Flying car takes to the sky

The flying car is a reality. Terrafugia today said it had successfully flown its Transition Roadable Aircraft that can transform itself from car to plane version in less than 30 seconds. (Take a closer look at the Terrafugia Transition)

According to the company, the Transition cruises up to 450 miles at over 115 mph, can drive at highway speeds on the road and fits in a standard household garage. The vehicle has front wheel drive on the road and a propeller for flight. Both modes are powered by unleaded gasoline from a regular gas station, the company said.

For its first flight, the Transition was flown by Phil Meteer, a retired Air Force Colonel at Plattsburgh International Airport in Plattsburgh, NY, and oddly no press were invited to film the flight.

Categorized as a Light Sport Aircraft, the Transition requires a Sport Pilot license to fly. The Proof of Concept will undergo additional advanced flight and drive testing and a pre-production prototype will be built and certified before first delivery. Refundable airframe reservations are being accepted and the Transition could cost in the neighborhood of $200,000.

Others are planning flying cars. Military scientists at DARPA last year said they are looking to develop what it called a personal air vehicle that could transport 2 to 4 personnel either by driving on roads or flying. The agency said such a craft would be ideal for military scouting and personnel transport missions.

To add a little more pizzazz to the project, DARPA said the machine should also have a vertical take-off capability and that it would need a "morphing wing" that could rapidly retract or deploy. The main idea being that the machine wouldn't be restricted to prepared surfaces for the most military utility.

DARPA went on to say the personal air vehicle needs to be able to fly for 2 hours, carry 2 to 4 , be no wider than 8.5 feet and no longer than 24 feet, and no higher than 7 feet when in the road configuration and drive at up to 60 MPH or fly at up to 150 MPH..

DARPA said the flying car's flight controls should include human interfaces to autopilot, flight director, and/or auto-navigation systems, automated navigation/ positioning, automated sensors, automated fight planning and de-confliction with other users of the airspace. Size, weight, and power must be paramount as well as redundancy and reliability suitable for human passengers, the agency said.

NASA has extensively explored the concept of a personal aircraft - not exactly the type DARPA is now procuring mind you. Earlier this year it held one of its Centennial Challenges that focused on Personal Air Vehicles. NASA aeronautics developed the PAV concept with the idea of transporting people to within just a few miles of their doorstep destination at trip speeds three to four times faster than airlines or cars. NASA predicts that up to 45% of all miles traveled in the future may be in PAVs. This will relieve congestion at metropolitan hub airports and the freeways that surround them, reduce the need to build new highways and save much of the 6.8 billion gallons of fuel wasted in surface gridlock each year, NASA said.

Watch the Terrafugia Transition take flight

Layer 8 in a box

Check out these other hot stories

Identity theft leads to murder

3-D light system revolutionizes way fingerprints are taken

12 changes that would give US cybersecurity a much needed kick in the pants

No iPhones, iPods in Mr. and Mrs. Bill Gates house, no siree

Identity theft morphs, but maintains lead as FTC's top consumer complaint

Bill Clinton's red iPod up for grabs on eBay

Open source projects face challenges but dominate Federal netscape

Hubble Telescope watches galactic tug-of-war to the death

What applications would you run on a $208M petascale supercomputer?

Google, Facebook enlisted to help fight online economic stimulus scammers

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey: The results are in