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Flying cars — a long-envisioned but elusive concept — are closer to taking flight. But the launch of a prototype at CES was unexpectedly delayed.
The startup company ASKA is set to debut what it says is a full-size, working prototype of a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle, called the A5. It can drive like a car or fly like a helicopter — or a quadcopter, to be precise. It’s about the size of an SUV and seats four people.
Citing "weather-related travel delays," the company postponed its product launch set for Wednesday evening in Las Vegas at CES. Instead, it announced a scaled down version for Thursday.
The company confirmed to Scripps News the vehicle is electric but also has a range extender, which is powered by premium gasoline. Combined, the A5 has an estimated flying range of about 250 miles. The company did not offer a traditional city or highway range.
ASKA is already accepting preorders for the A5, despite full-scale flight testing not yet beginning. The company has set the price tag of the A5 at $789,000. It also plans to establish a timeshare service called ASKA On The Fly, which will allow participants to share the cost of an A5. Either way, the company requires a deposit of $5,000 just to get on a preorder list. It is hoping to begin commercial production in 2026.
The company also aims to develop a rideshare service called ASKA On-Demand.
Details of the A5
ASKA says one major advantage of the A5 prototype is its size. When it is on the road, it can fit in a normal parking space. When it is time to take off, the company says it does not need a runway — it can launch vertically from a helipad. However, a “conventional runway takeoff” improves the A5’s overall energy efficiency.
On the road, the A5 is designed to move all four of its wheels outside the fuselage with all-wheel-drive traction.
In the air, the A5’s wings unfold. It has six rotors that tilt, optimized for vehicle control.
ASKA history and what’s next
Guy and Maki Kaplinsky founded the company in 2018 after selling their previous technology company, an app development firm, to GE Digital the year before. In 2020, NASA and the FAA included ASKA in their Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign. In 2021, ASKA showcased a design for what it described at the time as an all-electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle. Now, in 2023, the Silicon Valley company is unveiling that working prototype for the first time.
The next step for ASKA is to begin full-scale flight testing, which the company is promising to start after CES.
History of flying cars
If ASKA is successful in reaching its dreams, it will be the first in a long history of trying.
The concept of flying cars, or vehicles that can both drive on roads and fly through the air, has been around for over a century. The first known proposal for a flying car was made by Leonardo da Vinci in the 15th century, but the idea stayed virtually grounded until the 20th century.
In 1917, an American named Glenn Curtiss obtained the first patent for a flying car. It was never built.
In the 1930s and 1940s, several prototype flying cars were developed, including the Autogyro and the Convaircar. These early designs never entered mass production. Others developed in the 1950s and 1960s reached the same fate.
But in the 1960s, the idea of flying cars began to lift off again as the AeroMobil and Terrafugia Transition were developed. In the face of stiff regulatory and technical issues, they were never widely adopted.
Developing prototypes and working with regulators is not only difficult, it has also proved to be expensive. Google co-founder Larry Page shut down his flying car startup Kittyhawk in 2022, even after showcasing a prototype in videos.
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