We may not be fully aware of this, but we are most likely eyewitnesses to the traffic revolution. “Pale face is comfortable sitting and walking”, the American Indians once said about the bicycle. The car brought a higher level of comfort, but the flying car is a means of transportation that has no historical precedent. Overcome obstacles of terrain, waterways, mountains and valleys along the shortest route by air? From a ground transportation point of view, this is something like space travel in short, through other dimensions.
The flying car that fantasy fans and creators crave, including Henry Ford, has become a reality. We can be proud that at the forefront of deserving inventors, designers and builders are Slovaks from society Aeromobil.
The AeroMobil 3.0 functional prototype had its world premiere at the Festival of Pioneers in Vienna in October 2014. Since then, this technical marvel has attracted media attention as an attraction, although its authors are highly skeptical of the demonstration events.
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Tesla Motors and SpaceX chief Elon Musk are also fans of the flying car concept. He told Britain’s Independent newspaper that he would make a flying car, albeit for fun. According to Musk, building a flying car is not the main problem. It is difficult to make it quiet and safe.
AeroMobil co-founders Štefan Klein and Juraj Vaculík know their stuff, but unlike Muska, they actually assembled their own flying car.
AeroMobil 3.0 received permits for limited operation last year, but so far it can only fly at an altitude of 300 meters and only with a test pilot, its creator Štefan Klein. Štefan Klein, Co-Founder and Senior Artistic Director of AeroMobil, is also Head of Traffic Design at the School of Fine Arts and Visiting Professor at the Mackintosh School of Art in Glasgow.
He has been developing a flying car for 20 years and has cooperated with many famous car manufacturers. He made his AeroMobile dreams come true. He also succeeded in test flights, although he had been driving them for a long time. He has flown 1,200 hours on drones and over 8,000 hours in gliders.
What is AeroMobil 3.0?
The length of the car is 6 meters, and its width in the road version is 2.24 meters. With the extension of the wings, their width will increase to 8.32 m. On the way, it has a maximum speed of 160 km / h, while for take-off it requires a speed of 130 km / h. It can move through the air at a speed of 60 to 200 km / h.
The AeroMobil 3.0 will reach a distance of 700 kilometers with a consumption of 15 liters of gasoline per hour. Thus, it becomes an attractive means of transportation capable of competing with light sports aircraft. Its working radius on the road is even higher, it goes to a full tank with a consumption of 8 liters per 100 km to 875 km.
AeroMobil’s director and financial brain is co-founder Juraj Vaculík. A graduate of the Academy of Dramatic Art, he is the owner of the award-winning advertising agency MADE BY VACULIK and the former president of the Advertising Companies Club of Slovakia (KRAS). Juraj Vaculík is also involved as an investor in several startups in alternative transportation, information technology and media across Europe and the USA.
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Effective July 1, 2015, AlasMobil’s senior management team has been strengthened by Douglas McAndrew, who has taken over as Technical Director. He has 20 years of experience in the automotive industry, having worked for Land Rover, McLaren and Smith Technologies. In his new position, he will lead the construction, development, accounts and supplier teams in close collaboration with Štefan Klein.
Tricky road to success
Big things are not born easily. There is no need to convince tefan Klein about this, he completed two decades of work on a flying car and created three prototypes. In addition, he is currently testing a flying car in real operation on the ground and in the air.
However, one of the test flights over Nitra almost turned out to be fatal for him, when the machine failed on May 8, 2015. Fortunately, the accident turned out to be good, the pilot activated a safety parachute at an altitude of about 300 meters and the AeroMobil landed in the area of the Nitra airport. At the same time, he was slightly damaged and tefan Klein escaped unhurt.
The test tested the effectiveness of the safety system and the developers gained valuable data and experience to further improve the flying car. Although the car appeared to be badly damaged after the emergency landing, only the light carbon body parts were deformed.
The company announced that it will replace the damaged parts and conduct further tests on them. Already in June, AeroMobil 3.0 was presented in London. Visitors to the World Expo in Milan can also watch a promotional video with the AeroMobile flying at the Slovak Pavilion. The founders of AeroMobil sure do a great service to promote our country and deserve more than just the attention of enthusiasts and the media.
In the end, they did. Last year, the company applied to the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport for an investment incentive, and the government approved a €6 million subsidy to develop a flying car. According to the ministry, the funds are intended to cover 80 percent of costs related to solving the industrial research project and 60 percent of costs related to solving the pilot development project (another 2.5 million euros will be added by AeroMobil from its own resources).
The ministry believes AeroMobil could become a major project for Slovakia like Nokia for Finland, Skype for Estonia or Tesla and SpaceX California. Despite the fact that the mentioned amount will be far from sufficient to complete the development and start production of small chains and the company will have to obtain funds from other sources, there were also criticisms of this support.
The opposition accuses the government of wasting taxpayers’ money in a non-transparent manner, with no guarantees, no stake in the company, and no ownership of knowledge. However, this criticism, in my opinion, is nothing but a “compulsory trip”. We can argue in Miroslav Beblawi’s words that Tesla, Skype or Nokia “bred up in a different way”.
Even AeroMobil was not created with state and US money, for example. Generously support both Tesla and SpaceX. In 2009, Daimler AG bought 10% of Tesla’s shares for $50 million, and then sold 40% of its stake in Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investment Company.
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That same year, Tesla also convinced the US government of its credibility by giving it a $465 million loan. Tesla has already fully paid off the loan to the US government in 4 years, but the company is still in the red due to rising development costs and investment in expanding production.
Judging by its myopic optics, it will be a failed business. The opposite is true. Similarly, SpaceX is taking advantage of government contracts from NASA for Dragon cargo ship flights, as well as to prepare a manned ship.
The right time for a flying car
Although the AeroMobil 3.0 is still a prototype for development, according to Štefan Klein, it is ready for production in a small series. This should happen in 2017, at which time another improved prototype is likely to appear. Its selling price is not yet known, but it will definitely not be a flagship product.
As Juraj Vaculík pointed out in an interview, fundamental innovations in the first wave usually don’t come cheap. The first cell phones and computers were not available to the masses, and we all know what the situation is today. Finally, 100 years ago, this also applied to cars.
The price of the commercial version of AeroMobil will largely depend on the components used, the engine, control systems, security and other elements, the shape of which is not definitively determined, so it is impossible to calculate the selling price today.
However, according to some speculations, the price may approach the price of luxury athletes. To date, the target market is the USA, where aircraft for light aircraft have a stronger tradition than Europe, but many interested parties will also find such an exclusive product among Slovak millionaires.
Whether most production will be sold in the European Union or in the USA, it is important that AeroMobil owners intend to maintain development and production in Slovakia. Therefore, this time, a purely Slovak automaker can grow on this brand in our country.
However, the commercial phase and the practical use of the flying car will still be preceded by an intensive development and, above all, a demanding approval process, which will disengage the AeroMobil wings. With the need to create a new philosophy of low-altitude flight corridors, the issue of amending relevant legislation at the international level also arises.
The reason is not only the arrival of AeroMobil and other flying cars (for example, Terrafugia comes with its own TF-X project), but also a boom in large-scale drones. Juraj Vaculík stated that in the near future, flying cars could appear in a version with independent steering.
So it’s really like science fiction – you enter the destination and the car will take you on the optimal route on land, even in the air, where you need it.
In five or ten years, the form of individual transportation may change beyond recognition – electric mobility, autonomous cars, as well as flying hybrids. We can be proud that Slovak experts and researchers were and will be at the birth of this change.
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