AeroMobil Flying Car
October 30, 2014 6:02 PM   Subscribe

On October 29, the Slovakian company AeroMobil began flight-testing their Aeromobil 3.0 flying car.
posted by Chocolate Pickle (55 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Speaking for myself, I think it's really beautiful.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:08 PM on October 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think it looks nice.

From the article:

It also contains all the main features that are likely to be incorporated into the final product, such as avionics equipment, autopilot and an advanced parachute deployment system.

Avionics and a parachute are likely to be included in the final version?

I think I will wait to see how this works out for others first.
posted by dfm500 at 6:18 PM on October 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh, yeah, well I heard the Moller SkyCar is just around the corner. In fact, I've been hearing it since 1988 so it must be true.
posted by bondcliff at 6:24 PM on October 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Prediction: Flying cars won't be available to the middle class (or what passes for its remnants) until they fly autonomously.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 6:29 PM on October 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


Every time I see some news about flying cars, I'm reminded of that Simpson's episode scene where the olds take over teaching, and one of them gets their beard stuck in the pencil sharpener. Okay, let's see. What if I did this?
posted by slater at 6:34 PM on October 30, 2014


This is not really a flying car as a mass commuter vehicle. This is an airplane you can drive to the airport. It does not appear to do either thing especially well, (drive on the road, fly you someplace). It looks fun, and if you regularly commute two or three hundred miles (to a regional office or something), maybe it makes sense. Basically a toy for rich people.

Still cool, in the way that other toys for rich people -- yachts, 727s -- are cool.
posted by notyou at 6:39 PM on October 30, 2014


Serious here: Where's our personal blimps?

I don't mean for any realistic commuting or transportation purposes, but for fun. Something made of something mylar-esque with just enough volume to lift a person or two and some picnic supplies. Minimal gondola, steered and propelled at 2-4 mph by electric fans (batteries may actually be the sticking point, now that I type it. sigh). Navigation is done with an iOs/Android app--just punch in some local destination and concentrate on the view of your town from a couple hundred feet while bluetooth and GPS do all the work. Moor it in the backyard, and in the cool season fold it up flat and store it in the garage or aluminum shed next to the pop-up pool. The software could have altitude limits so people don't end up where the real aircraft are. Surely this could be done and sold for under $2000? I know what I'm dreaming of tonight.

Yeah, I already know about the helium shortage, so don't link me to it.
posted by sourwookie at 6:40 PM on October 30, 2014 [9 favorites]


Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton: “Prediction: Flying cars won't be available to the middle class (or what passes for its remnants) until they fly autonomously.”

Prediction: this is true, insofar as it'll never happen because no car, terrestrial or airborne, will ever be autonomous.
posted by koeselitz at 6:40 PM on October 30, 2014


Prediction: this is true, insofar as it'll never happen because no car, terrestrial or airborne, will ever be autonomous.

there's so many reason that this isn't true that i don't even know where to start.

lower liabilities because of the lower possibility of accidents is like, the tip of the iceberg and a good enough reason by itself. The technology is like 3/4 of the way there anyways.
posted by emptythought at 6:47 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Serious here: Where's our personal blimps?

Blimps aren't very maneuverable, especially in a wind.

Gallagher had one.
posted by bondcliff at 6:47 PM on October 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


Speaking for myself, I think it's really beautiful.

I thought it looked ok as a car but ungainly in the air. Obviously I'm not the target audience for this, but just aesthetically I wasn't enticed.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:48 PM on October 30, 2014


Does Slovakia not have paved runways?
posted by OHenryPacey at 6:55 PM on October 30, 2014


I think prototypes like this are wonderful for opening up imagination. Does strike me as a bit impractical, but "Bravo!" to the engineers who built it and the brave test pilots.
posted by Catblack at 6:56 PM on October 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Human beings can barely drive cars with anything approaching safety. Mass adoption of flying cars is a horror movie waiting to happen.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:56 PM on October 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


The front wheels/landing gear seem a little too close to the body, don't they? The margin of error between a graceful landing and scraping the hell out of the undercarriage or digging the nose into your photogenic green airfield and flipping your transformer-plane into a tumbling fireball seems pretty small. But I'm not a pilot, so who knows.

