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Air travel with a personal touch

EAA’s 2018 AirVenture at Oshkosh, WI, US happened during the last week of July and as always offered up a banquet of news and innovative new products, including flying cars, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) personal air vehicles and combinations of the two. One of these concepts, called BlackFly and on display at Oshkosh for the first time, caught my attention.
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Although I couldn’t attend in person, EAA’s 2018 AirVenture at Oshkosh, WI, US happened during the last week of July and as always offered up a banquet of news and innovative new products, including flying cars, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) personal air vehicles and combinations of the two. And who can resist talking about those things?

Numerous entities are now jostling to position their concepts for what seems to be a growing new market for urban-area, airborne taxis or personal air vehicles, sometimes called on-demand aviation, that promises to lift you above congested ground traffic. Whether or not the anticipated demand is real may be a good question, as is how hundreds of air vehicles buzzing above large cities are going to be regulated by the FAA, but big players including Uber (in partnership with NASA) with its flying car, Alphabet and partner Kitty Hawk with the Cora concept, and Airbus with its Vahana aircraft are betting on it, as well as multiple smaller entities including Terrafugia and Samson Motors.

One of these concepts, on display at Oshkosh for the first time, caught my attention. The BlackFly (version 2) VTOL battery-electric personal air vehicle (PAV) by Opener (Palo Alto, CA, US) has already, says the company, logged 12,000 miles in over 1,400 test flights. A streamlined George Jetson-ish, single-seat cabin with a rounded bottom and glass canopy on top is attached to a forward and a rear wing, with the front wing slightly shorter than the rear. Overall dimensions are 13 ft 7 inches wide and 13 ft 5 inches long, and 5 ft high. Each wing supports four horizontal propellers, driven by electric motors powered by batteries. Four pairs of elevons (control surfaces that combine the functions of elevators and ailerons) provide flight control. Classified as an Ultralight aircraft (in the US, Basic Ultralight in Canada), which means that the operator does not have to obtain a pilot’s license, the BlackFly weighs only 313 lbs empty, with a maximum payload of 250 lbs. The vehicle has a 25-mile range and a 62 mph cruise speed (in the US; European rules allow faster flight). The BlackFly can be recharged via solar panels, which come with the craft’s small transport trailer; Opener says an 80% charge is possible in 25 minutes. The vehicle can be disassembled in 30 minutes for ground transport within the trailer, and it is amphibious, with takeoffs and landings possible on water as well as smooth grassy surfaces, no airfield needed.

BlackFly’s light weight is thanks in large part to carbon/epoxy prepreg construction (more details may be coming from the company on materials and design). The company claims that the craft uses 245 Watt-hours per mile (Wh/mi), compared to a gasoline powered car at 1233 Wh/mi, and that noise is comparable or slightly less than the noise made by a typical car or a motorcycle at highway speed. Watch the video for a look at this personal air vehicle: 

And this is just one of these concepts, which have the potential to change much, in the way we each travel, and the aviation world itself.

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