Anyone remember the Jetsons? Spacely Sprockets, George Jetson and Elroy ring a bell? Well, that’s the age we are entering, the age of flying cars. The highways and freeways of the world are expanding not out but up, and companies are capitalizing.
Let’s take a look at three companies and see where they are regarding research and development, real-world application, possible launch dates, obstacles with current commuting, and possible failures they may encounter. Here we go:
Aeromobil is a company from Slovakia that was spotlighted in the Forbes last year. The owners, Juraj Vaculik and Stefan Klein began the company in and currently have two models, one of which is seen below:
Now, the owners have announced that they are going to release the flying vehicle onto the market in 2017. However, the obstacles that remain for them are primarily pricing and how will it be used on the open market.
One route to travel is the luxury market, which is good for sales, however, what is the practical application going to be and how can it help people in residential communities (more on this is below).
Luxury over idealism
Aeromobil, is one of the best looking flying cars being designed, will most likely not be tackling that application yet because of too many variables, and the move toward the luxury market is strategic for capital reasons. If they make sales, they re-invest in the company and further research and development efforts. Still, the luxury market is the only one available.
Although they have not released a price just yet, it would be difficult to imagine it being below the $250,000 mark. Terrafugia, the main rival in the space, has released the price of their model at $270,000.
Carl Dietrich, owner and founder of Terrafugia, represents the main competition for Aeromobil. Though Aeromobil wins in design and appearance, the Terrafugia Transition has quoted the vehicle for a price of $270,000 per unit. The Terrafugia Transition can travel 460 miles in the air at a speed of 115 mph.
Again, this has already been marketed toward the luxury market, and Terrafugia is accepting $10,000 deposits to reserve. However, nothing still has hit the market. They are claiming 2017 is the year, but many critics say it is years away. One of the main reasons is that the advertised production pace is not proportional to the actual time it takes to produce the car. The labor price is a projection at best, and that’s not mentioning if there will be recalls, adjustments that need to be made in materials and how much they will cost. This is a common critique and a major reason to not buy into the idea that it will be released in even the next two to three years.
Zee.Areo and Kitty Hawk flying cars
Larry Page is privately funding two startups focusing on alternative forms of transportation, one of which is the flying car. Business Insider even wrote a piece claiming to see one of these flying cars in the wild. Just to be clear, these start-up’s are not affiliated with Google even given Page’s involvement.
The start-up is quite clandestine about their operations; all they are saying is they have been working diligently and testing out some prototypes. Quick fact: companies like Aeromobil and others interested in the flying car have been testing pro types since the mid-90’s.
Kitty Hawk is a company whose team originally started with Zee.Areo ( it is important to note that this a second start-up under the direction of Larry Page ) and broke away because of differences in design. Kitty Hawk is working on a competing design. There is little information, except that Sebastian Thur, the main creator of the self -driving car, is leading the company.
The one factor with these startups that differs Aeromobil and Terrafugia is that they mark the debut date in 2026.
Complaints and Criticisms
Let’s take a look at the main points in history regarding those interested in flying cars. Nearly all of them went broke or simply never got off the ground; lone inventors spend years obsessing and never really get anywhere, and capital resources are very difficult to find. Even the super wealthy who are interested in this sector of the market have not had major success.
Another concern is how these flying cars will play out in urban areas. Urban aviation is a challenge because of the landscape and cost; for example, Teterboro Airport in NJ allows for small single engine airplanes to fly in and out but costs the pilot $400 to land and $400 to fly out.
When you take this fee plus gas, and coordination with other airplanes on the runway it becomes very difficult to see if this is even practical. It seems like it will sit on the luxury market for a long time and be a novelty.
Bureaucracy and regulations are immense roadblocks to speeding up the debut and use of these vehicles. There are numerous tests and inspections the vehicles have to pass which can take years to complete.
The aviation regulations are a major impediment and may require drivers to pass additional tests which of course begs the question, how can these become practical vehicles? Furthermore, fans and interested buyers of the vehicle may think these regulations are nothing but red tape which is false. There are major safety concerns designed and in place to keep everyone safe.
The designs and aspirations are tremendous. They are inspiring, fun, and exciting; however, very few companies can create a market or need for a product. With massive regulations in place, a small market of buyers and numerous variables like production cost, it just does not seem practical.
Companies like these and including the ones above have consistently failed to meet a date to release on to the market. As far as the market is concerned, we are looking at something that will stay a fascination for enthusiasts, but has little chance of breaking into the open market.