That said, this is sweet as hell, and if I had a truckload of money to spend on my personal whims I would totally want one.
posted by figurant at 6:58 PM on October 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Not a flying car until it's capable of vertical take off from standstill traffic. Specifically the QEW around the Ford Drive exit.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:58 PM on October 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


One thing that did bother me is that landing it has to be a bit tricky. If you bounce it, you're going to damage the frame, and maybe go nose-over. There really isn't any leeway in the suspension.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:58 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Cool. Now can someone sort out the meal-in-pill-form thing? And then that leaves jet packs and finally us cold war kids will have some freaking promises fulfilled.
posted by chasles at 7:10 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


me: “no car, terrestrial or airborne, will ever be autonomous”

emptythought: “there's so many reason that this isn't true that i don't even know where to start. lower liabilities because of the lower possibility of accidents is like, the tip of the iceberg and a good enough reason by itself. The technology is like 3/4 of the way there anyways.”

I don't want to derail too much, but I really believe that Google's autonomous car program is mostly hype. It's neat that they can do what they can do, but the mapping and prepping required to be fed into the cars is so dramatically intensive that they can only drive them on a few dozen miles of California road; Google themselves admit that it'd be far too cost-intensive to do this kind of mapping throughout the country, much less around the world. The cars are amazing pieces of machinery, but even so they simply can't handle the vast majority of strange and difficult situations that humans in cars face every single day – that is, they can't adapt at all to changing environments or areas they don't have any information on. And that's kind of an endpoint for them, I think.

That's really it, in a nutshell: the world has still never seen a "self-driving car" that genuinely can handle even one intersection it has no prior information about.

I mean: when Google manages to do something like the original DARPA Grand Challenge, it'll be a feat, and an indication (I think) that they are serious about building self-driving cars that can actually adapt to conditions they have no prior information. One would think their engineers would have their eyes on that milestone anyway; I'm sure they remember it and think about it. But they haven't even tried, and it's pretty clear why: going 150 miles across a desert would produce a lot of circumstances that are unmapped and unplanned for, and their cars can't handle that.

Automated flying vehicles? That seems at least an order of magnitude more complicated and difficult than automated cars. Weather patterns, winds, shifting temperatures – I'm not sure I'd trust an automated flying device to carry me safely within my lifetime.
posted by koeselitz at 7:14 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


You know why we don't have flying cars? They're a terrible idea. Cars aren't even very safe, let alone putting one thousands of feet in the air. Really anything above ten feet and you're asking for trouble.
posted by basicchannel at 7:24 PM on October 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


Prediction: the company will sell thousands and thousands of these to the upper class. They will regularly be on the front page of Forbes, the NYT will write glowing articles, and your bosses' bosses' boss will have one. You will never personally see one, except that one time, when your commercial flight is late because one cut in line to land in front of you.
posted by miyabo at 7:31 PM on October 30, 2014


For me, it's not a real Jetsonian flying car until it has VTOL. If these ever saw widespread adoption, wouldn't there be massive traffic jams at the airports waiting to use the runways? If you can afford one of these you can probably afford a Cessna, so the only real "problem" it solves is what transport to use once you land at your destination. Taxi to your hotel? Airport rent-a-car maybe? Seems like a minor annoyance at worst. Also, I wouldn't feel comfortable parking it most places where I would park a regular car. What if it gets in a hit and run fender bender in the Walmart parking lot and the first thing you know about it is when one of the tailplanes falls of in midair?
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 7:39 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Bravo!" to the engineers who built it and the brave test pilots.

