When Karl Benz developed the first petrol-powered car in 1886, it not only marked a milestone in modern modes of transport but also altered the bigger picture, pushing human mobility forward by leaps and bounds.
The same thing happened when the Wright Brothers successfully flew the first-ever self-propelled heavier-than-air craft a little more than a century ago.
Now, another historic first is about to take place with the commercialisation of the first-ever flying car.
PAL-V’s Liberty will be an actual dual mode vehicle — it can literally be driven and flown.
PAL-V senior vice-president of business development and investor relations, Remco Verwoerd, said: “PAL-V offers a single vehicle that you can drive or park at your driveway and at the same time can conveniently be flown, thus giving users the ultimate freedom of choice in modes of transportation.”
The Liberty features a three-wheeled configuration subframe with two rotors and control surfaces attached to it.
“As a car, the Liberty is rear-wheel driven with tilting-in-corners characteristics and as an aircraft, it is propelled by a propeller at the rear side of the vehicle. The main rotor on top of the Liberty provides vertical lift,” said Verwoerd.
PAL-V is a Netherlands-based company that is supported by various universities, one of which is the Delft University of Technology, the largest, oldest and most renowned Dutch public technological university.
The company’s maiden flight dates back to 2012 after years of in-depth research, comprehensive certification-obtaining processes and homologation phases.
According to Verwoerd, although the prototype was ready to be driven by 2009, it took them another three years to meet all the regulations to ensure that the prototype was legally and commercially fly-worthy.
“PAL-V is unique because instead of building a whole new platform for flying cars, we utilised existing frames in order to have a solid foundation to move us forwards in meeting the requisite safety standards.
“The PAL-V Liberty is designed to comply to all safety guidelines and regulations of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States,” he added.
However, Verwoerd said in some countries like Malaysia, PAL-V would still require to meet an individual set of local laws, but that would certainly be managed by the company.
Even so, PAL-V is committed to revolutionising mobility and adding a new dimension to it.
OPERATING THE PAL-V LIBERTY
Since the Liberty is a flying car, it has the controls of both means of transportation. And to be able to operate it, the driver or the pilot must obtain both driving and PPL (Private Pilot Licence) licences.
“The Liberty promises to be a user-friendly vehicle. Assuming that a person has obtained the necessary licences, he/she can safely operate the Liberty after just a few hours of learning how to operate the vehicle,” said Verwoerd.
Compared with conventional private aircraft that need to be parked in designated areas at airports, the owners of PAL-V can drive it home after landing.
Performance wise, the Liberty requires only 180m of runway to take off and a mere 30m to land. It accelerates from stationary to 100kph within nine seconds and has a flight range of 400km to 500 km (for example, from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore).
The PAL-V usually flies below 4,000 feet — the airspace available for uncontrolled Visual Flight Rules (VFR) traffic — so there will be no interference with commercial air traffic. In most cases depending on local laws, no flight plan will be required.
“The Liberty boasts a smooth transition from flying to driving. It takes just 10 minutes to convert from one mode to another,” said Verwoerd.
“Most of the processes from folding and unfolding the propellers, lowering and extending the rotor mast to pushing or retracting the tail are automated or require minimal labour,” he added.
Powering the PAL-V Liberty are two separate engines — two Rotax aviation engines for the propellers — and one of which is used when driving. This gives the Liberty an efficient, high performance capability.
With a two-seater configuration, the occupants sit comfortably in a sleek and aerodynamic body.
The cockpit is equipped with user-friendly controls complete with the latest operational and navigational technologies.
The Liberty is also very smooth to be flown at the speed of 50kph to 100kph, the range that is not suitable for fixed wing aircraft (relatively higher cruising speed).
“We believe that the Liberty will appeal to sports car owners and collectors as well as the national Air Forces. Depending on our customers’ needs, the Liberty is also suitable for recreational, sight-seeing and surveillance purposes.”
Available in two variants — Liberty Sport and Liberty Pioneer — these flying car models retail from RM1.8 million to RM2.7 million each.
The first batch consisting of 90 units is to be produced in the company’s manufacturing facility in the Netherlands.
For more information about the Liberty flying car, log on to www.PAL-V.com.