Flying cars have always tickled the fancy of technocrats (and even those not so technologically inclined) across the world for a considerable period of time now. Right from movies like Blade Runner, The Fifth Element and the entire Back to the Future and Men in Black franchise to even animated series such as The Jetsons and The Magic School Bus, our imagination has been constantly fuelled by dreams of riding in flying vehicles, being able to avoid the hassles of city traffic.
And while there are a number of automotive and even aviation companies working on projects to turn this dream into reality (Terrafugia, AeroMobil, Bell, Airbus and Boeing to name only a few), the American/Israeli start-up Next Future Transportation Inc. has gone ahead and built an EVTOL (electric-powered vertical takeoff and landing) vehicle that seems to be a step ahead of its competition, in the sense that this piece of tech does not need to rely upon runways to get it up into the air.
Christened as ‘Aska’, the Japanese word for a flying bird, this aircraft-car hybrid from NFT, with its wings tucked away, looks not too different any other SUV or minivan you’d come across on the road, albeit a much fancier version. However, once the Aska has spread its wings (it has 40 ft wide wingspan), the multiple rotors on the vehicle, ten on the car’s body, two on its wings (one on each), the two rotors at the back aid the Aska in gaining cruising altitude. Once high up in the sky, the rotors on the wings and at the back swivel in order to position themselves to propel it forward, helping the wings gain lift in the process.
A scaled model of the 3-passenger Aska was unveiled at the EcoMotion show in Tel Aviv, Israel, last week and the attendees just couldn’t help but throng to the demonstration. The Aska, set for release by the year 2025, will be powered by an array of rechargeable batteries, along with an electric/gasoline hybrid system that will help in extending the range of its flight (estimated to be around more than 560 km when carrying a single passenger). NFT plans to introduce autonomous operation into the Aska, based on an artificial intelligence based system that will allow it to recognise and avoid stationary objects as well as those in motion.
While a vehicle with such incredible capabilities cannot be expected to be priced inexpensively, Next Future Transportation Inc. plans to launch the Aska at a relatively reasonable price of $200,000 (a price it expects to drop down to about 1/4th in the future). However, with the aim of making it affordable to even those not so financially well off, the company plans to increase consumption by offering subscription services as well as one-off trips, which are expected to be much more moderately priced. As explained by co-founders Guy and Maki Kaplinsky, they intend to solve the issue of time wastage while being stuck in traffic by building the most efficient and most comfortable way of commuting for the future. We for one are certainly excited at the prospect of getting into a car and driving off into the sunset.