The test pilots that I have worked with have been not so much brave as either just fucking nuts or unprepared to believe that death is an option. They've all been super smart and very cautious and methodical, but also more than little nuts.

If you bounce it, you're going to damage the frame, and maybe go nose-over.

It's got a pretty wide range of leeway, I'd have said. You can land tail down more than a normal plane because the wheels at the rear guard the prop and you'd have to be quite a lot nose down to dig the front in. Like 30 degrees or so, which is unlikely. I thought it looked surprisingly sensible/doable. It probably has more suspension travel than the flex in an average Cessna undercarriage, for instance, or it'd not last on the road.
posted by Brockles at 7:39 PM on October 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


For me, it's not a real Jetsonian flying car until it has VTOL.

Pretty much. It's not a flying car, it's a street-legal light aircraft and i want one
posted by figurant at 7:43 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


That Mitchell & Webb look covered some of the same territory in the jetpack sketch.
posted by poe at 7:47 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Prediction: this is true, insofar as it'll never happen because no car, terrestrial or airborne, will ever be autonomous

Apart from the ones that already exist, you mean? Autonomous = driving themselves without human intervention.

Also I am filled with avarice and sadness at my bank account and lack of both driver and pilot licences looking at this because DO WANT.

(Yes, I know that these are a spectacularly bad idea for mass, or even small scale, use.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:49 PM on October 30, 2014


That is beautiful. Interesting it's from Slovakia. A friend of mine has a Slovakian relative, maybe in his 60s, and he tells stories about building and playing with model aircraft in the Soviet era. Because you weren't allowed to have an actual airplane: too expensive, too risky to the social order. But you were allowed to play with toys. And here we are now, 25 years later, with someone building a very ambitious aircraft. It's still a relatively poor country, but apparently the aviation industry is innovative enough to build this.

As noted above this is more like an airplane you can drive. That's not a bad idea really. Terrafugia has gone this way too, the "roadable airplane", and there is a (small) market for it.

The listed "takeoff speed" of 90mph seems awfully fast. For a Cessna 172 it's more like 60mph. The most important number here is stall speed, the slowest the thing can fly and consequently, how hard it is to land. The 172 is about 55 mph. AeroMobile lists a "minimum speed" of 40 mph, and an earlier version has a stall speed of 37 mph, which all suggests that this thing can get pretty slow. Maybe it has really big flaps so the wing deforms a lot in landing vs. takeoff?
posted by Nelson at 7:50 PM on October 30, 2014


Not a flying car until it's capable of vertical take off from standstill traffic. Specifically the QEW around the Ford Drive exit.

Seeing all the current difficulties with an AI handing all the complexities of traffic and random unplanned events, we'll be lucky to see any autonomous or even semi-autonomous VTOL vehicles approved for the general population without extensive pilot training for several decades. The main reason for this in my mind is not ground traffic, obstacles like power lines, or dealing with birds or other aircraft, but something that I've been struggling with recently in more advanced helicopter simulators: Vortex Ring State.

It sounds scary, and it is - in certain conditions, often just as you descend to land, essentially the props create a kind of sinkhole in the air, and you find yourself dropping fast, falling downward through air that you are already pushing down with the props. What's terrifying is that your first instinct is to increase your throttle and collective to raise yourself back up, but that just makes it worse. The only way out is to move out of the 'hole' you have created, by either moving forward or deliberately spinning to help escape the vortex.

Now take that problem, which can happen just as easily in the middle of an open field if you're not careful, and add to that the tight spaces and surroundings of a populated area - trees, buildings, telephone poles, streetlights, overhead wires, other cars, signs, and everything else you can think of, some of which are moving. Think of how a trained pilot handles that, and then think about trusting a computer to do the same thing each time you land or just hover at a very low altitude and not only avoid it from happening, but do what is needed to save your life if it should happen in an autonomous flying vehicle.

