20 YEARS OF PROGRESS
It is inscribed in our brain that when we see rotating blades, we think of a helicopter. It looks like rotating blades have become the icon for a helicopter. The PAL-V is not a helicopter. In flying mode the PAL-V is a gyroplane. The difference? The rotor of the helicopter is powered by an engine. The blades of the PAL-V are not powered. They are powered by the wind. As long there is airflow they rotate. They act like a continuously open parachute.
The initial idea sparked when Co-Founder John Bakker started flying in 1999. Like every pilot he became frustrated that flying invariably involves departing from a location that is inconvenient, and landing somewhere you do not want to be. Always leaving a car and a plane/helicopter behind. Thus he embarked on a journey to create a car that could fly. A dream cherished by mankind for more than 100 years.
By testing all different aviation platforms, the team concluded that the gyroplane principle was most suitable for creating a flying car. The gyroplane principle convinced them for a number of good reasons. Firstly, flying gyroplanes is very safe and easy to learn. Furthermore, storing the sleek rotor system safely on top of the vehicle is more compact than storing bulky wings.
Despite this, Bakker still faced the biggest challenges inherent in a flying car:
- An airplane normally has three wheels to make crosswind landings safer and mechanically easier.
- It has a high center of gravity to make it stable in the air by ensuring the propeller to push through the center of gravity.
The latter is something you do not want while driving because you will tip over when cornering. This is a fundamental problem encountered for over 100 years by flying car designers.
In 2005 a breakthrough in technology provided a solution for the high center of gravity. A Dutch company called Carver successfully implemented a tilting system in a three wheel vehicle: the Carver One. The tilting system could be used to counter the high center of gravity of an aircraft and make a folded aircraft safe to drive on the road. The first sketches of a roadable gyroplane or flying car were made.
In 2007 the company PAL-V (Personal Air and Land Vehicle) was founded by Robert Dingemanse and John Bakker and the dream of a flying car started to materialize.
PAL-V started building the first prototype flying car. This prototype was built on the chassis structure of a Carver One and was intended to test a further refined tilting system for the PAL-V. The Carver tilting system was then further developed in order to counter the high center of gravity on the road. This Dynamic Curve Stabilizer System ensured the road safety of the 'roadable gyroplane'.
In 2009 PAL-V successfully tested the tilting system with Prototype X1 on the road.
Furthermore, PAL-V carried out an infrastructure test with the Dutch Minister of Transportation to investigate how the PAL-V could be used in the future.
After Prototype 1 was successfully tested, PAL-V started to build Prototype X2, known as the PAL-V ONE. The PAL-V ONE was built to prove not only that it is possible to build a flying car but also that this was possible within existing regulations. The team was once again challenged to do the impossible. Namely, making an operational flying car which, most importantly, is allowed to fly and drive under existing regulations.
After performing many component and system tests, the PAL-V ONE was ready for drive testing.
During this year PAL-V finished the development of the world’s first gyroplane development simulator. The simulator has subsequently been continuously refined. Today it is a very powerful tool to test and validate all characteristics of the the PAL-V Liberty design.
PAL-V made its first flight with the PAL-V ONE in 2012. During this year PAL-V successfully completed its test flight program. This has continued to spark a tremendous amount of positive responses from people all over the world.
After successfully proving the concept of the PAL-V flying car, PAL-V started the design of its first commercial flying car model, based on the proven technologies and the steadily acquired certification know-how.
In 2013 PAL-V's design team cooperated with world class Italian designers to create the exterior design. This model was baptized the PAL-V Liberty. During this year PAL-V also completed the first wind tunnel tests with this new commercial design.
The various (sub)systems and concepts were built and tested, to validate the design.
In December 2015 the design was proven mature enough to accept the first reservations. The first Dutch customers reserved their PAL-V Liberty.
PAL-V hired a team for the North American market. Customers could view the PAL-V Liberty design in private settings and in a virtual showroom. The first reservations by North American customers were made. Meanwhile, business development activities were initiated in other countries in i.e. the GCC and Asia.
PAL-V started its marketing campaign with the public launch on the web of the PAL-V Liberty.
PAL-V plans to hand over the first keys of the PAL-V liberty Limited Pioneer Edition to its first customers.
This is our drive
To offer people the most flexible form of mobility and the highest sense of freedom imaginable, while enjoying the ride. To achieve this, we dedicate ourselves to eliminating the key limitations of a car, small (gyro) plane or helicopter. As a result, we provide our customers with an immediate means to FlyDrive to their destination.
Critical success factors
Comply with existing regulations
The key element in developing a commercially viable flying car is that it complies with existing regulations. This not only makes sure that the flying car is absolutely safe, but also that the owner can safely enjoy the ride and above all the flight.
