A group of researchers from China’s prestigious Tsinghua University have introduced what they claim to be the world’s first flying car prototype catering to urban mobility services, the university said on December 8.
The team, led by Li Jun, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and Zhang Xinyu, a faculty member of the School of Vehicle and Mobility, had completed the test flight on September 20 this year of the prototype in Xi’an, provincial capital of northwestern Shaanxi.
It’s unclear why the school delayed releasing the news to later this year.
The aircraft has a dimension of 5800*1900*1780mm. With a range of 210km, it can remain airborne for 16 hours. Powered by a 21kWh Lithium cobalt oxide battery pack, the two-seat flying car runs up to 60kph while on the ground.
After rotary propellers lift it off the ground, it can fly at a speed of 25m per second. It features a maximum take-off mass (MTOM) of 820kg and a lift of 1,000m.
Apart from the School of Vehicle and Mobility, a number of research entities and companies also took part in designing and developing the aircraft.
They include Tsinghua’s Department of Computer Science and Technology and Suzhou Automotive Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Fullymax (赛能电池), a battery pack maker and RoboSense (速腾聚创), a leading Lidar producer.
Different modes of operation
According to the researchers, they built the aircraft around core concepts such as lightweight and high load capacity.
This is because the prototype is designed to function as a passenger- and freight-carrying aerial vehicle catering to low-altitude air mobility.
Therefore, it can switch between different modes of operation, such as flying, manned driving and autonomous driving, overcoming range limitations faced by many other flying cars with high capacity, Tsinghua said.
These contraptions have moved to the front of media limelight in recent years thanks to their potential role in alleviating urban congestion.
Additionally, they are also being tapped for applications in aerial tourism, survey and rescue, and emergency telecommunication.
Research work on the prototype from Tsinghua began in March 2021, followed by the completion of exterior design a year later.
The actual model came out and underwent various road tests in April 2023, in advance of the test flight in September of the same year.
Carried out under the auspices of Tsinghua and state allowances, development of the flying car is Tsinghua’s latest breakthrough in this field, following the release of a key document by the ministries of transport and technology.
The document encourages qualified organizations to deploy research efforts in the area of flying car and achieve breakthroughs in the combination of and alteration between aircraft and vehicle technologies.