I'm just learning this on a computer simulator. One day hope to have the cash to invest in some real helicopter flight instruction, but even as just a guy in a simulator, with a bit of actual flight hours in small Cessna years ago but not even near the point where I could be called an amateur, the thought of encountering that situation as a pilot someday in real life scares the hell out of me.
posted by chambers at 7:55 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


You know why we don't have flying cars? They're a terrible idea.

Bingo. The technology isn't advanced. There were car/plane hybrids back in the 50s, and almost certainly by the late 70s. It's always just been a niche hobby of those who can afford them, but flying cars aren't any kind of realistic way forward for the average Joe or mass transit. How is this thing different from the Moller Sky Car? Or its variants? And is it just me, or does this thing look really cramped and uncomfortable? Makes me claustrophobic just looking at that wall behind the driver's seat.

And yes, automation will continue but it will have its limits, even in the future. Even for cars. All the hype about self-driving cars is mostly that, unfortunately. We'll have cars with a degree of automation, and these kinds of planes as well, but a fully self-driving or -flying vehicle? You'd need a lot of computing power for that, not to mention AI that doesn't exist at the moment, so...yeah. Automated vehicles will, for a long long time at least, be one of those technologies that's just about there, right on the cusp, just wait til 20__ and it'll be done.
posted by zardoz at 8:05 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I gather I've missed the boat on this, but I would really prefer 'stowable' (or 'retractable') than 'collapsible' than wings.
posted by pompomtom at 8:40 PM on October 30, 2014


This is an airplane you can drive to the airport.

Exactly. Just as it's been practical for the better part of a century for people to own a boat without living near the water or paying mooring fees -- you just have to be prepared to trailer your boat -- this makes it practical and convenient for more people to own a small airplane without living in an airpark community or paying tiedown or hangar fees.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:55 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Or people who live in the middle of nowhere to decide, fuck it, I am gonna fly to Telluride.

[cough]
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:08 PM on October 30, 2014


The great thing about this, is that it puts airplanes into the hands of the average car driver.

The terrible thing about this, is that it puts airplanes into the hands of the average car driver.
posted by blueberry at 10:19 PM on October 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Think of how a trained pilot handles that, and then think about trusting a computer to do the same thing

When working as intended, a car/plane autopilot computer will respond much, much more quickly and accurately to sudden changes in it's surrounding environment and thus be an order of magnitude safer than any human operator.

When the software fails, however, it's a idiot death module in your dashboard.
posted by CynicalKnight at 10:47 PM on October 30, 2014


Interestingly they tried to make a flying car out of a Pinto in 1973: link.
posted by crapmatic at 1:47 AM on October 31, 2014


Autonomous = driving themselves without human intervention.
driving != following a planned route which has been painstakingly mapped and modelled by a team of engineers from Google.
posted by fullerine at 2:30 AM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


it looks like a Toyata
posted by mattoxic at 2:35 AM on October 31, 2014


Comparing the pace of progress in aeronautics and bioengineering, I'll settle for a practical flying cat.
posted by hat_eater at 2:44 AM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Automated flying vehicles? That seems at least an order of magnitude more complicated and difficult than automated cars. Weather patterns, winds, shifting temperatures – I'm not sure I'd trust an automated flying device to carry me safely within my lifetime.

Two major issues with this posit.

1. Flying is much more predictable then driving. Really shifting winds and all that is nearly inconsequential for what you are mentioning, autonomous control of an aircraft.

2. Hope you dont fly anywhere or you might be alarmed to know that with advanced autopilot and FMS (flight management system) a pilot can program the course and destination manually take off and then the next job is a little throttle control on the approach and applying the breaks. Really. Autopilot is very much semi autonomous.

"Well hell", you say, " sure for a normal flight but what about unforeseen things like say another plane wandering in your way?'

Good question I'd say. Google TCAD and TCAS. Can automatically communicate calculate and respond to nearby traffic of terrain.

The future is here.
posted by chasles at 3:34 AM on October 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


Maybe it has really big flaps so the wing deforms a lot in landing vs. takeoff?