Compliance and approval above all
When developing a revolutionary vehicle such as the PAL-V Liberty you have two options: you can hope that the authorities will eventually adapt or relax their rules to your vehicle, or you can adapt your vehicle to the rules. The first option is risky because it is very uncertain. While the latter is harder, it will lead to a vehicle that is approved for use from the moment customers take delivery.
That’s why over 50% of the development costs of the PAL-V Liberty have gone into ensuring that we comply with the existing and strict Flight - (European Aviation Safety Agency, EASA and Federal Aviation Administration, FAA) and Road - (NHTSA National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and EU road regulations). It means that if you buy a PAL-V Liberty, you can be sure that it is allowed on European and American roads and in their airspace. Additionally the vast majority of countries in the world have adopted either the US or the European EASA standards or closely comparable ones.
Indeed, we chose to exceed the level of existing regulations in some cases, thus building in more safety than is strictly required for certification.
Of course, the road and the air regulations are entirely different and therefore challenge and alter the design of the vehicle. Thus the price incorporates not only the design, manufacturing and marketing costs but also the investments and cost required to comply with road and flight safety regulations.
Proof of concept
There are many flying car concepts out there. Or, at least, they are on YouTube. But being on YouTube is very different from being an actual product that has been tested and is safe to fly. Anybody looking to buy a safe and credible vehicle should look for a flying car concept that has been rigorously tested, and has never crashed.
Fact not fiction.... reality, not fantasy
Almost all the video footage of flying cars or drones for human mobility on the internet are computer generated. Many dual mode vehicle concepts are not yet in a ‘proof of concept’ phase. They only exist in the virtual world. In the case of the PAL-V, the concept has been thoroughly tested both on the road and in the sky with an impeccable testing record.
Be particularly critical regarding drones for passengers.
The first reason is that a drone’s range will always be very limited. Powering relatively small rotors, using electrical energy, is very inefficient. It requires a significant number of batteries, which are heavy and consequently reducing the range of the vehicle. Even if these problems would be solved, experience tells us that the regulatory framework will take an uncertain number of years to develop.
The second reason is that most of the concepts do not have enough safety: when a power or rotor or software failure occurs the system should have a back-up. A helicopter, aircraft or gyroplane have options to land without power but drones turn into a falling object. Be aware: at lower altitudes a parachute does not work.
Thirdly they are not as practical as they seem: human drones cannot land in inhabited areas. This is because of safety reasons and the (high pitched) noise they produce. They can only land at designated places, which are unlikely to be near your destination. In other words, if they can’t be driven, they are not at all practical.
In future, due to its lift efficiency and safety , the PAL-V platform is actually one of the best suited for making a real Electric Flying Car. In case batteries become 10-20 times lighter enabling a normal flying range) it is an easy job to convert the PAL-V to an electric vehicle. Likewise: once autonomous vehicle software becomes also safe enough for flying PAL-V will be the first to introduce this in a real Flying Car. This will still take more than a decade.
Three wheel design
Most pilots prefer an easy and safe landing and stable flight behavior. Therefore good airplanes are built with three wheels and a high centre of gravity. On the road, stability comes from four wheels and a low centre of gravity. PAL-V has solved this paradox by its unique Dynamic Curve Stabilizer (DCS) technology.
Three wheels make more sense
PAL-V’s three wheel design offers advantages in the mechanical design as well as for safety during landing. One front wheel is easier and safer especially with crosswind landings. There are many good reasons why airplanes are always three wheelers.
On the road
Historically, a three-wheel vehicle has sometimes been less safe, especially on winding roads at higher speed. Taking a curve with a three-wheel vehicle may have easily caused the inside wheel to lift from the road.
However, we integrated the Dynamic Curve Stabilizer (DCS) technology into the PAL-V Liberty, taking the Carver tilting technology to the next level. With this technology the full vehicle leans into the curve and compensates for the forces pushing it to the outside. This is similar to the principle you find on high-speed trains for mountain terrains. In addition to safety it also adds a unique and thrilling new sensation to driving.
Human error proof
The rare airplane accidents are almost always caused by human error. It therefore makes sense to look for a flying car based on the principle of preventing human error by design.
Countering human errors by design
When developing the PAL-V Liberty we listed all the errors a pilot might make. We then designed it in such a way that many of those human actions that could lead to such errors are prevented or very hard to make. We call this our Human Error Proactive Counteraction methodology (HEPC). It uses a flight simulator to model potential pilot errors and mistakes, and then we try to work out how we can avoid them in the design of the PAL-V Liberty.
Stalling is every pilot’s nightmare. This is not surprising when you consider the potential repercussions of stalling, and it is not something you ever want to experience. Choose a flying car that simply cannot stall – one based on the gyroplane principle.
