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New Vehicle Flies, Parks, Rescues

  • Paul Sisco

A company called Urban Aeronautics has developed a prototype of a flying car that company officials say could one day make traffic jams a thing of the past. The designers hope to sell the idea first to emergency services and the military.

Trouble finding a parking place? Not a problem in one of these flying machines. You can order one for about six million dollars says the founder of Urban Aeronautics Rafi Yoeli, but don't expect to get it anytime soon.

"The use of these vehicles is mostly rescue vehicles, vehicles for the military, vehicles for the police and less use by the private individual. So this is a limited market. It is the rescue emergency medical services, air ambulances, fire department and so on. Homeland security which is a big market, still in the thousands. Now the second revolution, the second wave of this technology will come maybe in 30-40 years where we will be able to get the price down of these vehicles to the cost that an individual can afford."

Yoeli first built this aircraft called Hummingbird. He has since developed two prototypes of his flying machine - one called X-Hawk and a smaller version named Mule.

They are really more helicopter than car.

"This is a helicopter, only instead of having a big overhead rotor, we have confined this rotor and shrunk it into two smaller rotors that are inside the fuselage. And we pay in fuel consumption, we pay a little bit in payload capability, but other than that, this is a helicopter like any other helicopter."

X-Hawk takes off vertically, and its designers say it will be able to stay aloft for about two hours, climb to more than 36,00 meters and reach a speed of 250 kilometers an hour. With rotors enclosed, the X-Hawk can move closer to targets, making them maneuverable in urban areas or dense terrain.

'When a fire breaks out not only can X-Hawk cut response time, it can also carry out rescues and, directly from the window where a victim is in need of help."

Costs are uncertain. Estimates start as low as one-point-five million dollars for Mule and climb to six million dollars for larger military models. 'Where minutes can make all the difference, X Hawk can save lives." Urban Aeronautics says we may see manned X-Hawks hovering in the market and the airways within eight years.

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