A DREAM TAKES FLIGHT

AeroMobil could be lifting off commercially in 2017, says CEO Juraj Vaculik

by American sociobiologist, Rebecca D. Costa
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It’s closer than you think.  By 2017 drivers may be pulling off the freeway, accelerating for 100 yards, lifting off, and flying above the traffic below.

Though the idea of a flying car has been around since 1903, when the first patent was filed, it wasn’t until two men who lived under communist-ruled Slovakia joined forces that it became a commercial reality.  According to Juraj Vaculik, co-founder and CEO of AeroMobil, “All of us were dreaming of a way to escape to the free world, to be able to travel without limits – without borders.”  He continued, ” … these things were, of course, prohibited by the government, so the possibility of becoming a private entrepreneur, and the possibility to travel free, was created by the ‘Velvet Revolution.'”

The 1989 “Velvet Revolution” was a peaceful protest that brought an end to 41 years of communist rule in Slovakia – an event which opened door for Vaculik and co-founder and chief designer, Stefan Klein, to pursue their vision of a flying car.  Their first prototype, AeroMobil 1.0, was born a year later, bringing 25 years of secretly tinkering in a garage to fruition.

The newest prototype, AeroMobil 3.0 lifted off in October 2014 at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna, Austria. The two-seat “roadster” is under 20 feet in length, with wings that fold in for driving, and open and extend to a wingspan of approximately 27 feet for flight. To get airborne, the AeroMobil requires a space the size of an American football field.  Its top flight speed is 124 mph and it has a maximum range of 435 miles.

Though the AeroMobil engine uses regular gasoline — the kind sold at any gas station –- it can hardly be called fuel-efficient: 31 miles per gallon on the road and 4 gallons per hour in the air. Future versions are expected to do much better. A hybrid AeroMobil — electric on the ground, internal combustion in the air — is already in development. “It’s very important to us that it will be very environmentally friendly in every possible way,” Vaculik said.

According to Klein and Vaculik, the reason a flying car has been over a hundred years in the making is because the two modes of transportation operate on opposite principles: airplanes rely on “lift,” and automobiles require downward energy to perform. “It was difficult to combine different specifications and needs for the plane and the car,” Vaculik admitted. AeroMobil’s solution?  Rather than a compromised driving and flying experience, the vehicle switches “modes” between driving and flying. Likewise, the driver behind the controls of an AeroMobil must have both a driver’s license and a private pilot’s license.

Commercial units of the AeroMobil are targeted to hit the market in 2017, and are expected to be priced similar to a high-end luxury automobile or light planes. As production ramps up, future versions are expected to be more affordable.  “This technology will revolutionize future transportation,” concluded Vaculik.

To hear the full interview with AeroMobil CEO Juraj Vaculik, visit rebeccacosta.com


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