Stall proof for maximum safety
Once an airplane stalls, especially at lower altitude, i.e. while landing, there is not much you can do and you have very limited control. For fixed wing flying cars, which by definition is a compromise on a regular fixed wing airplane, the risk of stalling is even higher than for regular planes.
As a gyroplane, the PAL-V Liberty cannot stall. This is because a gyroplane rotor is always in auto-rotation during flight. The rotor is powered by the airflow. Even an engine failure will not affect the autorotation as, due to the speed of the wind and the force of gravity, the rotor will always rotate and generate lift. It is comparable to an opened parachute. Even without engine you can land and be in full control.
A number of today's planes have integrated a full plane parachute. However, this parachute is often overrated. First, at lower altitudes the parachute cannot function. At higher altitude, if it opens in the right way, you have no control over where your vehicle will land, or the speed at which it will hit the ground. With the PAL-V Liberty you are always in control, even in these situations.
Two engines for twice the peace of mind
We have equipped the PAL-V Liberty with two engines to ensure that our customers have additional safety. In the case of a single engine failure the pilot has still 50% of the power. As the airplane then descends only very slowly the pilot can select a spot for an emergency landing within a much larger area and make a controlled landing. Thanks to the gyroplane principle, even in the very unlikely case that both engines fail, the auto-rotating rotor will not be affected and a safe, controlled landing can be made with low ground speed.
So much safer
The combination of the stall proof concept and the dual engine makes the PAL-V Liberty 40 to 250 times safer than a comparable aircraft or helicopter and even safer than a normal gyroplane.
Low noise level
The good news is that the PAL-V is relatively quiet, and far less sonically intrusive than a helicopter. However, any aviation vehicle is noisy during take-off and landing. That is why take-off and landing is always restricted to places away from habitations. For a flying car, this is not an issue, since it can drive to and from any landing strip or meadow outside the urban areas. Therefore, a flying car is much more practical.
Keeping it quiet
To get approval to land or install an airstrip near habitable areas is very hard. For flying cars this is not necessary anymore. Drive from home, take-off where nobody is disturbed, land where nobody is disturbed and drive to your destination, never leaving any vehicle, plane or helicopter behind. No need for a hangar or a fuel station at the strip as well.
If you’re buying a flying car to improve your mobility, the chances are that flight range is important to you. The lighter the vehicle the longer the range. Flying cars will therefore always be designed for performance and not for luxury.
A lighter weight for a longer flight range
Three things limit the range of a flying car: weight, energy efficiency and aerodynamics. But in practice it all comes down to weight – the lighter the vehicle the longer the range.
The heavier the vehicle, the more powerful the engine needs to be. The more powerful the engine, the more fuel you need to take on board, to carry this the chassis becomes bigger and heavier, which all leads to more weight. It’s a vicious circle.
Lightweight PAL-V Liberty
The PAL-V Liberty’s lightweight design (665 kg empty weight) enables a range of 1,200 km driving or 400 km to 500 km flying. This varies with loading and wind conditions. This range is more than enough, as you will probably want to stretch your legs after 2-3 hours of flying anyhow: have a coffee, fuel up and continue driving or flying.
The track record of the manufacturer
Creating a concept or an idea is one thing. Creating a concept that ticks all the boxes is much harder. However, turning this concept into a sound and sustainable business is a next level challenge.
It takes time
Thus PAL-V has a development track record of over 17 years. Developing a flying car takes a long time and a lot of persistence. What we are doing is nothing short of revolutionary, especially as we aim to produce a commercially viable vehicle, not an interesting technical experiment. Much time is invested in finding solutions to comply with all the requirements like usability, technical conformity, regulations, manufacturability and serviceability to name a few.
We have over 50 engineers currently working in our team. Their primary job is to integrate the technology of partner companies specialized in their field. Re-use of proven technologies is the foundation of all we do to solve this complex puzzle. To this end we collaborate with a wide range of real specialists on the different sub-systems and components. The number of engineers and specialisms needed to master the challenge is substantial. Over 100 engineers from other companies contribute.
We work with leading companies, universities and institutions. Some examples are:
- Carver Technology (NL)
- Dutch National Aerospace Laboratories (NLR)
- Technical University Delft (NL)
- Marshall Aerospace (UK)
- Rotax (A)
Experienced entrepreneurs with good financial backing
PAL-V is run by experienced entrepreneurs, the company is backed by more than 100 investors and has also attracted EU funding. We have the support of the Dutch Ministry of Traffic and Dutch Ministry of Defense and are partly funded by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs as well.
What drives the company owners and employees is the commercial success of the PAL-V Liberty. That’s why we have taken the time to do this properly and create a serious business. That’s why we invested so much time in ensuring that we comply with the existing regulations, for instance. Based on this we are regularly acclaimed as 'the most credible flying car maker in the world'.