Developed by Moller International, the three-wheeled, folding-wing craft is designed to be as safe, affordable, and easy to use as an automobile. Travels at 350+ miles per hour and achieves an environmentally friendly 21 miles per gallon on alcohol, a cleaner fuel than gasoline.
FROM EDIT INTERNATIONAL
By Lance Laytner
Sometime this year what will seem to be a UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) will lift off from somewhere inside Communist China and forever change the way mankind travels.
That’s when, after a long and wonderful romance, we’ll begin to say goodbye to the automobile and put it out to pasture with the horse.
For the UFO we’ll be watching will be man’s next mode of transportation – the flying car.
After over forty years of development by one of America’s great visionary scientists and millions of dollars of investment, the Skycar is finally ready to takeoff. But not from US soil.
That’s because its inventor has tired of waiting for US backing in his multi-million dollar project and of being held up by the tough rules of America’s Federal Aviation Administration.
Paul Moller, the 68-year-old Canadian-born inventor told us exclusively; “We are seriously working with China to put the Skycar into production. The Skycar is liable to be in the 2008 Olympics in China.” It may even fly into one of the new Olympic stadiums.
Moller says his move to China is “a sad comment on the United States today.” The Chinese are set up to make great strides in technology and are better suited to produce the Skycar than is America.
The forward thinking Chinese are quickly becoming known as the world’s great innovators. When faced with the vast open distances across China they simply went wireless bypassing the difficulties of land line installations. Now with similar ingenuity the Chinese may be the first industrial nation to leave ground traffic forever behind.
“They are deadly serious.” says Paul Moller. “They have more engineers working on vertical takeoff and landing aircraft right now than anywhere else in the world. I can’t get financial support in America so I am turning to China.”
Moller says, “America has many good things going in terms of creativity but it is unable to finance projects like the Skycar because US capitalists want to finance something that gives returns in six or eight month, maybe even two years, but they are not willing to look 25 years ahead. China and India, for example, have far reaching visions of the future compared to the United States.
“I haven’t any doubts that the Skycar will be manufactured in China. Our people have been going back and forth to China as guests of their government for months. One of our directors is over there right now. We are in contract negotiations. I have been shuttling back and forth between the US and China.”
Moller says with the Chinese spending a couple of hundred million dollars in technological development they might even end up controlling the production of the Skycar.
“We are not greedy. We just want a piece of it. China can have the controlling interest. They can have all the publicity associated with it. As long as we keep a part of the world where we have patents then we are not going to loose anything.”
He points out, “America’s FAA has no control in China. Chinese aviation engineers can do anything they want. And of course you don’t do anything in China that doesn’t have military overtones. They’ve been so much more aggressive about wanting to do business with us. In America you cannot penetrate the market because it’s who you know.”
Paul Moller says Europe will be heavily involved in producing engines in large numbers. “Not just for the Skycar in Europe but for the whole world.”
Right now you can buy the very first Moller Skycar, a piece of aviation history, for 3.5 million dollars. The world’s first flying car is up for sale in the Nieman Marcus Catalogue. The company is taking orders for US-built production line Skycars at one million dollars each with one hundred thousand dollars down payment. Made in China, they will be considerably less.
Looking like something out of a Batman movie, with futuristic air fins and four large turbine engines flanking a pressurized four-person passenger cabin covered by a glass bubble, the van sized Skycar sits tin a Davis, California workshop while last minute checks are performed in preparation for its fist un-tethered test flight.
Proudly looking on is Paul Moller. The Canadian-born US engineer with a PhD in aeronautics had been a professor of engineering and aeronautics at the University of California before retiring ten years ago to devote himself full time to the Skycar.
Against the advice of engineering colleagues who told him it could not be done, Professor Moller tirelessly worked to build a flying machine that could take off and land from a street corner or backyard and be as easy to fly as driving a car.
Now—after spending two personal fortunes and a lifetime of work— the technology has finally caught up with his dream and the Skycar is ready to fly – inside the US or in China.
The craft’s first airborne venture took place on January 7th, 2002 at the Civilian Test Flight Center in the Mojave Desert outside of Sacramento, California. The Skycar was tethered to a giant crane for safety while Moller himself served as test-pilot during maneuvers.
