Terrafugia, a US company based in Woburn, Massachusetts you may have already heard of due to their Transition “roadable aircraft”, has returned to our attention with their next project, the TF-X. If the Transition is a rather conventional (if we can say that with these vehicles) fixed-wing flying car prototype, we can’t say the same about their new project, which involves even more clever engineering and futuristic design.
Terrafugia must be very pleased with their successes achieved with Transition – in 2012 they completed the first phase of flight-testing; on their way to achieving certification from both NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and FAA (US Federal Aviation Authority).
Their new project, the TF-X, is a plug-in hybrid-drive vertical-take-off-and-landing (VTOL) vehicle, capable of carrying four persons and luggage. It will feature foldable wings, making it an easy fit on roads and in garages, and when it’s time to take-off it will do it from where it stands – although it does require a 30.5 meter clearing. For flight, the wings will extend, and from two 600-hp electric motor pods propellers will open out, one on each wing tip. Each of the pods is fitted with no less than 16 separate electric motors, in case one – or more – should breakdown mid-air.
Like the military Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey, initially the propellers will have a vertical position. Once the aircraft is at sufficient altitude they will start a slow transition to a horizontal position. Then the blades will retract, while flight propulsion duties will be taken over by the main 300 hp internal combustion engine that drives a rear-mounted propeller while cruising. Of course, as the landing approaches, the electric wing props will take duty again.
Cruising speeds are of about 200 mph (322 km/h), and Terrafugia say that learning to fly the aircraft shouldn’t take too long, as the TF-X will be capable of automated flight, with the pilot only entering the location of the destination site and additional back-up routes. Range should also be good, estimates being of about 500 miles (805 km) between refueling and/or recharging. Of course, all this could change in the 8 to 12 years Terrafugia reckons it needs to deliver the project to a commercial status.