Aircraft

Terrafugia announces its plans for a VTOL "flying car"

Terrafugia announces its plans...
Terrafugia has announced its plans to develop a vertical-take-off-and-landing flying car, known as the TF-X (Image: Terrafugia)
Terrafugia has announced its plans to develop a vertical-take-off-and-landing flying car, known as the TF-X (Image: Terrafugia)
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The TF-X in cruising mode, with its wing pod propellers retracted (Image: Terrafugia)
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The TF-X in cruising mode, with its wing pod propellers retracted (Image: Terrafugia)
The TF-X will have a cruising speed of 200 mph (322 km/h), going up to 500 miles (805 km) without needing to refuel or recharge (Image: Terrafugia)
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The TF-X will have a cruising speed of 200 mph (322 km/h), going up to 500 miles (805 km) without needing to refuel or recharge (Image: Terrafugia)
The TF-X in folded-wing ground mode ... (Image: Terrafugia)
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The TF-X in folded-wing ground mode ... (Image: Terrafugia)
... transitioning into lift-off configuration ... (Image: Terrafugia)
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... transitioning into lift-off configuration ... (Image: Terrafugia)
... and finally in cruising mode (Image: Terrafugia)
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... and finally in cruising mode (Image: Terrafugia)
Terrafugia has announced its plans to develop a vertical-take-off-and-landing flying car, known as the TF-X (Image: Terrafugia)
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Terrafugia has announced its plans to develop a vertical-take-off-and-landing flying car, known as the TF-X (Image: Terrafugia)
The engine will charge the batteries used by the electric motors, although they can also be charged simply by plugging into an electric vehicle charger when parked (Image: Terrafugia)
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The engine will charge the batteries used by the electric motors, although they can also be charged simply by plugging into an electric vehicle charger when parked (Image: Terrafugia)
The 4-passenger TF-X will feature wings that fold into its sides, allowing it to fit on roads and in garages when in fully-electric ground mode (Image: Terrafugia)
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The 4-passenger TF-X will feature wings that fold into its sides, allowing it to fit on roads and in garages when in fully-electric ground mode (Image: Terrafugia)
Users will likely drive their vehicle to and from designated landing sites similar to those used by helicopters, and fly between those sites (Image: Terrafugia)
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Users will likely drive their vehicle to and from designated landing sites similar to those used by helicopters, and fly between those sites (Image: Terrafugia)

Although countless small companies have tried to commercially develop flying cars over the past several decades, we’re still not seeing Blade Runner-esque vehicles cruising over our rooftops ... yet. Terrafugia is one of the groups currently trying to change that situation – a fully-functioning prototype of its Transition fixed-wing “roadable airplane” is currently undergoing flight tests, and was recently cleared for civilian use by the US Federal Aviation Authority. It still requires a runway for take-off and landing, though, which kind of clashes with many peoples’ flying car fantasies. Well, today Terrafugia announced its plans for a hybrid-drive vertical-take-off-and-landing (VTOL) vehicle, known as the TF-X.

Like the Transition, plans call for the 4-passenger TF-X to feature wings that fold into its sides, allowing it to fit on roads and in garages when in fully-electric ground mode. When it’s time to take off, however, those wings will extend into their flight position, and retractible propellers will open out of two 600-hp electric motor pods – one on each wing tip. Each pod will contain 16 separate motors, to keep everything in the air should one or more of them malfunction.

Initially, those props will be pointing upwards, allowing them to pull the TF-X up off the ground. Once the vehicle is sufficiently airborne, however, the propellers will rotate forward, allowing it to move ahead. Once the TF-X has gained enough forward momentum, the two wing-mounted propellers (but not the wings!) can once again be retracted, with a 300-hp internal combustion engine powering a single large rear-mounted ducted prop while cruising. The wing props will be re-engaged as the landing site approaches.

The engine will charge the batteries used by the electric motors, although they can also be charged simply by plugging into an electric vehicle charger when parked.

