A flying car that will not require a pilot’s license to operate has been unveiled in California. BlackFly can travel for up to 25 miles (40km) at a speed of 62mph. Its makers say it will eventually cost the same as a typical sports utility car, but early models will be more expensive. Kitty Hawk another US start-up, which is backed by Google co-founder Larry Page is also testing a personal aircraft in Las Vegas. Several other rival flying cars are in development across the globe. BlackFly’s creator is the Palo Alto-based firm Opener. The car has been tested in Canada, where the country’s aviation authority has authorized its use.
Like Kitty Hawk, BlackFly could perhaps be more accurately described as a human-carrying drone. It is not designed to be driven on roads. The vehicle carries one person in a small cockpit, powered by “eight propulsion systems, spread across two wings”. It works best, Opener says, when taking off and landing from grassy surfaces. “Watching BlackFly take flight just blew me away,” said Darren Pleasance, director of the US Experimental Aircraft Association. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” While the vehicle will not require a pilot’s licence, Opener said as a precaution riders would have to undergo a training programe in order to become acquainted.
“Even though not required by Federal Aviation Administration regulations, BlackFly operators will be required to successfully complete the FAA Private Pilot written examination and also complete company-mandated vehicle familiarisation and operator training,” it said. Opener’s chief executive Marcus Leng said the on-board controls offered “instant gratification”. “You have total command of three-dimensional space,” he told CBS News correspondent John Blackstone. “When you press the thumb-stick to climb, you have absolute full control. When you stop in the middle of the air and go off the joystick, the aircraft freezes.
“And when I say freezes… it literally freezes in the air.” BlackFly can also fly autonomously, Mr Leng said. Opener joins a long list of companies chasing the ultimate science fiction dream of a flying car, and thanks to rapid improvements in drone capabilities, that future seems closer than ever. As well as BlackFly and Kitty Hawk, companies such as Uber are also seeking to get into the flying car market if indeed there ever is one. The Hiller Aviation Museum in Northern California is a graveyard of failed attempts to create a flying car. But the museum’s head of operations, Willie Turner, believes this latest batch might be on to something as long as aviation authorities can accommodate the new ideas.
“Now we have the technology,” he said. “But the regulations are ‘well you can’t do this, you can’t do that’. They don’t understand it.” He added: “Now will they crash? Probably, but cars crash every day. “You know it’s not going to be foolproof but it will be much better than the current system we have now.”