Why drive a car (even if it’s autonomous) when you can fly one? That seems to be the question of the day at the Federal Aviation Administration, where test flights in U.S. airspace have just been approved. The celebrating party is none other than Terrafugia, a company that specializes in airborne vehicles. Its TF-X flying car will soon be whizzing around skies in northeast American for the purposes of further research and development. “It’s a significant milestone in the development of the program and we’re really excited to be moving forward,” Terrafugia spokesperson Dagny Dukach told R&D Magazine.
Terrafugia has been toying with the idea of flying cars for the last ten years or so, and their concept for the TF-X will feature semi-autonomous flight, meaning that you’d need less training to fly this car than you would to operate, say, an actual airplane. But there are still a number of issues that need to be worked out, including how the vehicle would be powered. Currently, the company plans for the TF-X to operate as a plug-in hybrid-electric, but exactly how this would come to fruition has yet to be determined.
If and when we do finally see the TF-X in real life, it will cruise at speeds of 200 miles per hour and will have a 500 mile flight range. And without any runway space needed for take off or landing, you could literally just lift off from your driveway.
So as excited as you are for self-driving cars to come to market, get even more pumped about the flying version.
Sadly, you won’t be able to jump in and take one of these cars to the skies anytime soon — the prototypes that have been cleared for flight are just mini versions of the real thing. Coming in at just two feet long and with a weight limit of 55 pounds, it will still be some time before we’re in Jetsons territory. Still, this latest development marks a huge step forward in the development of the technology, as Dukach: “The FAA exemption will allow Terrafugia to test the hovering capabilities of a one-tenth scale TF-X vehicle and gather flight characteristics data that will drive future design choices.”