Flying cars have been expected for decades, but now the age of the flying car might have arrived thanks to its military potential. Sure, many of us have craved flying cars for their ability to lift us above commuter traffic jams. But according to Stewart Hamel, founder of SkyRunner and expert in the technology, flying cars might be perfect for critical military missions. If the military starts buying flying cars, you can bet that consumers will begin to take notice.
Flying-car technology could supersede helicopters
“Infiltration, exfiltration and medical evacuation are a few of the military uses for flying cars,” Hamel said. “This technology also has similar advantages to existing aircraft such as helicopters and drones. The big idea is that it solves gaps in operational capability, preserves safety-of-mission, preserves safety-of-force and represents billions of dollars in savings against operational overkill.”
Hamel says his company’s SkyRunner MK 3.2 is the product of six years of military, off-road and pilot input. The company claims military leaders have been captivated by the possibilities of flying car technology since viewing SkyRunner at a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, boat show several years go. As a result an eye to military uses has gone into the SkyRunner’s development. For instance, the company beefed up the vehicle’s construction and switched from one engine to two to make the vehicle/aircraft more suitable for military use.
The idea of flying vehicles for national defense is not new. More than 60 years ago, the U.S. military paid Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to develop a “flying Jeep.” In 2010, the U.S. Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched a program to design and build an army truck that could function as a helicopter. A key benefit would be the ability to fly above hazards such as IEDs and landmines. Today’s SkyRunner, which is a much lighter and smaller vehicle than a truck, offers that capability.
Others countries developing military flying cars
The U.S. military might want to commission a flying car to counter the efforts of other countries. Russian defense manufacturer Kalashnikov has unveiled a one-man “flying car” that operates with 16 sets of rotors in a grid-like structure similar to a giant drone. It is controlled using two joysticks and is electrically powered, but currently it cannot fly more than half an hour before exhausting the power in its batteries. In contrast the SkyRunner, powered by two engines—one for flying, and one for ground use as an all-terrain vehicle— has a claimed airborne range of 120 nautical miles at a speed of 40 mph and a maximum altitude of 10,000 feet. Over the ground, it has a range of 240 miles. A flying car developed by French company Valyon is said to offer an airborne range of 600 miles at an airspeed of 50 mph and is capable of reaching an altitude of 9,000 feet.
“As we are seeing, flying car technology is quickly evolving from eccentric hype into practical, high-impact applications for government security and military theaters,” Hamel said. “Operational capability, safety-of-mission and safety-of-force is the baseline. The next question is, what does it all cost?”
Hamel doesn’t claim his FAA-certified special light sport aircraft (S-LSA) fused with a rugged, military-grade all-terrain vehicle is a perfect substitute for helicopters or drones, but he asks, “When measured against price, the next question is how can an agency afford not to have this technology in inventory?”