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Transportation United States

Miniature Flying Car Receives US Airspace Approval For Testing 95

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has this month approved test flights for a one-tenth scale version of Terrafugia's flying car. The team behind TF-X, patented in 2011, will see the two-foot-long unmanned aircraft headed to the skies. The scale model is permitted to reach a maximum height of 121 meters, and a maximum speed of 100mph. While it is allowed to use U.S. air space, the team must be in constant communication with FAA authorities. The data collected during the special FAA-approved test runs will help Terrafugia plan the future development of design for its flying cars. The testing will also allow the engineers to assess the hovering capabilities of the drone.
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Miniature Flying Car Receives US Airspace Approval For Testing

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  • Amazing (Score:5, Funny)

    by Deadstick ( 535032 ) on Saturday December 19, 2015 @12:04PM (#51150125)

    ...what can be done with CGI.

    I suppose the military version will have light sabers.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Apparently this company has cracked anti-gravity as well, given the design with it's tiny wings and rotors.

      • As to the wings, it could simply be a lifting body. I don't know enough about aerodynamics to tell at a glance if that body shape qualifies as a lifting body, but such things do exist and have been used since at least the 50s in experimental aircraft.
      • I particularly liked the part where the propeller blades fold up and it still continues to fly.

      • It would seem they compensate for the tiny rotors with very high rpm. Increadibly noisy, and creates enormous forces on the rotor blades, but theoretically possible. The video states that they need 1 MW of power for lift-off, and that the engine provides 0.2 MW (300 hp), so it would take 0.8 MW worth of batteries. They're probably lithium polymer, like in miniature helicopters.

  • ...and I'm still waiting for my flying car!!! Oh, wait!! :-P

    I've been curious about this thing for some time now. It' certainly not the flying car that we imagined one would look like, but something that can be both driven and flown would be very useful and versatile--fly to an airport close to your destination and then drive the rest of the way. You'd still look like you're driving a UFO on the highway, but so what? If they ever make a 4 seat version of this, I'm in! The price isn't too bad, too, IIRC cons

    • Oh wait... this is a different Terrafugia model than the one I knew about earlier. This one actually looks like a flying car should look like and has four seats! I'm definitely interested now! I believe that this also only requires an ultralight flying license to fly.Of course, it's only a model at this point, but this is definitely more what people expect from a flying car!!

    • It' certainly not the flying car that we imagined one would look like,

      It's not a flying car period. It's a roadable airplane, and needs a trained pilot to fly it.

      The FAA cut Terrafugia some slack on the maximum permitted gross weight, which means the original design could be sold under "light sport aircraft" rules, but it would still require a pilot's license of some grade. More to the point, that airplane would require an exceptionally well-trained pilot, because a short-coupled machine like that will be a perfect bitch to handle. You might notice they haven't invited anyone

      • The Transition is a STOL aircraft which does require a trained pilot.

        The TF-X is a VTOL aircraft and it is being designed around automated flight. They haven't invited anyone from the aviation media to try it out because it isn't ready yet. Ford hasn't invited any members of the automotive media to test-drive their 2020 vehicles yet, I guess that means they are impossible to drive.

        • I was talking about the Transition. But to address your comparison, it fails on one small difference: 2020 Fords will go on sale. The TF-X, as shown in the video, will not.

          Of course, you're welcome to save this thread and throw it back in my face if either prophecy fails to come true. I promise to apologize.

          Meanwhile, the website will welcome your investment inquiry in the TF-X with open arms.

      • You might notice they haven't invited anyone from the aviation media to try it out.

        "The team behind TF-X ... will see a two-foot version of its unmanned aircraft headed to the skies."

        If you can find someone from the aviation media who can fit in a two-foot model of the vehicle, perhaps the company will let them try it out.

        • You're the second person who misread that paragraph. Look for the words "the original design". They refer to the TRANSITION, which has been demonstrated by the company test pilot for years, and still hasn't been flown by anyone else. The TF-X is the second fantasy by Terrafugia.

  • Why does a company need government's permission to fly a 10:1 model of their future product? It is not like they are testing it in public or on animals...

    (And here is the link [rdmag.com] I submitted about the same thing earlier.)