Finally, after three years of safety checks and negotiations with America’s Federal Aviation Administration, the Skycar has now been cleared to begin un-tethered flight maneuvers over a specially constructed lake in a new commercial development complex called the Milk Farm which is located off of Interstate 80 outside of Dixon, California.
If all goes well the FAA or authorities in China will approve the Skycar to be flown by pilots and ordinary commuters once they take a training course similar to driving school.
According to thousands of hours of wind tunnel tests, the Skycar will travel at 322 mph for 900 miles before needing to refuel. The pressurized passenger cabin will allow the craft to cruise above the Earth at the same altitude as commercial jets.
The Skycar will be able to take off and land vertically from small air pads which Moller intends to call “vertiports” - similar to a helipad for a helicopters. Vertiports need only be about 35ft in diameter making it possible to build hundreds of them in vacant lots, backyards, or even on the roofs of houses.
“Just imagine how Skycars will open up countries,” says Moller. “There will be no more crowding into cities. People will live further and further away and commute quickly and safely.”
Skycar owners could live 100 miles or more from the city and still get to work in less than twenty minutes.
Traffic jams will be a thing of the past because of the vastness of the sky. “If you put all the cars in operation around the world in the air, you would hardly see any cars,” says Moller.
Paul Moller may soon be associated with the likes of Henry Ford and the Wright brothers. “The Skycar will do for the car-based society what the car did for the horse-based society,” says Dennis Bushnell, chief scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia.
The key to the Skycar’s amazing potential lies in its innovative engineering and design. Moller knew that to replace the automobile as the chief means of transportation the Skycar would need three unique features: the ability to take off and land without the need for runways, the ability to run on cheap fuel sources like auto gasoline, and flight controls so simple there would be no need for a highly trained pilot.
The first hurdle Moller decided to tackle was giving the Skycar the ability to take off and land without the need of an airfield. The technology needed is VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing.)
It’s the same technology that allows the U.S. Military’s Harrier Jump Jet to land on small platforms aboard Navy ships or set down in clearings in a jungle. But the problem with VTOL is that it’s very tricky and requires a highly skilled pilot to work complicated controls.
Moller needed to create a VTOL system that worked as well as the military’s but was simple enough for the average car driver to operate. To achieve this ease of use Moller built several predecessors to the current Skycar.
In 1965 Moller flew his first flying machine. Known as the XM-2, it had two engines but could only lift slightly off the ground and was too unstable to fly higher. But a picture showing him a few feet off the ground caused the world to gasp. [see photo]
Five years later Moller tried his next VTOL experiment, the XM-3. This strange vehicle looked like a giant fan, housing a pilot in the center of a single giant turbine blade. The craft proved educational, but wasn’t powerful enough to even lift off the ground. Then came the Xm-4 which was too erratic to fly safely.
Finally with the M200X, the predecessor to the current Skycar, Moller created a model that was both powerful enough to take off and had enough control to maneuver safely.
The M200X is quite literally a flying saucer and is listed in Washington’s Smithsonian Institute as one of mankind’s four greatest inventions. [see photo] The pilot sits in the middle of a dish holding six propellers that provide the lift for the aircraft.
The M200X has flown over 150 times at an altitude of up to 50 feet [see photo] but since the propellers point down it can only move forward slowly depending on the weight shifts of the pilot and is not very useful for travel.
With the knowledge gained from his previous attempts, Moller was finally ready to build the VTOL system for his final model which he has named the M400 Skycar.
The Skycar’s VTOL system uses eight fans each powered by their own engine to create a large amount of air flowing at high speed. Venetian blind-like ducts then blow the air downward for lift or backward for forward thrust.
This innovative design provides a tremendous amount of safety over the previous VTOL aircraft including the military’s Harrier Jump Jet. Other VTOL aircraft use rotating propellers that shift between an upright position like a helicopter’s for takeoff and landing and a vertical position like an airplane’s for forward flight. This design, known as the Osprey, is very complicated and has resulted in the deaths of many test pilots due to stalls. Over 30 American soldiers died in crashes in the 1990’s alone.
The Skycar’s ducts are much simpler by contrast and hardly ever stall. But even if half of the Skycar’s eight engines failed it would still continue to fly. In the unlikely event of a complete engine failure, the Skycar is equipped with an emergency parachute in the nose cone.