The engine will charge the batteries used by the electric motors, although they can also be charged simply by plugging into an electric vehicle charger when parked (Image: Terrafugia)
The engine will charge the batteries used by the electric motors, although they can also be charged simply by plugging into an electric vehicle charger when parked (Image: Terrafugia)

Before you start picturing yourself flying a TF-X off of your driveway, however, Terrafugia does state that the vehicle will require a clearing at least 100 feet (30.5 meters) in diameter for takeoff. This means that users will most likely drive their vehicle to and from designated landing sites similar to those used by helicopters, and fly between those sites.

That said, unlike the case with a helicopter, the designers believe that it should only take about five hours to learn how to fly the TF-X. This is largely because users will have the option of flying it in automatic mode, in which they just input the location of their destination landing site (along with some back-up secondary choices), then leave the navigation to the vehicle.

It will subsequently travel at a cruising speed of 200 mph (322 km/h), going up to 500 miles (805 km) without needing to refuel or recharge. While cruising in automatic mode, it will be able to automatically avoid other air traffic, along with inclement weather, restricted airspace and tower-controlled airspace (which pilots would require additional training to fly in). It will also automatically land itself at the destination (if weather allows), although the pilot will be able to override that function if they notice any hazards at the chosen landing site.

The TF-X will have a cruising speed of 200 mph (322 km/h), going up to 500 miles (805 km) without needing to refuel or recharge (Image: Terrafugia)
The TF-X will have a cruising speed of 200 mph (322 km/h), going up to 500 miles (805 km) without needing to refuel or recharge (Image: Terrafugia)

Should the TF-X just crap out completely in mid-air, the pilot can activate a parachute system to keep it from crashing to the ground. Likewise, if the onboard control system detects that the vehicle is being piloted in an unsafe manner, it will automatically declare an emergency and contact the relevant authorities. Should the pilot be unresponsive to prompts by the system, it will automatically land the vehicle at the closest airport.

All of this is still at least 8 to 12 years away, though, as that’s how long Terrafugia figures it will take to develop a commercially viable product. The only estimate on price is that it could be “on-par with very high-end luxury cars of today.”

Animation of the TF-X in flight can be seen in the video below.

Source: Terrafugia

Introducing TF-X™: Terrafugia's Vision for the Future of Personal Transportation

25 comments
Thomas Lewis
I think with the technology available right now,4 motors with fixed pitch,makes for a very safe and stable platform.As a added safety feature,it can be fitted with a ballistic chute.I think I would pas on two motors,look at the V-22, and all of it's problems.
Derek Howe
That's awesome, it actually looks pretty damn nice too. If any company has the ability to make this happen, they are it. Since they currently already make the closest thing to a flying car. Their timeline unfortunately is probably accurate, and it'll likely be around a million dollars......sadly, that's "slightly" outta my range.
Paulinator
That's really fantastic...but late. Dr? Moller already tapped the easy money while somehow avoiding jail time, by always promising the "big moment" is coming in the next year. Eight to 12 years is too far over the horizon to capture current interest.
Marc 1
Typical unresearched comment. V-22 has a prang rate comparable or better than existing marine corps helos. Don't believe everything you read. BTW, the V-22 has a cross shaft connecting both propellors, so it one engine fails the remaining one can power both props.
Slowburn
Blimps would make a much better flying car. With shrouded props the could have minor crashes without raining debris.
Richard Auchus
I still personally like the PAL-V much better, as the Autogyro flight mechanics are much safer and more reliable than either tilt-rotor or even conventional fixed wing for the type of mission the craft will probably be operating in (its also STOL, at least most gyroplanes are at least). Not to mention, it actually looks cool and fun to drive! Look it up, seriously I wish it would be getting more attention than this thing! (http://www.gizmag.com/pal-v-flying-car/22032/ Ed.)
Womp
Looks like the rotors block the doors, do you use the "Dukes Of Hazard" method of getting in and out?
Wesley Dart
Is it just me or does this thing bear a passing resemblance to some of the Star Trek shuttle-craft over the years? Overall I think the aesthetics are rather impressive.
Vanilla Cat
Will never be permitted to fly over populated area without licensed pilot at controls. It is a very cool vehicle but few real world non military applications. Basically it is an aircraft which trailers itself to the airport.
Pelotoner
Looks like an angry trout.