Conventional cars are the ones that are driven on roads. A flying car or an aero-car is one such vehicle that can be driven on the roads as well as flown in skies. Flying cars have been a dream for most people for a long time. Most of us have seen flying cars in many science fiction and fantasy movies like Star wars, Back to the future, Harry Potter, etc. Finally after decades of dreaming and waiting, flying cars have now become a reality. Terrafugia, the developer of a roadable aircraft called the Transition and a flying car called the TF-X. The firm was recently granted U.S. Patent No. US20160023527 A1 titled ‘Combined driving/flying vehicle with vertical takeoff and fixed wing cruise capabilities’.  The invention discloses an autonomous flying car with vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL).

The hybrid vehicle has a pair of foldable wings attached to a body of the vehicle, an actuator to control the position of the foldable wings, a pair of electric motor pods secured to the corresponding foldable wings to enable VTOL, a ducted fan secured to an aft end of the vehicle to provide propulsion, a battery pack to power each of the electric motor pods.  The battery pack may also power the wheel-electric motors of the vehicle during a drive mode operation.

In addition to the above there is an engine to power the battery as well as the ducted fan and to drive the drive shaft of the vehicle during the drive mode operation.  Further, the battery packs of the vehicle can be also be recharged by an electrical utility grid or by a generator.  A Fuel cell-powered motor connected to a fuel tank serves as a backup power source to drive the ducted fan as well as to drive the drive train of the vehicle during emergency.    

In flight mode operation strategy, each of the foldable wings will fold-out of the vehicle and a retractable propeller blade of each of the electric motor pods will get actuated and initially provide vertical take-off and also provide some horizontal propulsion to the vehicle. At the same time, the ducted fan provides necessary thrust and horizontal propulsion to the vehicle thereafter.  The vehicle has a very cool feature to it; the auto-pilot function enables the vehicle to fly and land by itself.  

In drive mode operation strategy, each of the retractable propeller blades of the electric motor pods retracts thereof and then each of the foldable wings of the vehicle fold down and each of the electric motor pods are securely stored inside the corresponding pod doors of the vehicle. Now, the wheels of the vehicle are driven by in-wheel electric motors and/or a mechanically driven drive shaft to propel the vehicle.      

This innovation is mainly intended to provide realistic door to door transportation. Sources indicate that the fully autonomous flying car TF-X is expected to hit the market by the year 2021.

Authored by Dinesh Kumar

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