Bidz Auto is proof of the fact that time is moving fast, and things like online car buying and hoverboards are the way of the future. While we’re still not at the level of technology as the Jetson’s, one futuristic project that talented people around the world have worked hard to deliver on is the promise of a flying car — and one company has finally done it. The PAL-V (Personal Air and Land Vehicle) Liberty is the world’s first road-and-air-legal vehicle. With initial designs starting as far back as 1999, you can buy this flying car online today for about €299,000 or about $462,000 CAD. Let’s take a look at all the pieces that had to come together to make this car/gyroplane a reality and what it means for the future.
Design Taking Flight
Obviously the biggest barrier to the project was actually designing a flying car that was feasible to produce. In 1999, PAL-V co-founder John Bakker was frustrated when he started flying because there was such a disconnect between the transition of flying a plane and driving a car. This fueled his desire to break through the barrier to a functional, production-line flying-car.
Doing so meant finding the right “platform” for working with a flying car. Other designs have incorporated vertical take-off and landing systems with inspiration from the military Osprey aircraft, or a rear propellor car/plane design. However, the Liberty is significantly different from these since it’s considered a gyroplane. Similar to a helicopter, but different in that the propellor blades are powered by the wind instead of an engine. The blades essentially act like a constantly open parachute as long as there is airflow.
However the biggest challenge they faced was overcoming the high-center of gravity to ensure the car wouldn’t tip over while cornering. Thankfully, a Dutch innovation helped with that in the form of rotating the car body as the car cornered to shift the center of gravity, similar to how a motorbike rider tilts into the curve as they turn a corner.
In 2007 the PAL-V company was founded and the engineers “spread their wings” building a prototype. One of the next main hurdles was building a vehicle that was both street and air legal. Driving was the first component to achieve successfully, and not too long after the PAL-V developed the world’s first gyroplane development simulator. Much more advanced than Microsoft’s Flight Simulator video game, the simulator provided essential info to how the Liberty would fly in the sky and react to wind and weather amongst other important data.
The first flight was finally a reality in 2012 when the a prototype was able to achieve a successful take-off and landing. Now equipped with the success of their prototype, PAL-V focused on creating a commercial product to sell.
Yes, I’d Like To Buy This Flying Car You Have For Sale
After a few design tweaks, the first customers were able to reserve the first few Liberty models in 2015. Not too long after, the first North American reservations went through in 2016 — not quite online car buying, but getting closer. Purchasing your very own flying car (online!) was turning from science fiction to fact. In 2017 the official public launch of the Liberty marketing campaign brought to light all the hard work that had gone into developing a flying car. It was finally within the grasp of those who could afford one. PAL-V hopes to hand over the first keys to their customers in 2020, and by then, our online car buying platform will be in full swing so you can buy one of these bad boys without even getting off your couch.
Of course this begs the question: are they just going to hand these over to anyone who has the money and start flying? The answer (and a relieving one for many) is that you’ll need a valid driver’s license and pilot’s license for your country before you’re even able to get in a PAL-V Liberty (plus complete the training from PAL-V to understand how to use the Liberty). So no one needs to worry about a driver who has never flown a plane before zipping around above your city. Who knows, in the coming decade flying cars might be so safe we’ll all be using them to go everywhere.