Sun, Jan 06, 2019 - Page 16 News List

‘Flying cars’ buzz grows ahead of CES

AFP, MOUNTAIN VIEW, United States

Will flying cars take off at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES)?

Well, sort of. The prototypes will not be soaring over the Las Vegas Strip during the technology extravaganza, which runs from Tuesday to Friday.

However, a number of flying car designs are to be on display, portending what many see as an inevitable airborne future for short-range transport with vertical takeoff and landing.

NFT Inc cofounders Maki and Guy Kaplinsky, a couple developing a flying vehicle in Israel and California, plan to have their vision on display at show.

“We believe we have a winning design that will enable us to make the Model T of flying cars — a low-cost production model,” Guy Kaplinsky said in a Silicon Valley office park where a prototype model was being assembled.

A team of veteran aviation engineers is focused on research at the start-up’s facility in Israel, and the founders plan to expand the staff of 15 people.

The start-up is designing hardware and software, while enlisting original equipment manufacturers to crank out products at scale.

“We learned from Tesla that Elon Musk spent too much time on the production side,” Guy Kaplinsky said. “We are spending our time on the technology side and will partner with companies on assembly.”

The NFT vehicle with a projected price tag of US$50,000 would function as a car, but be able to take off or land vertically and fly on auto-pilot.

Several companies, including Uber Technologies Inc and start-ups backed by Google cofounder Larry Page, are working on people-carrying drones or similar flying vehicles.

In Japan, volunteers in a “Cartivator” group are out to build a “Skydrive” flying car and have set their sights on using one to light the flame at the opening of the Olympic games in Tokyo in 2020.

The crowdfunded effort has received backing from Japanese auto giant Toyota Motor Corp, where some Cartivator members work.

A scaled-down replica of their vehicle is to be shown at CES.

“We aim to build a prototype, establish theory of flight control, as well as form alliances with major corporations to make mass production of the flying car a reality,” the group said on cartivator.com.

NFT is working to marry a plane with a car, meaning no airports or heliports would be needed.

“We believe door-to-door is the solution,” Guy Kaplinsky said. “Our approach is more for the mom and three kids; you load everyone in the car one time and get where you need to go.”

A smartphone mapping application could be paired to a navigation center hosted in the Internet cloud, routing drivers to takeoff points and providing instructions to auto-pilots in cars.

The electric powered NFT vehicle is targeting ranges of 500km miles flying and 100km driving.

The start-up would be seeking US Federal Aviation Administration approval as early as 2024, and should have a drive-fly vehicle ready to demonstrate late next year, Guy Kaplinsky said.

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