When you think of flying cars, you might presume that they’ll be possible only for the well-heeled among us. We’re talking butlers and diamond shoes money. Like Amazon IPO and guys like Tony Stark money.
Don’t worry. A company named Opener plans to bring pie-in-the-sky dreams in at a price that translates to mass-market profits. It says the “world’s first ultralight all-electric fixed-wing VTOL aircraft” will be priced like a well-equipped, family-sized SUV.
Opener started as a Canadian company in 2011, but in 2014 relocated to Silicon Valley. Last year it successfully executed the first manned flight of the second version of the BlackFly, so named because black flies are the ultimate vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles, according to Opener’s founder.
Electric VTOL With 25 Miles of Range
The Opener BlackFly looks like a dream, but you can supposedly buy one this year. (Opener)
Most of the companies with flying cars in development offer no specifications. Opener is different, promoting the BlackFly with a comprehensive, brag-worthy set of specs.
A single-seat, personal aerial electric vehicle, the BlackFly measures 13 ft. 7 in. wide, and 13 ft. 5 in. long. That’s about the length of a MINI Cooper. When empty, it weighs 313 pounds, which is much less than a MINI Cooper.
Composed of epoxy-impregnated carbon fiber, the BlackFly is an amphibious-capable vehicle that can land on asphalt, snow, ice, and grass. All it needs is about three feet of clearance for taking off and landing. All electric, the BlackFly can also hover, holding its place in the air.
Opener says that the BlackFly is more efficient than an electric car. The VTOL consumes about 245 watt-hours per mile of travel, while an electric car uses 270 Wh/mile. Gasoline-fueled cars burn 1233 Wh/mile.
From a depleted battery, a full charge from a 120-volt household outlet should take about 7.4 hours, while a 240-volt outlet should do the job in about 67 minutes. Fully juiced, the BlackFly should give you about 25 miles of range with a 200-lb. pilot on board, at a cruising speed of about 62 mph.
The company also claims that the BlackFly will be quieter than land-based vehicles. At an altitude of 150 feet, the Blackfly should produce just 72 decibels of racket, whereas a car makes about 76 dBA and a motorcycle emits more than 80 dBA.
One might argue that electric and gasoline cars carry more people and stuff than the BlackFly, while offering more flexibility. And you can park them anywhere, unlike the BlackFly. Plus, they go faster, and for longer, than the BlackFly. But they’re not nearly as cool.
No Pilot’s License Required
Pilots can be up to 6 ft. 6 in. tall. Curiously, international specifications require him or her to weigh under 200 lbs., but Americans can pork up to 250 lbs. for some reason. The operator doesn’t need a pilot’s license (!), but they do need to pass the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Private Pilot written examination, as well as finish the vehicle familiarization and operator training that’s required by Opener.
Opener has already flown more than 22,000 test miles with “a full payload.” The pilot uses a joystick for ease of use, but most of its flight systems are fully automated, with a return-to-home button, soft-landing assist, and the ability to geofence so that you don’t fly too far off-course.
Safety-wise, the BlackFly boasts what Opener calls “triple-modular redundancy.” Basically, this describes back-up systems designed to account for human operator or software failure. Should things go terribly wrong, the BlackFly has a ballistic parachute to soften your crash landing.
Opener says you can disassemble and carry the BlackFly in a small trailer (towed by a conventional vehicle, no less). Once you get to wherever it is that you need to haul the craft, you can reassemble it and fly in about 30 minutes.
But the most surprising thing about the Opener BlackFly is that the company says that it should cost about the same as an SUV. We’re imagining a well-equipped midsize crossover, which runs about $50,000. Which is the same as two MINI Coopers. Maybe Opener is thinking of a Land Rover Range Rover SVAutobiography, which costs almost $200,000.
In any case, according to the Opener website, the BlackFly will be available for purchase this year. No deposits are being accepted, but you can sign up to receive first alerts.