skycars were expected to start at about $1 million and require pilot's training.
Itís not clear when they'll be available, but Mr Allison says more than 100 people have put down a $5,000 deposit.
Major corporations are trying to take the concept on to the mass maket.
Boeing is already thinking far ahead. The company has created a miniature model of a sporty red helicopter/car hybrid that is helping the aerospace giant to understand what it would take to make flying cars.
Lynne Wenberg, the senior manager on the project, said the goal was to make a flying car that cost the same as a luxury vehicle, was quiet and fuel-efficient and easy to fly and maintain.
Boeing is especially interested in the broader problem of figuring out how to police the airways if thousands of flying cars enter the skies. No-one wants to be cut off, tail-gated or buzzed by a student driver at 1,000 feet.
"The neat, gee-whizz part [is] thinking about what would the vehicle itself look like, but we're trying to think through all the ramifications of what it would take to deploy a fleet of these," said Dick Paul, a vice-president with Boeing's research arm.
Dutch researchers believe they are less than two years away from developing a machine which will be at home on the roads and in the air, while satisfying the legal requirements of both.
A three-year feasibility study at Delft Technical University has convinced entrepreneurs that with a budget of £10 million, the Aerocar could be ready for production by 2006.
The machine is expected to deliver a top speed of around 140mph in the air and 70mph on the road. In the air, the car would function as a gyrocopter, using a conventional propeller to provide thrust and helicopter-style rotors for lift.
It would need about 50 metres to take off in, but could land in a much shorter space.
After landing, the rotors and propellers would automatically fold away, and the machine would use the same engine to drive its wheels.
A flying car would follow a long line of transport innovations. This year, a British firm, Gibbs Technologies, unveiled a high-speed amphibious vehicle, the Aquada. Retailing at about £150,000, it can do 100mph on the road and 35mph on water.
It hit the headlines in June when Sir Richard Branson beat the record for crossing the English Channel in an amphibious vehicle. The Virgin chief sped from Dover to Calais in 90 minutes.
It was believed that jet packs would become a common transport method when they appeared in the Sixties. Military supplier Bell Airspace developed the first prototype in 1958, a jet haversack donned by Sean Connery's James Bond in the 1965 film Thunderball. So far, attempts to develop one have failed..
Another invention which failed to convince the public was the Sinclair C5. With its three wheels, low driving position and top speed of 25mph, it was a laughing stock.
©2004 Scotsman.com http://news.scotsman.com/scitech.cfm?id=1020002004
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