This makes the Skycar the safest VTOL aircraft ever invented.
Next, Moller set out to make the Skycar as easy to fly as driving a ground car.
All of the Skycar’s flight power is harnessed into two very simple joystick controls: the left hand controls altitude while the right hand controls direction of flight and speed.
But the real pilot of the Skycar is its computer system – each Skycar has 24 microprocessors and over 25,000 lines of software code.
Tell the Skycar where you want to go and the GPS guided computer will do the rest. All the complicated flight calculations and adjustments that airplane and helicopter pilots have to make are done by the Skycar’s sophisticated and powerful computers leaving the driver and passengers free to enjoy the ride.
A final Skycar hurdle was the building of an engine powerful enough for flight, but running on a fuel as cheap as common gasoline. Eventually, alcohol was chosen because it burns cleaner.
The challenge was that most engines powerful enough to lift the Skycar would make it too heavy to get off the ground. Moller searched for years before he finally found the solution in a car engine created by the great German inventor, Felix Wankel, in the 1950s for General Motors that had never made it into full production.
The Wankel replaces conventional pistons and rods with a triangular rotor in an oval chamber that creates compression and expansion as the rotor turns. This radical design makes the Wankel about one-quarter the size and weight of a normal car engine but with twice the power.
It was the last piece of the Skycar puzzle. Quickly buying the rights to the Wankel, Moller formed the production company Freedom Motors, Inc. Today’s Skycar is powered by eight tiny lightweight Wankel engines.
The first Skycars are going to cost about one million dollars if built in America. “In China,” says Paul Moller, “the price will be much lower.”
The earliest Skycars will probably be bought first for air taxis and by the military. But as more and more Skycars go into production, costs are expected to drop.
The goal is to make the Skycar as affordable as a normal car “I see this as a cheap, civilian product, and if it isn’t it would be a failure as far as I’m concerned,” says Moller.
Within two years of its release Moller predicts the Skycar will cost no more than one of today’s luxury cars, around $50,000 dollars. His goal is nothing short than to replace the automobile as the primary form of transportation.
The Skycar has already had $41 million dollars in advance sales.
In preparation for the airborne future, America’s FAA has begun devoting considerable resources to planning a highway-in-the-sky that will keep Skycar drivers in safe corridors using the new more accurate civilian Global Positioning System (GPS). The Skycars will be kept on a computer controlled flight path constantly monitored for deviations that might signal trouble.
Future travel may become entirely automated. “The Skycar will become a widely used unpiloted air-taxi,” predicts Henry Lahore, the project leader of an extensive study of the Skycar undertaken by Boeing Aircraft. “This is the only known commuter vehicle that can move large numbers of people very quickly and safely and still let them conveniently choose their departure point, departure time, and destination."
Within ten years you may be able to order a Skycar taxi by phone or online that will set down on your front lawn before whisking you off at high speed to your destination at the hands of a computer pilot.
Floating Skycar “truck stops” staggered across the world’s oceans where fliers could refuel and rest might even allow families to travel to other continents as easily as they now take road trips.
Whatever the future may hold, thanks to Paul Moller and his amazing flying machine…the sky will no longer be the limit.
By Lance Laytner
Paul Moller’s dream of a personal flying machine began at the age of 6 when a teacher in Canada told him it is scientifically impossible for hummingbirds or bees to fly.
Young Moller began to study everything about flight. At 14 he designed a helicopter.
As he grew older Moller became obsessed with building a flying machine that would replace automobiles.
Moller dropped out of high school and first became a master welder, then enrolled in an aeronautics engineering certificate program at Canada’s Provincial Institute of Technology and Art.
Here Moller quickly built himself a reputation as a genius and Montreal’s famed McGill University decided to admit Moller into their graduate Engineering program without an undergraduate degree.
After completing his education with a PhD in Aeronautics, Moller decided to pursue in earnest his childhood dream of the Skycar.
To fund the Skycar Moller made millions with his invention of the Super Trap Muffler which almost silences motorcycles. He earned a second fortune of many millions with wise land investments.
Moller poured these two fortunes along with $30 million dollars of investor’s money into the Skycar.
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