Everybody is excited and fascinated by the prospect of a flying car. As with any genuinely new product or technology, there is a lot to discover about PAL-V and flying cars in general. We think it’s important to learn what to expect, particularly with regard to the PAL-V Liberty.
Many people take one look at the PAL-V Liberty and assume it’s a helicopter because of the rotating blades. In fact, it’s a gyroplane, which makes it much safer and easier to fly than helicopters or small fixed wing planes. We deliberately didn’t design the PAL-V to take-off vertically. As the PAL-V is a car able to fly, driving to the nearest take-off or landing spot is part of its plusses. The benefit of taking off vertically does not weigh against the drawbacks of a helicopter.
People sometimes think that the travel range of the PAL-V Liberty is determined and limited by its flying range. The whole point of the Liberty as a Dual Mode Sports Vehicle (DMSV) is the flexibility it offers. After landing you can fuel at the airstrip and take-off again or just drive to the nearest gas station and fill the tank with regular car gas and proceed with your journey.
Quite simply, there are no barriers to mobility and there’s no reason why you can’t FlyDrive around the world in a PAL-V Liberty.
The PAL-V Liberty is designed for optimal performance and less for luxury. As such, the interior is rather functional, in the style of other sports vehicles designed for performance. We also reduced baggage space in favor of lightness, range and flying comfort. The heavier and bigger the vehicle, the shorter the flying range.
This is a common question. When the PAL-V Liberty is in flying mode, it must comply with the regulations for an airplane, and airplanes are simply not allowed to take off from a highway or a street. As previously mentioned, the PAL-V Liberty is not a helicopter, so it doesn’t take off vertically. Also helicopters are hardly allowed to take off or land where you want because they are very noisy and can be hazardous for people on the ground.
In short, you should use an existing airstrip of which many thousands are available, all over the world. Or you can arrange for permission on private land outside an urban area. As you do not disturb people this permission is rather easy to get.
Some people ask us whether the PAL-V Liberty can be flown without a flying license. As the PAL-V Liberty is a Dual Mode Vehicle, the pilot must have a driving license and a flying license. For everybody’s safety it is important that all flying vehicles in the sky are piloted by someone who has had the appropriate flight training.
For Europe this means a Light Aircraft Pilot License (LAPL) or a Private Pilot License (PPL) with a Gyroplane type-rating. For the USA a Gyroplane Pilot License is required. Equivalent licenses are available in many other countries. The LAPL or PPL for a gyroplane is the easiest flying license to get and usually requires about 35 hours of flight training.
For regulators like EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) or the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration, USA), there is no middle ground when it comes to regulations. The vehicle is either a car or an airplane. As soon as the PAL-V is in flight mode, it is an airplane and no longer a car. From that moment on, all regulations for aircraft apply.
In Hollywood films and the computer generated videos you will see switching from driving to flying while staying in the vehicle. However, even if this were technically possible, it is simply not wise or permitted to stay in your vehicle and take-off because of safety regulations.
Flying regulations require that the pilot of a flying vehicle needs to go through a pre-flight checklist before take-off. This includes a walk around. We advise to plan with a minimum of ten minutes for the pre-flight checklist. We offer our customers a ‘Ready to Fly” app to optimize the pre-flight check, which includes a learning mode with tutorial videos.
PAL-V Liberty will mostly be used to fly in uncontrolled airspace. Therefore, in the vast majority of cases, the filing of a flight plan is not necessary. Moreover, flying in uncontrolled airspace does not require constant contact with a control tower.
No less than 50% of our investment has gone into ensuring that the PAL-V Liberty complies with existing regulations. This has involved a huge amount of test evidence and documentation to prove that we are safe according to the very stringent international safety standards of EASA and FAA.
We didn’t ask anyone to bend the rules to make it easier for the development of the PAL-V Liberty. We wanted to develop a commercially viable vehicle and make it safe according to current standards. So we took the existing safety regulations (both road and air) as a benchmark to develop the best flying car possible.
We are often asked about the countless YouTube videos suggesting a new technology that is more advanced than that of the PAL-V Liberty. In the first place they are not "Flying Cars" but "Electric Helicopters", flying from platform to platform with helicopter restrictions because of noise and safety. Almost all of these are computer generated, often showing flying objects that defy every law of physics.
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.
Sometimes it's very hard to see what's real and what is fiction because animation technology is so advanced nowadays.
To judge the feasibility and chances of any aviation concept for human mobility three questions have to be answered:
1. What happens if the power source fails? Aviation is built on the certainty that this will happen and therefore you must be able to glide to the ground. Keep in mind that a parachute only works above a certain altitude. and therefore is not effective in certain important situations.
2. Does the concept comply with existing regulations? Both road and air? Does it need new regulations or relaxation of existing regulations?
3. How will it acquire a useful range? In aviation this requires surface area of wings or rotors for efficiency and light weight energy storage: batteries are still too heavy for a useful range in aviation.
Some are not convinced that flying cars will ever happen. They say that launch announcements have been made before, yet not a single vehicle is commercially viable.
The launch of the PAL-V Liberty has indeed been postponed. However, our time-to-market has not been delayed by changing the concept itself. The choice for a gyroplane concept and the tilting technology for driving was the right one from the start.
Instead, the delay has been caused by the decision to comply with the existing road and flight regulations and prove this in order to be commercially viable. This is probably the biggest challenge in building the PAL-V Liberty (or any flying car) as a commercially viable vehicle that customers can use. Not in proving that we are technologically capable of making a car that flies. That is why we are very certain that the first keys will be handed over to the first customers around year end 2018.
Flying safety is highly regulated and is organized and checked in a totally different way than car safety regulations. Indeed, safety regulations and its enforcement for flying vehicles can be compared to safety in the pharmaceutical industry. There is no room for compromise.
More than 1,500 test reports need to be created and filed to prove that each detail of the PAL-V Liberty meets all the safety requirements. This was also done for the proof of concept PAL-V ONE. These reports have been approved by independent, government-accredited experts.
Last but not least, our product has been developed by a group of highly skilled engineers according to a process which is now being audited and approved by EASA (European Aviation and Safety Agency). This very diligent process during many years will lead to the successful certification of our PAL-V Liberty. The last milestone before first deliveries.
Many people are concerned that if we reach a point where there are numerous flying cars in the sky, there will be a danger of collisions. There is no need to worry. The technology for dealing with many flying vehicles in the sky already exists.
This system is called HITS – Highway In The Sky. It is a virtual highway that pilots see on their screen. The technology was developed by NASA and test-proven for helicopter traffic during the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996. Of course, today´s computer technology is far superior to the one deployed in 1996.
As in the automotive world, vehicles of the future will communicate wirelessly with each other. Already in most countries, aircraft are obliged to have a transponder sending out their location to others, reducing the risk of collisions dramatically.
Technology is moving more and more towards avoiding collisions by overruling the pilots’ choices in case of collision risk. Indeed, it is our belief that not only today but also in the future you will be safer in the air than on the road.