Come fly with me … in my airborne automobile 2018-11-07T14:49:14+01:00

The latest attempt at flying car from BlackFly

Fancy travelling through the sky instead of on the roads? The latest attempt at an airborne alternative to a car has been unveiled in the United States. Named BlackFly, the vehicle carries one person in a small cockpit and can travel for up to 40 miles at 72mph, either autonomously or under the control of the rider.

Powered by eight electric motors and with two wings, it’s been developed by Silicon Valley aeronautics company Opener. Nine years has been spent on the project to date, which looks to relieve some of the traffic jams faced all over the world. BlackFly is one of several rival flying vehicles being developed across the globe.

Darren Pleasance, director of the US Experimental Aircraft Association, told the BBC, “Watching BlackFly take flight just blew me away. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

There are, however, many regulatory barriers to flying these vehicles. Any machine that can lift itself off the ground and stay aloft must fly under Civil Aviation Authority rules in the UK and Federal Aviation Administration laws in America. First and foremost, this means that in the UK, you have to have a pilot’s licence. There are also a host of other regulations – for example, single-engine planes can’t fly over cities in case the engine fails, and you need permission from air traffic control to fly through controlled airspace used by commercial or military traffic.

As simple machine

Opener says BlackFly has “simple controls requiring no special skills to master and operate safely” and could be flown in the US without a pilot’s licence – though not over urban areas or at night. The company says it would require operators to undergo training and pass the FAA’s private pilot written examination.

The vehicle has completed over 1,000 autonomous test flights, and Opener’s aim is for the average person to be able to operate it after only five minutes in a simulator. The experience, says chief executive Marcus Lengis, “Instant gratification”. With time, the hope is that BlackFly will cost no more than a family SUV.

People have tried to make similar vehicles in the past, but the projects have largely failed due to a lack of technology. With the rapid progression of software and technology over the past decade, flying vehicles are looking much more likely. And as for the question over whether they’ll crash? Well, there will probably be incident, just as there are with cars. The point it, the products are much better than anything previously achieved.

Taking to the skies

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