People often lament that the future science fiction promised us involved flying cars, apartments on the moon, and pill-based meals — while the future we received includes an automated McDonald’s. But a key part of that utopian alternative may be a step closer, as the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has just given a prototype flying car the green light.
The car in question is the “Model A” from California-based Alef Aviation. It functions as a standard electric vehicle and a flying car capable of vertical take-off and landing.
According to the FAA, the vehicle has a “special airworthiness certificate,” allowing for limited use, including: “exhibition, research, and development.” It isn’t currently clear what particular permits and licensing an individual may eventually need to own and operate a flying vehicle — but Alef Aviation’s effort isn’t the only VTOL car in production, nor is it the only one the FAA has issued this level of permit to, so specific legislation is likely to appear within the next few years. As things currently stand, you’ll need a driver’s license to operate the Model A at ground level and a pilot’s license if you want to fly it.
The FAA will need to sign off a few more times if the Model A is to go into production and is subsequently sold to members of the public. Despite the red tape, you may see this particular car take to the skies sooner than you think. (At the very least, it’s cool to think about.)
Manufacturers Alef Aviation say the Model A’s production version will have a 200-mile range if you use it as a car. Take off and the range drops to 110 miles, but the possibility of traveling to your destination as the crow flies, and the lack of traffic, may even things out in some cases.
The Model A features a “gimbaled cabin design and elevon system,” which manufacturers claim will keep the occupants stable during takeoff, landing, and flight. There are no exposed propellers on the vehicle either — partially for safety reasons, but this comes with other benefits like noise dampening.
Regarding safety features, Alef seems to have gone out of its way to make its vehicle seem less of a death trap. According to documents available from the Alef Aviation website, safety features include “Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), triple to octuple redundancy of all key components, real-time thousand point diagnostics, pre-flight reject start diagnostics, obstacle detection and avoidance, glide landing, and full-vehicle ballistic parachute.”
Alef Aviation claims the Model A could be available in late 2025 and will cost around $300,000. Pre-orders opened up last year with a $150 deposit for those happy to wait and $1,500 from priority buyers. The company also has lofty ambitions for the Alef Model Z: a four-seater sedan planned for 2035 which will allegedly cost just $35,000 and come with a 200-mile flying/400-mile driving range.
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