In many of my lectures and articles a familiar theme is the exponential growth and adoption of technology. When I lecture both at universities and corporations about futurist topics probably one question that I get asked more by students and executives alike is "...why don’t we have flying cars yet?" Well the simple answer is that developing a flying car is hard. But the long wait for the solution may be coming to an end with Moller International announcing that it is in the process of completing its fourth M200 “Jetson” volantor airframe and it expects to complete forty of these fly-by-wire, multi-engine flying vehicles in 2009.
The first volantor model being offered will be the M200G Jetson ground effect vehicle that is designed for operation at up to 10 feet above ground level - so while it won’t result in your being able to shoot across the sky like those scenes in The Fifth Element or Blade Runner, it is definitely a step in the right direction. Designed as a vertical take off & landing (VTOL) fast, low-cost personal recreational vehicle, the M200 is constrained to this altitude so that operators will not be required to have a pilot’s license. Moller is hoping that, once the ease of operation and safety of the vehicle are thoroughly demonstrated, the requirement for the operator to have a private pilot's license for higher flying models will be removed. The ease of operation lies in vehicle’s fly by wire computer technology, which actually does the flying. The pilot needs only move the controls in the direction he wants to go so that little skill is required.
The two passenger saucer shaped aircraft can take-off and land vertically, is the size of a small automobile, operates vibration free with little noise and is also qualified to travel short distances on the ground as an automobile as well. The prototype M200X has completed over two hundred flights with and without a pilot on board and can be seen flying in the above video. In addition to the M200G, the Company plans to offer the M200E, a kit-built version of its Jetson aircraft with sales beginning in 2010. The M200E will not have the same software enabled altitude constraints as the M200G and the Company expects the M200E to be operable as an "Experimental" class aircraft.
Both models of the vehicle use the company’s Rotapower rotary engine, which provide a high power-to-weight ratio at a reasonable cost and are very small for their power output. This is just as well since eight Rotapower engines are used in the production model volantor. The engines give the M200 a cruising speed of 75mph, a max speed of 100mph, a range of 100 miles and the ability to carry up to 250 lbs. The Rotapower engine is also multi-fuel capable with the engines in the volantor typically configured to run on unleaded gasoline although Moller have also demonstrated the engine's ability to run on diesel and natural gas.
In view of its planned limited production through 2009, the Company is set to offer the Jetson for sale only via an international auction. A potential bidder can become a “candidate qualified to bid” by establishing his or her ability to meet the $150,000 reserve. No deposit will be required until a successful bid occurs. Qualified participants will be advised on a regular basis as to the Jetson’s production status and its anticipated auction schedule.