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Flying cars

Driving in 3D

Flying is a very old human dream. In Monaco at the Top Marques event, two companies will demonstrate flying cars.

The flying and driving Pop.Up big drone (Photo: Italdesign)

On April 20 to 23, Aeromobil (Slovakia) and PAL-V (Netherlands) will exhibit its flying cars and demonstrate them on the roads and in the air. The idea of flying cars is not new: Already in 1926, Ford developed the “Flivver”, nicknamed “Model T of the Air”. After a deadly accident of the prototype, the project was stopped. But the dream never stopped and still goes on.

Several companies including carmakers and aircraft manufacturers think about using the third dimension for intercity traffic. They think, for example, about big drones carrying people. Uber and Airbus are researching and developing jointly flying vehicles for individual transportation. By end of this year, Airbus will provide first prototypes. In March at the Geneva International Motor Show, Italdesign and Airbus presented the Pop.Up electric-powered modular vehicle system that is able to drive and to fly.

The four-wheeler Aeromobil with foldable wings (Photo: Aeromobil)

At the Top Marques event, the most exclusive supercar show, Aeromobil launches its first commercially flying vehicle featuring hundreds of improvements, both in design and in engineering, compared to the prototype unveiled two and half a year ago. The flying car by the Slovakian company will use CAN-based networks to link the electronic control units. The team behind, led by Juraj Vaculik and Douglas MacAndrew, built the vehicle in compliance with the existing regulatory frameworks for both cars and airplanes. The vehicle is a completely integrated aircraft as well as a fully functioning four-wheeled car. It is powered by hybrid propulsion. The inventors claim, that the flying car aims to make personal transportation vastly more efficient and environmentally friendly by allowing significantly faster door-to-door travel for medium distance trips and in areas with limited or missing road infrastructure.

The Liberty, a flying three-wheeler gyroplane (Photo: PAL-V)

The Dutch competitor, PAL-V, will also demonstrate a flying road vehicle in Monaco. They are using CAN in its vehicle. Besides the OBD2 functionality, they have several independent CAN networks. More than 10 nodes running at 500 kbit/s. End of February, the Liberty was released for sale. Deliveries of certified models are scheduled to start in 2018. The vehicle, looking like a helicopter when flying, is based on a wind-powered rotor. The key is that the gyroplane rotor is continuously in (self) autorotation by the wind. The rotor is always rotating like a windmill or a maple seed without being powered by an engine. Thus, even in the extremely unlikely situation that both engines of the vehicle fail, you simply lower the nose gently to maintain your airspeed. You retain full control and land safely as if you were hanging from a parachute, stated the company. This is different from a helicopter: if you lose engine power and don’t react within seconds, your rotor will run out of speed and you fall out of the sky. Gyroplanes are sometimes compared to helicopters but they are actually much easier and much safer to fly. Another attribute of the vehicle is the three-wheel design and the soft tilting motion in curves.

Those prototypes of future vehicles, able to drive and fly, could be a solution for megacities with limited space for roads. Already today, the road traffic is on different levels in big cities. Embedded and deeply embedded CAN networks are also suitable for flying cars, because they are an approved communication system in road vehicles and aircrafts. The nonprofit SAE/Arinc group just develops CAN FD specifications for airborne applications.