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MOLLER SKYCAR


The Moller Skycar is a prototype personal VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft — a "flying car" — called a "Volantor" by its inventor Paul Moller, who has been attempting to develop such vehicles for forty years.[2] The design calls for four ducted fans encasing the propellers, which is safer to bystanders and more efficient at low speeds.


Description

The craft said to be currently under development, the M400, is purported to ultimately transport four people; single-seat up to six-seat variations are also planned.[3] It is described as a car since it is aimed at being a popular means of transport for anyone who can drive, incorporating automated flight controls. It is proposed that in a model for the general public, the driver may only input direction and speed. Piloting knowledge would be unnecessary, however, training will be required.

Further, developers claim that by using eight inexpensive Wankel rotary engines - compared to jet engines, the vehicle's price may eventually fall close to that of a luxury car ($100,000). The fuel consumption is claimed to be 20 miles per gallon[4][5] — similar to that of a big car— but this has been calculated as unrealistic.[6][7] According to the developers, operation of a Skycar will produce as much noise as traffic on a nearby freeway when taking off, and this will only last for a few seconds, because it climbs so quickly.[8]

The Skycar demonstrated limited tethered flight capability in 2003 by hovering only.[9] Scheduled tethered flight tests, which were to occur in mid-2006, were apparently canceled. Moller upgraded the Skycar's engines in 2007, and the improved prototype is now called the "M400X".[10] According to a 2008 article in the media, a prototype is supposed to be flying in 2012, with certified versions "a few years later".[1]

Moller International's website claims that only $100 Million has been spent in R & D at Moller International,[11]

The company is also developing a more advanced model called M600, with an intended capacity for 6 pasengers or a payload of about 2000 lbs (900 kg).[12]

Operation

A Skycar is not piloted like a traditional fixed wing airplane, and has only two hand-operated controls, which the pilot uses to inform the computer control system of his desired flight maneuvers.[13] The Skycar's ducted fans deflect air vertically for takeoff and horizontally for forward flight.

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Rotapower engines

The engines to be used are being developed by a separate Moller company called Freedom Motors.[14] They are Wankel engines they call "Rotapower" which have a direct drive to a propulsion fan.[15][12] Each fan is contained in Kevlar-lined housings with intake screens to provide protection to bystanders.[12] The Skycar has four engine nacelles, each with two computer-controlled Rotapower engines. All eight engines operate independently and, allegedly, will allow for a vertical controlled landing should any one fail.[12]

The Rotapower Wankel engine would have the ability to operate on any fuel.[15] Earlier Rotapower models used gasoline.

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Specifications

Data from M400X Skycar Specifications [10]

General characteristics

  1. Capacity: Four passengers

  2. Length: 19.5 ft (5.9 m)

  3. Wingspan: 8.5 ft (2.6 m)

  4. Height: 7.5 ft (2.3 m)

  5. Empty weight: 2,400 lbs (1088 kg)

  6. Useful load: 750 lbs (340 kg)

  7. Powerplant: 4× 'Rotapower' Wankel engines with ducted fans, 180 hp (134 kW) each

Performance

  1. Maximum speed: 330 mph (531 km/h) at 25,000 ft (7620 m)

  2. Cruise speed: 305 mph (491 km/h) at 25,000 ft (7620 m)

  3. Service ceiling: 36,000 ft (10973 m)

  4. Rate of climb: 4,800 ft/min (1463 m/min)

Avionics
Computer control system

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Criticism

The only flight demonstrations have been hover tests performed by a Skycar prototype that for insurance reasons was tethered to a crane.[16] The ongoing failure of the Moller company to actually fly an M400 led the National Post to characterize the Skycar as a 'failure', and to describe the Moller company as "no longer believable enough to gain investors". [17]

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Pre-sales

Moller International had been taking refundable deposits on the M400 since 2003.[18] Refund conditions included failure to meet rated performance or failure to obtain U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight certification by December 31, 2005. Since 2003, Moller has slipped the date for FAA flight certification one year each year. As of 2009, Moller's claimed date for FAA certification stood at "a few years after 2012."[1] As of August 13, 2008, the Moller website indicates that they are "currently not taking deposits on aircraft".[19][dated info]

There are recent indications that Moller International is unable to refund deposits put down on M400s.[20][dated info]

In October 2006, Moller attempted to auction the only prototype of its M400 model on eBay. It failed to sell. The highest bid was $3,000,100; Dr. Moller reported at the annual meeting of stockholders on October 21, 2006 in Davis, California that the reserve price had been $3,500,000. [21] A previous attempt in 2003 to sell the M400 via eBay was also unsuccessful.[22]

In 2007, Moller announced that the M200G Volantor a precursor to the Moller Skycar, capable of hovering 10 feet above the ground and traveling up to 50 MPH, would hopefully be on the market in the United States by early 2008.[23][dated info] Depending on demand, Moller says, the M200G Volantor could cost under $100,000.[24]

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SEC complaint

In 2003, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued Moller for civil fraud (Securities And Exchange Commission v. Moller International, Inc., and Paul S. Moller, Defendants) in connection with the sale of unregistered stock, and for making unsubstantiated claims about the performance of the Skycar. Moller settled this lawsuit by agreeing to a permanent injunction and paying $50,000.[25] In the words of the SEC complaint, "As of late 2002, MI's approximately 40 years' [sic] of development has resulted in a prototype Skycar capable of hovering about fifteen feet above the ground."[26]