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Flight of Fancy: Creating the Next Flying Car

MIX Aerospace has been working for the last four years to create a flying car. Now they're looking to turn those dreams and drawings into working prototypes, using Indiegogo to help raise funds and, more importantly, awareness.

The idea of a flying car has been with us, in one form or another, for at least as long as we've had motorcars and flying machines. Visionaries have included Glenn Curtiss and his 1917 Model 11 Autoplane, Henry Dreyfuss's Corvaircar of 1947, Molt Taylor's 1949 Aerocar and Henry Smolinski's Mizar that mated a Ford Pinto to a Cessna Skymaster wing and engine in 1971.

None got much beyond the prototype stage and some, like Smolinski, died in their contraptions.

Fast forward now to the age of carbon fiber composites and high-power electronics and brushless electric motors and the dream of a car-that-becomes-a-flying-machine is reborn. The latest reincarnation being the flying car from Terrafugia, which actually looks like it might get beyond the a handful of prototypes and into limited production.

Over the years, EV World has interviewed a couple flying car visionaries: Paul Moller and most recently Robert Dingemanse. Strictly speaking, neither of these machines qualify as EVs. They are powered by fossil fuels, largely because of its energy density per weight and volume. Pound-for-pound, it clobber's the best battery technology we have at the moment.

That is about to change. When you have the likes of EADS Aerospace developing an all-electric ducted fan trainer, you can sense a subtle shift starting to take place in industry thinking.

So in the spirit of flying on the cutting edge of electric flight technology, we got James Desauvage, the creative director at MIX Aerospace to talk about their efforts to create their own flying car, the Skylys.

Desauvage spoke to us from his home in the south of France via Skype. He is part of what has been for the last four years a virtual company with team members, including the company co-founder and co-inventor of the Skylys concept, Gary Chorostecki, communicating regularly by phone or Skype. Part of the reason they are seeking project funding on Indiegogo, the crowd-funding site, is to afford to have key team members relocate to Silicon Valley, where they have set up a temporary office.

While it has long been the dream of flying car visionaries to create an affordable auto-plane for the masses -- the Model T, if you will, of flying cars -- the reality is; flying is significantly more demanding technologically than driving. Where drag and weight are less important than economics and styling; in flight they are of paramount concern. By the time you satisfy the demands of physics and safety regulators, you've got a machine that typically costs ten time and more the price of a mass produced automobile.

That's why the Skylys is currently envisioned fulfilling the role of a combination helicopter and ambulance. For flight, it uses energy-dense fossil fuels -- or maybe someday a synthetic substitute -- then on the ground it can operate as an electric vehicle. That explains why there appear to be two different version of the craft: one a tilt-rotor machine (pictured above), the second (pictured below), an BMW Isetta-looking electric car that detaches from its hovercraft-like flying body. Both are concepts that have now evolved into a new, more unified design that MIX Aerospace will be revealing in the near future.

At some point, the forces of technology and innovation will finally bring about a successful marriage of the airplane and the automobile. Will it be one developed by the young men at MIX Aerospace? Very possibly. Will it be affordable? Ifyou have to ask that question, you probably can't afford it.

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