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The dream of having a personal aerial vehicle or aircraft has been one many civilians have shared for a century - maybe a millennia. Ever since Popular Mechanics put the Moller Skycar on the cover of its magazine in 1991, the modern man had begun to think the idea of a personal aircraft was no longer just a dream. What was once science fiction was about to become fact. In recent years, we’ve seen many prototypes and concepts, and most recently, the newest personal aircraft is aiming to be available for retail by 2019, and for the price of an SUV.
Right now, there are two largely popular prototypes for personal flight transportation that show potential. One of them we discussed twice so far, showing up at both the 2017 and 2018 Geneva Motor Show, the Airbus. The Airbus is closest to the flying car concept that people have been trying to build for many years, only to come up short. Even the Moller Skycar never made it far off the ground, and was later a discontinued project.
The Airbus seems to still be moving forward. Acting as a two-part design, an Airbus vehicle is essentially a typical car about as big as a Smart brand car (seating capacity for two people) with a detachable cabin. Autonomous and electric, while in the cabin, the driver can summon a large drone. This drone will fly over to the Airbus, attach itself to the cabin, and then take flight to the next destination. What happens to the wheels is one question that pops up, but being that both platforms are autonomous, perhaps the wheels simply drives themselves home.
This is the project that has us most excited. Whereas the Airbus seems more like an aerial Uber (also being tested), Blackfly is the true personal aerial vehicle. Not designed to act as a car that can take flight, the Blackfly is listed as an “Ultralight Aircraft”, and takes flight from the moment the engine turns on. Except, there’s no engine.
The Blackfly is actually powered by eight electric motors powerful enough to lift the vehicle and a single passenger and fly a course of 25 miles. Having already been tested with over 10,000 miles flown with over 1000 tests operated remotely and autonomously, with a payload of no more than 200 pounds, the only thing currently holding back the Blackfly is federal regulations. At this time, given its current classification, the Blackfly is not allowed to operate at night, or in urban areas.
Here’s what we know so far though. The Blackfly is said to be easy to operate, controlled by a simple joystick like that in an aircraft simulator. Furthermore, an actual simulator has been built for the Blackfly that can train a driver with no previous aircraft experience how to operate the Blackfly in just five minutes. Even if the first-time driver has some trouble, the Blackfly can work autonomously, set on an autopilot cruise control mode, and may actually feature a “return home” mode, where the vehicle can fly the passenger back home all on its own.
Keeping with current traditions of alternative fuel as well as autonomy, the Blackfly is actually powered by an 8 kWh battery (12 kWh for international models), and can be recharged in 7.5 hours with a 120-volt outlet, and to 80-percent in 25 minutes with a 240-volt outlet. Able to reach a speed of 62 mph, we won’t have would-be daredevils breaking the sound barrier, and built to operate under 25 mph winds, pedestrians can’t abuse the Blackfly by beating traffic in the rain and flying through a storm.
Want to know the best part of it all? The founder of the company behind Blackfly, Opener, Marcus Leng is working to get the Blackfly in the hands of the consumer sometime in 2019 or 2020. During an interview by CBS News in July 2018, Leng said the Blackfly would be going for the price of a (luxury) SUV. We can’t imagine a Blackfly being less than $80,000 - a low price for a high-class luxury SUV - but with how quickly technology progresses, the second or third Blackfly model may be as affordable as the everyday off-road vehicle.
What do you think of the Blackfly? Here’s hoping if it does pop up in a year, we also have electric highways like in Back to the Future II. With the kind of road rage drivers in South Florida possess, we don’t need numbskulls trying to drive each other out of the sky. Let’s chat about it on NowCar social media.
Also watch the coverage by CBS News below: