Now you’re flying baby, and don’t come that old Erica Jong ‘Fear of Flying’ fogey on me.
How technology changes. Once upon a time we marvelled at Dick Tracey being able to communicate with base by means of his wrist radio. Nowadays, of course, we carry a device that fits a shirt pocket and is capable of communicating within seconds with almost anyone else on earth. In later years, watching programs like the Jetsons, we thought it little more than a mad dream for us to fly around in the fashion George and his family did.
Did you ever have a madcap idea of the day you could walk into your garage, sit in, start and then fly off in your own private aircraft? Oh, I appreciate it’s not for everyone, but if one company is successful, the dream may be closer to reality than at any time in the past. In the past few days, the DeLorean company has released an update on earlier plans for just such a vehicle. Remember DeLorean? They were the American company who produced the Irish built, stainless steel, gull-wing car driven by Doc Brown in Back To The Future. Same people, just a generation on.
Back in December 2012 they made a US patent application for a small “tandem-seat aircraft with ducted fans fore and aft.” The fans provide lift, allowing it to take off vertically, and then pivot on gimbal mounts to provide forward thrust. With four wings and no rudder, its shape is unique, not unlike a Formula One car in some respects. The wings fold, and its parking size is 6 metres long by 2.3 metres wide – not a lot more than a large car – so it can fit most garages.
Propulsion is electric, with its batteries and ducted fan motors providing power enough for a range of 200-odd kilometres and a cruising speed of up to 240 kmh. A remotely controlled one-third scale proof-of-concept has proven successful in trials, so the company is now seeking investment for the production of a manned, full-sized version. Discussions have taken place with at least two big aircraft manufacturers. If all goes well, it should fly within two years.
Privately garaged aircraft such as this won’t – can’t – happen overnight, even if the planning and development proceed smoothly. Not least of the concerns to iron out before they fly will be strict rules relating to access to air space, not least because it seems computer-controlled parcel delivery drones might be with us in the very near future. They will need controls to cover their use.
Just imaging having a DeLorean DR-7 in your garage – that’s if you can afford an asking price over $250,000, a sum, by the way, that will buy a respectable regular aircraft – and you want to head off for a Friday morning game of golf. You take off vertically, then turn east for the links, just as Frank next door takes off and turns west to go to the office, knowing you always take off at about the same time but always turn in the same direction.
There are issues to be resolved, certainly, but hey, guess what? Man, as ever, will develop appropriate answers. I won’t ever have the readies to buy one of my own but will be happy to hitch a lift with you one day when you go out for a spin.