    • by Sleuth ( 19262 ) *

      Good question, maybe it's just because in this day of worrying about drones they wanted to be extra careful. They shouldn't have had any trouble under 400 ft, but 100mph can be an issue. It also depends on where they are located to do the testing. They mention that they must stay in contact with the FAA probably means they are close enough to an airport or area with controlled airspace. So they are probably just getting pre-approval to stay out of trouble and reduce the risks they will cause an incident

    • by mpthompson ( 457482 ) on Saturday December 19, 2015 @01:16PM (#51150405)

      I suspect this company is announcing "FAA approval" to make it look as if the FAA backs their concept so they can raise more $$$. In reality, the FAA probably said "Pfffft. Sure, you can fly your toy models. Go wear yourself out. Next?"

      • by Gorobei ( 127755 )

        We have a winner. Congrats, sir!

      • by Deadstick ( 535032 ) on Saturday December 19, 2015 @02:42PM (#51150745)

        I suspect this company is announcing "FAA approval" to make it look as if the FAA backs their concept

        Exactly what they did when the FAA granted them a waiver on the max gross weight rules for ultralights, so the original Terrafugia could be sold under those rules. They billed it as "FAA approves flying car". They've squeezed all the marketing juice out of that early model, and now they need something new.

        You won't get very far through their website before they offer you a chance to invest...

        • They've squeezed all the marketing juice out of that early model, and now they need something new.

          A new transfusion of capital.

    • The FAA instituted a policy that all private drones have to be registered by February 2016.
      • Actually, the FAA is requiring all NEW remote control toys purchased starting tomorrow (21 Dec 2015) to be registered before their first flight or face huge penalties. Owners of previously purchased or built toys must be registered by 19 Feb 2016.

        Because failure to register an aircraft can result in civil penalties up to $27,500 and criminal penalties can include fines of up to $250,000 under 18 U.S.C. 3571 and/or imprisonment up to 3 years. 49 U.S.C. 46306, if approached by government officials it is c
    • Why does a company need government's permission to fly a 10:1 model of their future product? It is not like they are testing it in public or on animals...

      (And here is the link [rdmag.com] I submitted about the same thing earlier.)

      Because selfish drone owners who believe they can do whatever they want ruined it for everyone. RC Airplane flying had been largely unregulated for 50 years because people acted responsibly. But drone owners don't think they have to be responsible. They can do whatever they want, fly anywhere they want, videotape whatever they want. Now because of their selfishness, everybody pays.

  • by BenJeremy ( 181303 ) on Saturday December 19, 2015 @12:18PM (#51150175)

    So this is a 1/10th scale model, fine... but only 50lbs? Doesn't that mean the full size can only weigh 500lbs to match the flight characteristics of the model?

    Still seems very much like vaporware.

    • "Flying cars" [youtube.com] of this sort exist already, they just require a real pilot. The really interesting thing about the Terrafugia flying car is that it flies itself, so I imagine the challenge isn't so much the hardware as it is the software. If they can get that done right, "flying cars" could be made accessible to more people.
      • "Flying cars" [youtube.com] of this sort exist already, they just require a real pilot. The really interesting thing about the Terrafugia flying car is that it flies itself, so I imagine the challenge isn't so much the hardware as it is the software. If they can get that done right, "flying cars" could be made accessible to more people.

        The challenge is not the hardware?? Terrafugia looks like nothing like the three vehicles in your linked video: it looks like science fiction. No way is that thing ever leaving CGI-land with those stubby little wings and tiny props. What the hell is powering it "cruise mode" when the props fold away? Probably hot air...

        • There's a ducted fan in the rear of the vehicle that appears to provide thrust during and after the transition to cruise.

    • The energy required to lift a pound of weight and make it go somewhere is far more than most people give credit for.

      It takes 10 gallons of fuel per hour to make a light, 2 seat piston engine helicopter fly. It takes 16 gallons per hour to make a light, 4 seat piston engine helicopter fly.

      A Honda Civic weighs more than either aircraft.

      Using the latest in modern engines, you might cut those numbers in half, but you still aren't hauling anything or going very far, and you're burning a ton of fuel to do it.

      • It's a good thing this isn't a helicopter.
        • this isn't a helicopter.

          Watch the video.

        • It's a good thing this isn't a helicopter.

          It doesn't matter what it is...

          Lifting one pound, one foot, takes X energy...

          Lifting 2,000lbs, 1,000ft, and moving that weight forward at 100mph, takes a whole lot of X energy...

          Airplanes use less energy than a helicopter does, but not nearly as much less as you'd think. A Cessna 172 (a new one) is about 2,500lbs, less than the weight of most cars, and it burns 9 gallons of fuel an hour, 7 if you know how to lean properly, to go 120 mph carrying 3 people and a few small bags, and it needs a runway.

          If you n

          • Sure it costs money to go faster, but lots of people have money and are willing to spend it to go faster.

