22 jULY 2015
Could cars fly? Massachusetts-based company Terrafugia has proved, time and again, they can. The Terrafugia Transition, a roadable aircraft and the firm’s original flying car model, completed its first public flight back in 2013. While the vehicle is still under development, the company is already in the process of building an improved version of the Transition. A stunning piece of innovation, the TF-X is an incredibly futuristic, vertical-take-off-and-landing (VTOL) electric car. Recently, the developers have unveiled photos of the vehicle’s new, and more advanced, design.
An upgraded version of the Transition, the TF-X boasts a number of improvements, including the ability to take off as well as land vertically. Unlike the former, which requires an actual runway to get airborne, the new model can lift-off from a field, no more than 30.5 meters (around 100 feet) in diameter. Additionally, the four-seat car features two retractable wings, each of which contains a powerful 600-hp electric motor pod affixed to its end. During take off, the wings fold out from the sides, and specially-designed propellers extend from the twin motor pods. When sufficiently airborne, the propellers withdraw to their original position, while a ducted fan provides the necessary thrust to keep the vehicle at a cruising speed of around 200 mph (nearly 322 km/h).
Powered by a 300-hp engine, it can fly up to 500 miles (about 805 km), before it has to be refueled. While on the ground, however, the TF-X drives like a normal car, with the wings folded back into their former position. According to the developers, it is far easier to operate than a helicopter, so much so that the user can learn to fly the vehicle in less than five hours. This is mainly because it offers an automatic flight option, needing only the destination information from the user. In this mode, the TF-X can automatically predict air traffic and restricted airspace, as well as bad weather conditions. What is more, if the technology malfunctions mid-air, the pilot can actuate an emergency parachute system.
The recently-unveiled photos show off a sleeker and more futuristic design. According to Terrafugia’s press release, a prototype, one-tenth the size of the actual TF-X flying car, has already been developed and it currently on display at Wisconsin’s EAA AirVenture. It will soon undergo testing at MIT’s Wright Brothers wind tunnel. The technology, however, is still 8 to 12 years away from being commercial viable.