A DREAM TAKES FLIGHT
AeroMobil could be lifting off commercially in 2017, says CEO Juraj Vaculik
by American sociobiologist, Rebecca D. Costa
It’s closer than you think. Â 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. Â 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.” Â 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 â an event which opened door for Vaculik and co-founder and chief designer, Stefan Klein, to pursue their vision of a flying car. Â 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. Â Its top flight speed is 124 mph and it has a maximum range of 435 miles.
Though the AeroMobil engine uses regular gasoline â the kind sold at any gas station â- 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 â electric on the ground, internal combustion in the air â 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? Â 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. Â “This technology will revolutionize future transportation,” concluded Vaculik.
To hear the full interview with AeroMobil CEO Juraj Vaculik, visit rebeccacosta.com