            • Sure it costs money to go faster, but lots of people have money and are willing to spend it to go faster.

              Yep, but not enough of them to make flying cars a thing.

              It is not a financial problem, it is a physics problem.

              • Flying cars aren't a replacement for cars, they are a better general aviation aircraft--one that in the future will pull more people into general aviation.

                • They could triple the size of general aviation and it would still be very small.

                  There are several reasons why this just isn't going to happen. One of which is that any means of lifting a vehicle creates a lot of down wash, so it doesn't work at people's homes. So you need something that works as a road vehicle first.

                  Then you need to get that vehicle to someplace you CAN take off. Fair enough, you could have those areas setup, except all the problems with that idea, such as land use, how many takeoffs and

                  • You originally said that flying cars would never exist because physics, and then you pointed out a lot of economic & practical problems with replacing all cars with flying cars. I point out that they aren't a replacement for regular cars but rather a better GA aircraft, and now you admit that there is [in fact] a market for them--perhaps even one that is 3x larger than the existing GA market (which supports several companies, BTW), but we should all consider that a failure because there won't be one in

                    • You originally said that flying cars would never exist because physics

                      I did? I don't think that was me...

                      What I did say is that flying cars would never be common, would never be cheap, and would never be widespread.

                      And if that is not what you read, or perhaps if I wrote it poorly, then that is what I meant to say.

                      I point out that they aren't a replacement for regular cars but rather a better GA aircraft, and now you admit that there is [in fact] a market for them--perhaps even one that is 3x larger than the existing GA market (which supports several companies, BTW)

                      I wish them all the best at becoming better GA aircraft, but that market is riddled with failures.

                      As for supporting the existing GA market of companies, only Cessna and Cirrus have done anything with it, and neither company is getting rich off it. Many have come an

                    • I'm going to laugh my ass off in 20 years when I'm flying around in a ride-share self-piloting VTOL aircraft

                      Hope and dreams are nice, but that simply isn't going to happen.

                      Two points:

                      1. There is little reason to make it VTOL, when it will end up being at an airport anyway. Assuming you make it self-piloting, it might as well be an airplane, which will always be cheaper than a VTOL anything.

                      2. The cost of these things, by the time they end up as commercial products, are likely to be pushing a million dollars. It becomes a luxury toy for rich people, assuming anyone buys it. But such toys already exist, they are

                    • > 1. There is little reason to make it VTOL, when it will end up being at an airport anyway. Assuming you make it self-piloting, it might as well be an airplane, which will always be cheaper than a VTOL anything.

                      HTOL makes sense for internal combustion engines because the engine is so heavy you don't want more than one of them if you can avoid it. And HTOL aircraft are easier to pilot by humans. But HTOL requires big [costly] wings to get sufficient lift and then you have all that drag at altitude. And i

                    • VTOL makes sense for electric drive aircraft. You can use multiple redundant cheap electric motors rather than one highly reliable super-mega-certified internal combustion engine.

                      The drive and power systems don't matter, they aren't the primary issue. (they are an issue, but lets pretend that is magically solved)

                      The real issue is that to lift a few thousand pounds off the ground requires a large volume of air to be moved. You cannot do this in a residential area, the downwash would be too damaging to everything around you. It doesn't matter if you use one large spinning rotor disc or a dozen ducted fans, you still have to propel a large volume of air at high speed, which hits the

          • Show me a car that gets 18mpg at 140 mph. 140mph is the cruise speed of 172's with the 180hp Lycoming.
            • While that is a fair point, the 172 also requires several thousand feet of runway to be useful.

              It also doesn't carry all that much, put a pair of 200lb people and a few bags into it and you're at max gross weight, it is more like a Ford Mustang, a 2+2 airplane. If you put 2 adults in the back and 2 kids in the back, you're not hauling much, or you have to down fuel.

              It also costs a third of a million dollars.

              A much better comparison would be a Robinson R-44, since it doesn't require a runway.

              120 MPG at 16 g

    • Wouldn't it be 50,000 pounds (50 × 10 × 10 × 10)?

      • That might be correct. It seems that scale model boat builders use the cube of the scale to calculate the displacement of their model boats versus the full size versions.

      • by tsqr ( 808554 )

        Wouldn't it be 50,000 pounds (50 × 10 × 10 × 10)?