Looking at the photos, it only has a fairly simple plain flap that's about half the span of the wing, and no leading edge devices. It may be enough to explain the disparity between the speeds, if not via extra lift, the added drag may help as well if it hinges down far enough.

What I'd really like to see is how they are going to split power between the prop and the driving wheels, and will the prop be rotationally locked while on the ground? Otherwise its going to be windmilling down the highway, which is less than ideal.
posted by Legs11 at 3:53 AM on October 31, 2014


I'd guess the difference between the takeoff speed and stall speed is down to the angle of attack - you can't get the nose up during takeoff due to rear wheels being so far aft, so AOA is equal to the fixed angle of incidence (the angle the wings are mounted at), while in flight you can increase the AOA way beyond that.
posted by hat_eater at 4:09 AM on October 31, 2014


Legs11, did you watch the video? When they're driving, the prop doesn't rotate at all.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:13 AM on October 31, 2014


"Flying car" sounds much more exciting than "driving plane".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:26 AM on October 31, 2014 [5 favorites]


Brand new Aero Mobile being tested, eh?

They ought to hire Chuck Berry to test it.

On the New Jersey Turnpike.

In the wee wee hours.

Johnnie Johnson rides shotgun, a'course.

Push in on the button and they become airborne . . .
posted by Herodios at 5:01 AM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Admittedly, Chocolate Pickle, I didn't watch the video. I went back and checked it out though, and it answered some questions but raised a few more. It looks a lot like a B-52 as it flies, relying on its wing incidence rather than pitching up to take off, as hat_eater mentioned above, and adopting a slight nose down attitude in flight (to my eyes, anyways).

Landing seems like the biggest problem to me. Skilled pilots will do it easily, but it looks pretty unforgiving. It has to fly in flat, without a flare, and even if it does have reasonable suspension travel and damping, there's going to be some minor body damage if you touch down either a little nose down or nose high.

It'd also be interesting to see the wing stowage mechanism, because I'd bet that it will look rather a lot like the wing sweep mechanism on the F-111's I used to fix years ago.
posted by Legs11 at 5:20 AM on October 31, 2014


I think it looks pretty cool, though it certainly appears that the design didn't exactly prioritize real-world driving conditions. Visibility appears to be horrible in any direction besides straight ahead (or above, but that doesn't help you on the road). Tiny side windows, no rear view mirrors and the extra length of wings and tail behind you are going to make this thing a joy to drive in traffic.
posted by adamp88 at 7:03 AM on October 31, 2014


The listed "takeoff speed" of 90mph seems awfully fast. For a Cessna 172 it's more like 60mph. The most important number here is stall speed, the slowest the thing can fly and consequently, how hard it is to land. The 172 is about 55 mph. AeroMobile lists a "minimum speed" of 40 mph, and an earlier version has a stall speed of 37 mph, which all suggests that this thing can get pretty slow. Maybe it has really big flaps so the wing deforms a lot in landing vs. takeoff?

Yes, I was thinking the same thing. Depending on the model of 172 (since you cited it) you can actually get them down to about 45kts if you have the version with the 40-degree flaps. I'm guessing that minimum controllable airspeed is the 40mph they're talking about, which means you can maneuver and the stall horn is yelling at you, and a couple more degrees of AOA and she stalls....

I'm actually more interested in the stall characteristics. Stalling a 172 is a non-event - it will self-recover if you take your hands off the controls. Same with spin recovery. This aircraft....I'd wonder.

I'm glad they're considering BRS - the parachute systems have saved quite a few lives in recent years. Two guys had a mid-air last week in Frederick, MD - a Cirrus hit a helicopter. The three in the helicopter died. The two guys in the Cirrus pulled the chute and were able to walk away from the accident.
posted by Thistledown at 7:14 AM on October 31, 2014


I suspect they'd put in a rear view camera - they're very cheap these days and it'd make sense for packaging and aero purposes. The side windows are pretty bad, though.

