A flying car that was inspired by Marty McFly in Back to the Future has been given special airworthiness certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), bringing us one step closer to living in a world where cars zip around overhead.
California startup Alef Aeronautics has been granted testing certification for its vehicle/aircraft, dubbed the “Model A,” making it the first fully electric vehicle that can both drive and fly to receive U.S. government approval.
The Model A is the first flying vehicle that’s able to drive on city streets and park in normal car stalls, and it’s now approved for test runs on both land and in the sky.
“This is one small step for planes, one giant step for cars,” said Jim Dukhovny, the CEO of Alef, in a press release.
The company says its inspiration for the Model A came in 2015 — the same year Marty McFly, the main character of the Back to the Future movie franchise, travelled to the “future.”
Dukhovny, along with friends Konstantin Kisly, Pavel Markin and Oleg Petrov, met up in a café and sketched out the first design on a napkin. Just a year later, the first sub-scale prototype was built and by 2018 the first full-size “skeleton” of the design was ready for lift-off.
The Model A is able to take off and land vertically, similar to a drone, cutting out the need for a runway. The company says it will be able to carry one or two passengers.
As an aircraft, it will be able to fly about 177 kilometres at a time, while having the ability to travel approximately 320 kilometres at a time as a vehicle. The company’s website says the vehicle will be considered a “low-speed vehicle,” keeping it within the legal speed limit in most U.S. states.
According to Business Insider, the special certificate currently limits where the car will be allowed to fly and why, as the FAA works on policies specifically for electrical vertical takeoff and landing vehicles.
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That said, the vehicle is still in the development phase. Alef said in a press release last October that it has been test-driving and flying a full-size prototype since 2019.
“Designed to drive on the street, take off vertically when needed and fly overhead above traffic, we’re building the solution to the issues of modern congestion,” Alef says on its website. “We enable faster and easier commutes, driven by proprietary technology that elevates the vehicle without the need for runways.”
Alef is currently accepting pre-orders of US$150 (C$198) to enter the general queue and US$1,500 (C$1,980) to be placed in the priority queue. The expected price of the Model A is US$299,999 (C$396,561.)
Dukhovny told CNBC’s Make It in December that the company is aiming to begin delivery of the vehicles by the end of 2025.
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