        Yes, if everything in the model scales with the cube of length. But it probably wouldn't, through the use of lightweight material like carbon fiber for the structure and props and high-efficiency ironless electric motors. It's going to a daunting challenge, though, and extremely expensive, assuming it's possible at all. Hard to imagine this getting off the ground with a takeoff weight much over a couple of thousand pounds. And even if it can get off the ground and actually fly, reliability is going to be an

    • Scaling up may mean additional support or different materials, and a production model will likely have more or fewer features.

      It's a test model to learn stuff with, IOW, so you can't extrapolate within an order of magnitude without knowing a lot more details.

    • The full-size wing will be 10x as long, with 10x the chord, and the same curve, so it could be 100x the weight.

      Yes, it's also 10x as tall, but what matters for wings is the shape, the ratio of height to chord. A 1/10th model has 1/100th surface area so at the same shape it can support roughly 1/100th the weight.

      • The full-size wing will be 10x as long, with 10x the chord, and the same curve, so it could be 100x the weight.

        No, 1000x, if not otherwise structurally altered.

    • by TimSSG ( 1068536 )
      I am far from an expert, but, often weight does NOT go linear on models. I would guess the weight is any where from 10 to 1000 times more in the full size model. Tim S.

      So this is a 1/10th scale model, fine... but only 50lbs? Doesn't that mean the full size can only weigh 500lbs to match the flight characteristics of the model?

      Still seems very much like vaporware.

    • So this is a 1/10th scale model, fine... but only 50lbs? Doesn't that mean the full size can only weigh 500lbs to match the flight characteristics of the model?

      Still seems very much like vaporware.

      Absolutely. The largest bird capable of flight is under 30 pounds. If you double it's size, there probably isn't any way you could make it fly unless you altered the materials. The same goes for scaling up miniatures like this. You can learn SOME things from it, but you can't learn whether it will actually work unless you already know how you are going to scale down the weight while retaining the strength.

    • Weight scales as the cube of the length, just like volume.

      So ten times the linear dimension would be 100 times the weight, or 5000 lbs. (for a solid anyway)

      The problem is, material strength and gravity don't scale that way.

  • ..government/military/emergency vehicle only, at worst. For safety purposes, you'd have to be a licensed pilot, with special training by the manufacturer and certified by the FAA, in order to operate it. How long did it take for the automated systems on current passenger jets to be certified? Will take at least that long to certify something like this is fail-safe enough. Maintenance would have to be performed with the same rules/laws as any other aircraft, i.e. you'd have to take it to a licensed aircraft
    • I can definitely see something like this being very useful in a military version, though, or as an emergency vehicle version

      I suggest that you snap up some shares of Terrafugia while you still can!

  • Does it come with a "Your horn will not transform my car into a helicopter" bumper sticker?

  • Yes, great, but it's 2015, where's my flying car? Oh, wait...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Think about the primary reason you don't live at an airport. If flying cars ever "take off" like cell phones, your neighborhood will be an airport.

  • by jcr ( 53032 )

    We're talking about a model airplane here, smaller than a lot of hobbyists are already flying on a routine basis. Why in the world would they even be talking to the FAA about it?

    -jcr

    • Why in the world would they even be talking to the FAA about it?

      Well, it got them an article here, now didn't it?

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      We're talking about a model airplane here, smaller than a lot of hobbyists are already flying on a routine basis. Why in the world would they even be talking to the FAA about it?

      Maybe they're getting a jump on the FAA's drone registration program, cause you know the Press calls every remote control aircraft a drone now.

  • Comic relief (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tough Love ( 215404 ) on Saturday December 19, 2015 @03:56PM (#51151035)

    Thanks for that. A good laugh once a day makes you live longer. Amongst the innumerable aerodynamic engineering issues:

      - Center of gravity is well forward of center of lift, so the only possible stable flying attitude is straight down

      - Wing loading is off the end of the scale. If you put a big enough engine on it, anything will fly - this one would would stall somewhere over 300 Mph, if it could ever fly straight that is, which is doubtful. Too bad it's limited to 200 Mph, I guess it's a helicopter after all.

      - Vertical and horizontal stabilizers are miniscule and tucked away in the turbulence of the fuselage. Control surfaces are apparently nonexistent. To get an idea how that might work, tie a string to a shoe box and fly it as a kite while driving down the freeway.

      - How much will those retractable engine engine covers weigh, if they ever exist? Which they never will.

      - Where are the roof racks? It needs root racks. And a trailer hitch.

    For further research, see here. [youtube.com]

  • Where's the Moller Skycar?
  • until the first one gets dinged by a soccer mom in a supermarket carpark.

    The FAA is going to have its work cut out keeping these safe in the real world.

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome. -- Dr. Johnson

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