A small, Massachusetts-based company currently developing a flying car has been given special permission from the US Federal Aviation Administration to fly an autonomous drone version of its proposed vehicle, and we’re so excited.
According to TopGear.com and the Aero News Network, the FAA has given Terrafugia the go-ahead to fly a 1/10th scale small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) based on the design of its proposed TF-X airborne automobile for purposes of research and development.
The TF-X will be a four-seat, hybrid electric vehicle that is semi-autonomous and capable of vertical take-off and landing, Terrafugia explained on its website. Development is currently in the early stages, and the car is not expected to be released for at least eight years. However, it will purportedly be capable of traveling 200 mph with a range of up to 500 miles.
In a statement, Terrafugia called the FAA exemption “a significant milestone” in the ongoing development of the TF-X, adding that “extensive sub-scale flight testing of sUAS, along with wind tunnel testing and aerodynamic simulation, are key to refining the vehicle’s design.”
Tests can reach altitudes of 400 feet, speeds of 100 mph
Specifically, the company will now be able to test the hovering capabilities of the scale drone prototype to collect flight data which can help them fine-tune the proposed design of the flying car, which is essential because of the unusual configuration of the TF-X.
The exemption was necessary, Terrafugia explained, in order to conduct commercial R&D work using an sUAS vehicle in the US. It will enable the company to operate scale TF-X prototypes in all airspace. The drone will be able to reach altitudes of 400 feet and travel under 100 mph.
As of last Wednesday, Terrafugia engineers were “building the TF-X sUAS and preparing the detailed test plans that will be used for their operation,” the company explained. They added that testing of the of drones would be conducted by their “experienced flight test team in partnership and communication with all relevant authorities.”
Once completed, Terrafugia claims that the TF-X will be a fixed wing street-legal aircraft with electric ground drive and electric power assist on takeoff and landing, that it will be able to auto-land at approved sites provided the weather is acceptable, and that it will be able to recharge its batteries at plug-in charging stations.
Feature Image: Terrafugia