Back in 2008, we heard about a parasail-equipped dune buggy, known as the Parajet Skycar. It could scramble over rough ground like a true off-roader, but then take to the skies when needed. One epic 6,000-km (3,728-mile) drive/flight from London to Tombouctou later, its creators got some ideas about how the design could be improved. The result is the lighter, better-flying and less-polluting SkyRunner – and you can order one now.
Like other parasail vehicles, the SkyRunner has a propeller on the back, along with a parachute-like paraglider wing that packs down when not in use. When it's time to take flight, the wing is laid out behind the car, its propeller is fired up, then it zips along the ground until it reaches 37 mph (60 km/h), at which point the lifting force of the wing pulls everything into the air.
No airport runway is necessary, as a grassy field, beach, or other sufficiently long and empty area is sufficient. A Sport Pilot license, however, is required.
Once airborne, the SkyRunner is reportedly fairly easy to control, as the pilot only needs to manage its pitch and roll. Should trouble arise, a reserve chute can be deployed.
The 926-lb (420-kg) vehicle is powered by a 1.0-liter EcoBoost direct injection turbo engine that produces 200 Nm (147.5 ft lb) of torque, and pushes the car from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.3 seconds. It has a top speed of 115 mph (185 km/h) on the ground and 55 mph (89 km/h) in the air, with one tank of gas taking it 500 miles (805 km) on the road at 56.5 mpg (5 L/100 km), or 200 nautical miles (322 km) in the sky.
The SkyRunner is currently in the process of acquiring its light sport aircraft certification. In the meantime, the company is accepting US$1,500 deposits from potential buyers. The vehicle is hoped to be ready for delivery next year.
While some people may see it as a rich man's toy, its suggested buyers include emergency medical teams, aerial survey companies, pipeline companies, and search and rescue teams. In fact, the very similar Maverick parasail car was designed primarily to deliver medical supplies to remote African villages.