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The PAL-V (Personal Air and Land Vehicle) ONE is made by the Dutch company PAL-V Europe NV. Founded in 2001, the company has been rolling out prototypes since 2008, and just this past March scored with PAL-V’s maiden flight. With its small, aerodynamic cab, folded rotors, and large tail fins, the PAL-V looks more like a gyrocopter that drives rather than a car that flies – but this will be a minor consideration when viewing beltway gridlock from above.
According to the company, driving the 3-wheeled, 680 kg (1500 lbs) vehicle on land is much like driving a motorcycle, due to a patented ‘tilting’ system that automatically tilts the vehicle according to speed and turn angle.
PAL-V prototypes have thus far taken off, like fellow flying vehicles, from airports. Just 165 meters (540 feet) are needed for takeoff, and it can takeoff from a paved surface or even grass, and the rotor and rear propeller take only a few minutes to unfold. After landing, the rotors and propellers take about 10 minutes to fold back into driving position.
The company claims that it flies much quieter than a helicopter due to slower rotation of the autorotors and the slower speeds it needs during takeoff and landing. The PAL-V’s flight range is between 350 to 500 kilometers (220 to 315 miles) depending on the type of vehicle, wind conditions and payload. Driving range is about 1200 kilometers (750 miles) and its top speed on both land and in the air is about 180 kph (110 mph). Current models are fueled by gasoline, but future models will also run on biodiesel or bio-ethanol.
A main requirement for PAL-V Europe NV was to create a land-air vehicle that anyone – not just seasoned pilots – could use. This makes converting a gyrocopter, a common flying vehicle for hobbyists, into a roadster a much more feasible alternative than, say, putting wings on a DeLorean. As with other gyroplanes, the autorotors aren’t powered but require wind to rotate. This means, according to the company, that the PAL-V can be guided to a safe landing even if it stalls due to auto-rotors that “keep auto rotating.” The company has created a 3D simulator so people can practice take-offs, landings, steering, etc. before getting behind the stick of the real thing. They even simulate many real airports around the world that people might take off from. To facilitate its road and air readiness, the forward-thinking company built the car so to conform to existing international regulations for both flying and driving. It’s intended to be flown below 1,200 meters (4,000 feet), the uncontrolled airspace that hanggliders occupy.