The flying taxi space has welcomed a lot of newcomers over the past couple of years. But before the likes of Uber, Workhorse and the Volocopter swooped into the scene, Terrafugia had been testing the waters for more than a decade with a variety of flying taxi designs. And this old dog has new tricks in it yet, with a new concept dubbed the TF-2 that features a detachable pod for on-ground transit to and from the launchpad.
Terrafugia's mission has always been to marry the ubiquity of road travel with the speed and convenience of flight. You know, kind of like a flying car. We've seen this approach take the form of vehicles that can fly like regular planes, land at the airport, fold up their wings and carry on down the road at highway speeds. These have even received approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration and carried out successful test flights.
But is there something to be gained from having the ground vehicle detach from its aerial components? This is the kind of transport option we saw raised by Airbus and Audi at Geneva Motor Show last month, and Terrafugia is also looking to at least explore the idea. It believes that a detachable ground pod would not only allow passengers to conceivably travel door-to-door without setting foot outside, it would also make for faster turn-around times at the launchpad.
It says the TF-2 would be able to drop off a pod full of passengers and be lifting off with another within two minutes, thanks in part to an autonomous docking system that sees the ground vehicle slide a pod into the aircraft's undercarriage and release it for takeoff. And moving more people through a launch facility means more revenue for operators.
The flight vehicle would have a pilot onboard but would also have autonomous capabilities. It would be fitted with a few luxurious bells and whistles, like built-in chargers, noise-canceling speakers, mood lighting, rotating seats and touchscreen passenger controls.
Terrafugia is weighing up either a tilt-rotor or a lift-plus-push (LPP) configuration for the TF-2, with both offering strengths and weaknesses. LPP would be mechanically simpler, slightly cheaper to run and have a greater maximum take-off weight at 4,090 kg (9,000 lb).
A tilt-rotor configuration, meanwhile, would offer a much greater maximum cruise speed at 333 km/h (205b mph) compared to 240 km/h (150 mph), along with a greater range at 555 km (345 mi) compared to 400 km (250 mi) when fully loaded.
As mentioned, the TF-2 is just a concept at this stage, so there's no word yet on when we might see the thing in action or how much it would cost. The company is actively seeking feedback as its continues development of the concept, and if you feel like adding your two cent's worth, there's a feedback form via the source link below.
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