13th June 2024

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Business Industry and Financial

A ‘Flying Car’ Was Just Cleared For Takeoff

For years, we’ve been promised real flying cars that could revolutionize the way we travel around but, for the most part, every startup that’s come and gone has just tried to sell us some kind of small quadcopter passed off as a flying car. That just won’t do. Now, a company in California has been granted approval from the Federal Aviation Agency to begin testing its flying car, which actually looks like a car.

The Model A is a new concept from a company called Alef, which has been working on the all-electric flying car since 2015. Unlike the electric quadcopters that companies like Stellantis and United are backing, this one actually works as a car. According to Alef, it should be able to cover 200 miles on the road or 110 in the air per battery cycle.

Now, Flying reports that the FAA has approved the craft for takeoff as an experimental aircraft, making it the first “true” flying car design to be approved by the U.S. Government. Of course, “true” has to be highlighted here, as other “flying cars” have gained similar approval, but their fixed-wing designs limit their takeoffs to airports. As Flying reports:

Alef’s Model A, though, is designed to enable takeoff in dense urban settings. Following the Santa Clara, California-based startup’s emergence from stealth in October, CEO Jim Dukhovny explained that the vehicle will primarily drive on roads but will allow users to ‘hop’ around obstacles such as ‘road conditions, weather, and infrastructure’.

A render of the Alef Model A from the top down.

Full of hot air.
Image: Alef

Following the approval from the FAA, Alef now says it is planning its first public display flight, which I’m sure it hopes will encourage people to shell out the $300,000 it’s asking when it hits the sales floor from 2025.

But what is it? Well, it’s basically a mesh frame that gives the Model A its car-like looks, in the middle is a cabin that has space for a driver and one passenger. At each corner of the mesh frame is a wheel with an independent motor, and underneath the bodywork are eight propellers that give the Model A its lift.

So far, the company has only flown prototypes to showcase the feasibility of this design, but this regulatory approval should start to change that. However, there is still a long way to go before the Model A can reach customers. Flying reports that it will need approval to work as both a car and an aircraft, which could take time. As the site explains:

To be commercially viable as a car, Model A will need to at least approach the speed of a typical automobile. And Dukhovny’s plan to initially certify it as a low speed vehicle—limited to speeds of just 25 mph on public roads—doesn’t inspire confidence, despite his assurance the startup will eventually seek full automobile certification.

A render of the Alef flying car in the air.

Looks like a OneWheel.
Image: Alef

If Alef can get all that working, it will then have to figure out the craft’s place in the world. Most flying taxi services will make use of existing airports and heliports to take to the skies, whereas the Model A hopes to take off from the middle of some of the world’s busiest cities. For that to happen, air traffic control systems will need to be implemented and airspace will have to be monitored for safety.

While the federal backing achieved this week is positive, there is still a long way to go if Alef hopes to meet its 2025 launch.