Commute to Work in Your Volantor

A U.S. aeronautics company has designed a line of vehicles that will let you fly to the office parking lot in the future. In a scenario right out of "The Jetsons," the people at Moller International, of Davis, Calif., think the notion of commuting using one of their volantors, or vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, is not so far-fetched, even though previous incarnations of flying cars have been spectacular flops as far back as anyone can remember. In a BBC news item today, the inventor of the flying-saucer-style vehicle, aeronautics engineer Paul Moller, foresees highways in the sky that will one day soon supplant conventional roadways.

"We have this wonderful natural resource above us," Moller told the BBC. "Look at the sky above us -- how many aircraft do you see? It's a great space that is not being utilized. That is what we plan to use. Cars are finished as a means of getting around. It's only a matter of time."

Moller said that the first volantor from his firm, designated the M 200G, will be made available in a few months, at a price of US $90 000, and that he hopes to produce as many as 250 units for sale within a year. The M 200G has eight aircraft engines that swing from vertical to horizontal orientation that enable it to achieve VTOL flight.

The BBC article notes that the M 200G is the precursor to a more sophisticated Moller volantor, the M 400 Skycar, which is being designed to fly at nearly 400 miles per hour, with an ascent rate of 6000 feet per minute (and can even be driven on an old-fashioned road).

The promoters of the Moller concept put it this way:

From your garage to your destination, the M400 Skycar can cruise comfortably at 275 mph (maximum speed of 375 mph) and achieve up to 20 miles per gallon on clean burning, ethanol fuel. No traffic, no red lights, no speeding tickets. Just quiet direct transportation from point A to point B in a fraction of the time. Three-dimensional mobility in place of two-dimensional immobility.

The big question for the VTOL maker now is whether they will need to seek approval of their flying machines from the U.S. Department of Transportation or the Federal Aviation Agency. Or maybe they'll need approval from the estate of the creators of "The Jetsons."


Tech Talk

IEEE Spectrum’s general technology blog, featuring news, analysis, and opinions about engineering, consumer electronics, and technology and society, from the editorial staff and freelance contributors.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for the Tech Alert newsletter and receive ground-breaking technology and science news from IEEE Spectrum every Thursday.