Sun, Jun 11, 2017 - Page 15 News List

Czech ‘GyroDrive’ beats flying cars for hybrid license

The helicopter-car hybrid, priced at US$63,500, has a top speed of just 40kph on road, but it can reach 180kph once it takes off, and can travel 600km

By Jan Flemr and Laszlo Juhasz  /  AFP, BOCHOR, Czech Republic, and BRATISLAVA

Pavel Brezina, left, flies a “GyroDrive,” a mini-helicopter that can be driven on the road, near Pribram, Czech Republic, on April 27.

Photo: AFP

As global automakers compete to bring the first flying car to market, Czech pilot Pavel Brezina is trying a different tack: instead of creating a car that flies, he has made a “GyroDrive” — a mini-helicopter you can drive.

The engineer and owner of Nirvana Systems s.r.o., a company producing motors for small flying machines, said his vehicle is the first in the world authorized to operate both on roads and in the air.

“This is the only road certified flying vehicle I know about,” Brezina told reporters in a hangar at the Prerov-Bochor airport in the eastern Czech Republic.

“Everyone is trying to make a high-speed car that can fly, but this is a different thing,” said the tall, bespectacled 51-year-old, who has 30 years’ experience as a pilot under his belt.

His GyroDrive vehicle is based on a gyroplane — a mini-helicopter — that uses a copter-style rotor to move up and down, and a plane-type “pusher propeller” to go forward.

Brezina’s company buys gyroplane kits from a German firm, and then assembles and equips them with a system allowing the pilot-driver to switch between a gasoline engine propelling the rotors and an electric engine that drives the wheels.

The two-seat GyroDrive has a maximum driving speed of just 40kph and can take its crew of two on short drives to a gasoline station or a hotel.

It needs less than 100m to take off and reaches a top speed of 180kph in the air. Its flying range is 600km.

After landing, the pilot only has to fix the main rotor blades along the axis of the GyroDrive and pull out a built-in license plate to transform it into a road vehicle.

Prices start at 1.5 million koruna (US$63,500), but they can reach 4 million koruna, depending on specifications.

While Brezina is already planning to take his wife — also a pilot — and two children to London aboard GyroDrives, inventors worldwide are frantically working on prototypes of cars that fly.

In neighboring Slovakia, the AeroMobil s.r.o. company said it has received dozens of orders from customers for a flying car expected to hit the market in 2020.

“We want to build a vehicle that will not only be able to fly and drive, but also fulfill each technical and legal requirement,” AeroMobil chief executive officer Juraj Vaculik said, touting “a robust testing program.”

He told reporters that AeroMobil initially plans to produce 500 units of its winged car, which uses a turbo propeller to get off the ground.

The AeroMobil is expected to reach a top ground speed of 160kph and up to 360kph in the air, with a flying and driving range of about 700km.

In the middle of last month, Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp also unveiled plans to launch a three-wheel flying car, dubbed SkyDrive, using retractable wings and drone technology.

The vehicle is expected to have a top flight speed of about 100kph, hovering about 10m off the ground. It is to have a top land speed about 150kph.

Silicon Valley flying car start-up Kitty Hawk, reportedly backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, in April released a video of its airborne prototype and announced plans for deliveries of a “personal flying machine” this year.

Other firms, including ride-sharing service Uber, also have soaring ambitions for their flying car prototypes.

Brezina got the license plates for his GyroDrive in March, three years after starting the project.

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