US start-up is set to begin test flights of their ‘flying car’ prototype

Thursday, 28 September 2023 - 19:07

US start-up Alef Aeronautics has unveiled its Model A flying car prototype at the Detroit Auto Show and received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for test flights. The Model A features two propellers in the front and back for vertical takeoff and landing. Alef claims it will have a driving range of about 320 km and a flight range exceeding 160 km. The company, backed by Elon Musk's SpaceX, hopes to bring the product to market by 2025 at a price of €280,000 but must navigate regulatory hurdles, including approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

While Alef's Model A represents one of several air taxis and air car prototypes in development globally, experts suggest that electric flying cars becoming a common sight in the skies is still a long way off due to infrastructure and regulatory challenges. Dr. Carlos Cesnik, a professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan, notes that the cost of operating these vehicles must be significantly lower than conventional helicopters to make them feasible for urban mobility in large cities. Furthermore, air taxis will face additional safety requirements and prohibitive costs, making their integration even more challenging.

Still, experts caution that the era of electric flying cars zipping through our skies is a long way off.

Dr Carlos Cesnik, a professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan, says that when it comes to flying cars, we are still in the era of “those magnificent men in their flying machines” at the turn of the last century.

“Imagine the beginning of aviation as we know [it], and those very weird concepts we saw in the early 1900s,” he said.

"I think we are around that time now in this. You're going to see these concepts evolve, redundancy on them, those multi-rotors, the cost of the operation needs to be way lower than the normal helicopter operations for these to really become feasible and really fulfil the vision that we have of bringing these different ways of urban mobility to large cities," he added.

While government bodies are issuing approvals for flight-testing eVTOLs and other flying car prototypes, the lack of infrastructure and regulatory framework is hampering them from fully entering the mainstream.

Air taxis will take even longer, according to Cesnik, because they will require a much higher level of safety and the costs at the moment are prohibitive.

"We are facing challenges. I think the engineering challenges, we are ready to tackle them. We have regulatory challenges which are more difficult because that involves governments and industries. And in all these, negotiations across borders too," Cesnik said.

Source : Foreign Media 

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