I'm interested in the driveline possibilities. I'd have thought that the best way to do this for packaging and weight would be to have electric drive motors on the front wheels and disconnect the prop to use the aero engine similar to the range extender in a Volt or something. Maybe even with capacitors or a small battery bank so that the engine runs all the time to save battery weight, but they don't mention that as far as I can see. They say the aero engine (Rotax) is what powers the car, but they don't say how unless I am missing something.

That way you'd have no driveshafts, no gearbox or any of the weight of traditional running gear and only need one engine and just the complexity of the clutch mechanism for the prop over a traditional light plane. Advances in electric vehicle tech will create big opportunities for this kind of vehicle.
posted by Brockles at 7:14 AM on October 31, 2014


Looks like she might have the same issues that doomed the BD-5 The prop shaft was a major issue. Getting the power to the back on that long boom to that remotely mounted rear prop is fraught with huge technical issues.

Also being confined to airports to fly in and out of kills the versatility of an Aircar. Until the regulation are changed the Aircar will never be a sales success, no matter what Henry Ford said!
posted by Mag Plug at 7:59 AM on October 31, 2014


I don't know why they didn't make it a three-wheeler, with a single rear drive wheel clutch-coupled to the prop shaft. It'd be mechanically simpler and lighter, and three wheelers with the drive wheel in back are a relatively safe design, it's the ones with the wheel in front that tip over when you turn going downhill. (See the Reliant Robin.)

It'd be fun to see an engineering plan. In particular it's hard to tell from these images if it has any geometric dihedral. Directional stability in a variety of conditions is one of the hardest things to get right, and different aircraft designs call for different pilot responses; e.g. doing the thing that compensates for wind shear in one plane makes it worse in another.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:37 AM on October 31, 2014


This thing is just screaming for a flat panel display for the driver's console, instead of hard instruments. Not only would it weigh less, but you could make it change layout completely when switching from drive mode to fly mode.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:47 AM on October 31, 2014


It appears to have a flat panel primary flight display dead center. Hard gauges are covering a lot of the mechanical functions like engine speed, as well as providing some redundancy, without which this plane would be a hard sell.

Oh, in the video you can see the wing dihedral in flight. I like how they edited and cropped it so you can't see how the wingtips get past the vertical fins when deploying them -- it looks like the top section of the stabilizers act as rudder and have some way of getting out of the way, presumably tipping sideways, when extending and retracting the wings.

In flight the wings look crazy short and slender for the size of the aircraft.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:04 AM on October 31, 2014


This thing is just screaming for a flat panel display for the driver's console, instead of hard instruments.

Given a choice between only hard instruments or only flat panel displays, I'll take the hard instruments, thank you. I don't care if that flat panel display system was built and quality tested by the best engineers in the world and their entire families faced a firing squad if there was a fault in the system within 10 years of it being built. I'll choose a set of quality mechanical instruments that get their information directly from the real world via the laws of physics and a few extra backup instruments for redundancy every time.
posted by chambers at 10:27 AM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


Also in the video there's a camera below the tail looking forward, and there's this very dodgy cable on a pulley under the fuselage which looks for all the world like it links the rudders and maybe even controls them. You sort of hope that that's a prototype bodge and not something that will be in the final design, because if you're going to be landing on grassy fields as depicted here that's just looking to snag on something.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:34 AM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also in the video there's a camera below the tail looking forward, and there's this very dodgy cable on a pulley under the fuselage which looks for all the world like it links the rudders and maybe even controls them. You sort of hope that that's a prototype bodge and not something that will be in the final design, because if you're going to be landing on grassy fields as depicted here that's just looking to snag on something.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:34 PM on October 31 [+] [!]


Most of your conventionally-geared airplanes (that is, taildraggers) have similar cable rigging, and all of them are easier to land on grass fields than pavement.
posted by Thistledown at 1:50 PM on October 31, 2014


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