As if developing a flying car was not hard enough, US start-up Terrafugia has revealed it is studying the feasibility of a vertical take-off and landing roadable aircraft.
Video and concepts: Terrafugia
Where the Transition is a two-seater powered by a Rotax piston aero-engine, the TF-X is a four-seater with a hybrid-electric power train. Two 600hp electric motors and battery packs are mounted at the tips of the folding wing.
For vertical take-off, the blades unfold and nacelles tilt upwards. Once airborne, the nacelles tilt back down and a 300hp engine driving a ducted prop at the rear begins to take over propulsion, while recharging the batteries in flight.
The props stop and blades fold back against the nacelles to reduce drag and allow to aircraft to reach 200mph. Range is 500 miles, says Terrafugia. Vanes in the prop duct provide pitch and yaw control in forward flight.
To land, the electric motors and props restart, the blades unfold and nacelles tilt up. Terrafugia says the vertical take-off and landings would be automated to simplify flying. As with the Transition, the TF-can be driven on the road, wings folded.
UPDATE: Terrafugia CEO/CTO Carl Dietrich says he sees TF-X becoming available after 2020. The goal of unveiling the concept now, he says, is to gauge interest and help identify those people and potential partners with the domain knowledge that will be required to make the aircraft a reality.
The Transition, meanwhile, is now expected to be certificated and delivered somewhere between January 2015 and March 2016, Dietrich says, following the completion of highway crash testing and flight testing of a final prototype incorporating any structural changes that might result.
The fly-drive Transition is the first aircraft designed to meet both light sport aircraft certification and highway safety standards, experience that will be invaluable when Terrafugia’s design engineers move over to begin taking the TF-X from concept to reality over the next few years.