Flying car test flights get the green light from FAA

The Terrafugia Transition, a flying car, unfolds its wings at the New York International Auto Show at the Javits Center in New York. © Allison Joyce
Great news for anyone who has ever dreamed of owning a Delorian, Blade Runner’s Spinners, or even the car from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: the first test flights for a flying car have been approved.

The US Federal Aviation Administration has approved test flights for Terrafugia’s TF-X cart. A two-foot-long autonomous drone version of will take to the skies in the coming months.

The full-size model has a top speed of 200 mph and can fly for 500 miles in one journey. It is a four-seat, hybrid electric semi-autonomous vehicle, designed so an average driver can use it without undergoing pilot training. The driver can input a destination into the computer and the car will be under autopilot controls.

The test version can fly up to 121 meters at a maximum speed of 100mph. It must remain in constant communication with the FAA during its flight.

Terrafugia, a company founded by MIT aerospace engineers, will use the test flights to further develop the flying car’s design. It will examine the hover capabilities and gather data.


“Because of the unconventional configuration of the TF-X, it is vital to achieve sustained, stabilized hovering with smaller models before developing a full-size TF-X prototype,” Terrafugia said in a statement.

The TF-X uses helicopter-like rotors to take off, so it doesn’t need a runway to take off or land. Once back on land, it morphs back into a car.

The TF-X uses rechargeable batteries that can be charged by the same ports used by electric cars. It is designed to fit inside an average garage, although it will be larger than the typical car.

While the idea of commuting by air is enticing, it may be a while before the skies are as full as those in the Fifth Element. Terrafugia says it expects it will take eight to ten years to finalize the development and be ready for consumers.