April 27, 2010
By Alton K. Marsh
The best way to avoid roadside bombs in Iraq or Afghanistan is to fly over them. With that in mind, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking for a four-person flying car.
DARPA is widely credited for developing the first Internet site on which scientists discussed research. You can read the proposal online. DARPA has budgeted $54 million to make it happen.
The company closest to having a flying car (or roadable vehicle, in DARPA parlance), although not one with four seats that can take off vertically like DARPA wants, is Terrafugia located in Woburn, Mass. A company official said she has seen the request for proposals but is not commenting on it yet. The company is busy designing a second prototype after successfully flying the first one in a straight line above a runway.
There have been efforts to develop an efficient and workable flying car since 15 years after the Wright brothers first flew. A huge stumbling block has been the weight of the vehicle. It must be strong enough to meet federal highway crash standards, yet light enough to fly efficiently.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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