If you’re hoping to one day finally make like Gaff in Blade Runner and leave the streets and traffic behind for the sky, then your dreams just got one step closer to becoming reality. At the end of June, a flying car made a historic journey through the skies over Europe.
Developed by KleinVision, the AirCar was recorded taking a flight on June 28 in the skies over Slovakia between the international airports of the cities Nitra and Bratislava. After landing in Bratislava, the flying car’s wings folded in, transforming into a sports car. The pilot then took the vehicle on a victory drive through downtown Bratislava. The AirCar transformed what would normally be, according to Google Maps, an hour-long commute by car (with tolls), into a 35-minute trip closer to the clouds.
According to BBC News‘ report on the flight, KleinVisions’ flying car has a BMW engine and runs on the same kind of gasoline you could get at a gas station. It can fly 600 miles per trip, reach an altitude of 8,200 feet, and reach a top cruising speed of 170 km/h (or roughly 106 mph). While it was only the AirCar’s inventor Professor Stefan Klein in the vehicle during the intercity flight at the end of June, it can carry up to two people with a combined weight of 200 kg (or 441 pounds). It cannot take off or land vertically and needs a runaway to do either. Once it has landed, it takes about two minutes and 15 seconds for its wings to fold in to allow for regular ground travel.
Compared to the flying car the Toyota-backed SkyDrive unveiled last year, AirCar is certainly an improvement. With the technical name of the Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing or eVTOL, the SkyDrive is small, can only carry a single passenger, and at the time it debuted could only fly for up to five to 10 minutes. Nor does the video premiering the vehicle show it going very far or very fast.
It doesn’t take long to discover there are a lot of companies out there trying to figure out how to make flying cars work. With a quick google search, you’ll find Aeromobil, who’s promising to deliver their first flying car in 2023. Then there’s Terrafugia, founded by a group of MIT graduates and advertising themselves as the “future of personal transportation.” Boeing and Kitty Hawk Corp. have joined forces to develop Wisk, which seeks to deliver “Autonomous Urban Air Mobility.”
But the folks at The Drive are warning people to not expect to be steering through the clouds during their morning commutes just yet. In their coverage of AirCar’s flight, the site reminds readers that the 35-minute trip doesn’t account for things like dealing with local air traffic controllers.
In a piece from last year, The Driver talks about how we can expect it to be decades before regular citizens can expect access to flying cars. Even forgetting the obvious technical challenges, the site warns, an entirely new infrastructure will need to be put in place before we can all make like Doc Brown at the end of Back to the Future. Rules of “driving” in the air will need to be established, not to mention new kinds of insurance, retailers, and service stations specifically for flying cars. Not to mention a dependable way to keep traditional air traffic safe from the new, smaller flying vehicles.