While traditional automakers are focused on electric vehicles and self-driving cars, a Massachusetts technology firm has set its sights higher. Like, in the sky.
Earlier this month Terrafugia announced that it has completed static load testing of a prototype of the wing for its TF-X -- for all intents and purposes a flying car. The company said the tests showed that the one-tenth scale carbon fiber wing will be able to safely withstand the necessary loads during wind tunnel testing. It's an important step, the company says, that will get the TF-X airborne faster than anyone expected.
The TF-X just may bring the world one step closer to the realty of “The Jetsons.” The vehicle is a plug-in hybrid electric flying car with semi-autonomous flight and vertical takeoff and landing capabilities. That means you could back it out of your garage, lift off from your driveway, fly to the office, and land in the parking lot.
The company says progress so far suggests the TF-X could enter production in eight to 12 years, but could begin flight testing within two years.
The TF-X is just one personal flying vehicle that is on its way to becoming a reality. Chinese manufacturer Ehang, a drone manufacturer, was the surprise hit of January's Consumer Electronics Slow when it displayed what it said was the world's first electric, personal Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV).
The aircraft is designed for short-to-medium distances and the company believes it holds huge potential, not only for the transportation industry, but also for many other fields such as shipping, medical care, and retail.
A Dutch company called PAL-V is also making progress on a flying vehicle. It describes its prototype gyrocopter as a lean, agile two-seater that can speed down motorways, launch from airstrips, and allow someone to escape the limitations of traffic.
Earth-bound traffic that is. With the rapid development of personal flying vehicles – some of which may not require a pilot's license – the air may soon be as congested as the ground.
How to regulate?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is likely viewing all these developments with a concerned eye. After all, it is only now coming to grips with the explosive growth in the number of unmanned drones, operated by consumers for entertainment. Millions were sold over the holidays.
It will ultimately be the FAA's job to keep autonomous flying vehicles, operated by consumers, from running into each other in the sky, not to mention separated from the millions of drones zipping around.