Google co-founder Larry Page made techies' and travelers' dreams come true Monday with the first video of the “flying car” project he's backing: the Kitty Hawk Flyer.
Though the propeller-powered, all-electric aircraft is not exactly a car as we currently know it, you'll hardly believe your eyes as you watch a man effortlessly steer it through the sky over California's Clear Lake. The Kitty Hawk Flyer is “safe, tested and legal to operate in the United States in uncongested areas under the Ultralight category of FAA regulations,” according to its website, and was designed for flying over water.
You don’t need a pilot’s license to fly it, the company says, adding that you'll learn how to operate it in “minutes.”
Aerospace engineer Cameron Robertson flew the prototype 15 feet above the water for about five minutes total in the demo run for The New York Times, and ended the flight on a floating landed pad.
“We hope that this is more of an exciting concept than what most people have had in their minds about flying cars,” he told The New York Times. “This is not yet that product in terms of what we will say and what it can do, but I think it demonstrates a vision of the future.”
The official product will be available by the end of the year, according to its website, and the opportunity to pay $100 for “exclusive access to Kitty Hawk experiences and demonstrations” will be offered before that. Those who opt in early will also get a $2,000 discount on the Flyer's still undisclosed retail price, and “a select few” will get to ride it before its release.
AeroMobil, a startup from Slovakia, introduced its own commercial flying car at the Top Marques Monaco car show on April 20. That model, which looks much more like a car, starts at $1.2 million and is ready for pre-orders, according to CEO and co-founder Juraj Vaculik. Uber, meanwhile, has an event scheduled for next week to present on its own ideas about flying cars, according to CNN.
But many questions that could potentially stand in the way of flying cars becoming a near-future reality, including air traffic control concerns and the limits of battery technology, are yet to be properly answered.