Will Flying Cars Ever Really Happen? (Hint: They Already Have)

volocoptor
Every few years since at least the 1940s, the idea of flying cars finds its way into the media. “They’re coming someday soon,” is the oft-repeated promise. But will they ever really happen? The short answer is: They’re already here. Sort of. Let’s take a look at four cutting-edge, pre-production prototypes that are almost ready for primetime so you can judge for yourself.

Volocoptor by e-Volo – $340,000

volocoptor
e-Volo/Facebook

E-Volo’s Volocoptor is less a flying car and more a jumbo-sized drone with two seats and a joystick. It’s capable of vertical take-off and landing, hovering, and completely autonomous flight. There’s a lot to like about the prototype, especially compared to “traditional” flying car concepts (is there such a thing?). The 18 rotors are the Volocoptor’s obvious selling point, ensuring it’s stable and super easy to fly, plus they provide a boatload of redundancy in the event of a system failure. Because it’s all-electric, it’s also emissions-free. The German-produced personal ‘copter has been in steady development since 2012, but the company promises it is moving forward.

Flying Car by Aeromobil – $1.2 Million

Flying Car by Aeromobil
Image courtesy of Aeromobil

The folks at Slovakia-based Aeromobil aren’t exactly bleeding edge when it comes to marketing. They’ve yet to devise a better name for their prototype flying car than, well, “Flying Car.” But they’re clearly thinking outside the box with this concept. It debuted at the 2017 Paris Air Show, and the design lives up to its name literally. In under three minutes, the wheeled vehicle transforms from a futuristic, Minority Report-esque automobile to a full-fledged flying machine. Two wings extend from either side, while a propeller emerges from the rear to push it skyward. All you need is a bit of runway. The company only plans a limited production run of just 500, and this level of awesomeness doesn’t come cheap.

AirQuadOne by Neva – Price TBA

AirQuadOne by Neva Aerospace
Image courtesy of Neva Aerospace

It seems certain the future of flying cars will involve electric motors and souped-up, drone-style propulsion. UK-based Neva Aerospace is pushing this concept forward with its AirQuadOne. The craft weighs just 1,000 pounds (including 220 pounds for the pilot), one-third of which is batteries. With a 30-minute flight time, and a 50 mile per hour top speed, the solo craft is purpose-built for short hops (think flying across Los Angeles). It’s designed to take off and land vertically, and charging is no different than today’s electric cars. Just plug it in when you get home. Given the surprisingly realistic figures for this one, it seems the most likely prototype to reach production in the near future.

Pop.Up by Airbus – Price TBA

Pop.Up by Airbus
Image courtesy of Airbus

Airbus manufacturers approximately half the total jets for the world’s largest commercial airlines. When personal flying craft finally go mainstream, it seems Airbus or one of their competitors will be leading the charge. While the final production model of Airbus’ foray into the flying car space probably won’t look exactly like this, it’s a real glimpse into their design room. The modular Pop.Up is no doubt the most ambitious flying car concept on this list. At ground level, the carbon fiber pod travels autonomously on four wheels, powered by an all-electric motor. When you’re ready to fly, a single button push summons a rotor-powered air module that clips to the roof of the pod to pull you skyward. The cherry on top: Upon arriving at your destination, the pod auto parks itself at a charging station.

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