Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! (No.) It’s a plane! (Ehhh.) It’s a flying car! (No, definitely not). So what is it? According to its manufacturer, Opener, this is a new ultralight all-electric fixed-wing extreme short/vertical take-off and landing (ESTOL/VTOL) aircraft. That’s too damn to long to say, so let’s just call it by its given name, the Blackfly. And it looks fun.
Opener announced in a press release full of with Silicon Valley buzzwords on Thursday that they had revolutionized personal travel (the startups always do, you know) by unveiling Blackfly, which they also call a Personal Aerial Vehicle. The craft is apparently cleared to fly in both the U.S. and Canada.
The company announced on Thursday that Larry Page, the Google guy, is funding it, as the BBC reports. Larry Page you may remember from a few months back when he backed another not-a-flying-car called the Kitty Hawk, which debuted a very pretty video that looked almost too slick to be real then quietly disappeared and we haven’t heard anything about it since. Interesting.
Anyway, back to the Blackfly.
While its takeoff looks as graceful as a paddleboat caught in a windstorm, the Blackfly is supposed to be a fairly effective electric vehicle. The company says it can travel over 40 miles and hit speeds of 72 mph in Canada (the Blackfly is only cleared to travel 25 miles at 62 mph in America.) That bulky, lake-worthy body is no accident. Instead of being a flying car, the Blackfly seems purpose-built for our impending Waterworld-style doom as Opener says it has “full amphibious abilities.”
Opener says basically anyone can fly these things with very little training. Steering is controlled via joystick and safety redundancies supposedly make it not-dangerous enough for even a novice to take to the skies, although in Canada operators are required to have an ultralight pilot’s license. An onboard computer can take the operator through the most difficult stages of flying the Blackfly—the take off and landing when the vehicle is almost entirely vertical—as well as hold position, route the craft back to a preprogramed “home”and initiate cruise control.
There are three fail-safe systems, all running on independent power sources, so that even the unluckiest of operators can take to the skies and stay up there. The site also lists a “ballistic parachute” as an optional feature.
I can think of few features less optional on a flying car. But perhaps that’s where the money is—not on the flying cars themselves, but on escaping them safely. For those who cheap out, the Blackfly is programed to glide to a landing should all three systems fail.
The only downside is we don’t know how much it costs, yet. Autoweek says it’s billed as being “the price of an SUV,” but as you all know that’s a pretty wide range to cover. Let’s hope it stays cheap! An aircraft for everybody, even the barely qualified. Sounds like fun to me.