A New Electric Aircraft Costs Roughly the Same as a Luxury SUV

And you don't even need a pilot's license to fly it.
Brad Bergan
Opener's electric Blackfly aircraft.Opener LLC

New eVTOLs are becoming more affordable.

A bizarre, boat-keel-with-wings and single-seating electric aircraft design performed for excited crowds during AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and when it hits the market, it may cost roughly the same as a luxury SUV, according to an initial report from Robb Report.

If you can buy a luxury SUV, you may soon consider abandoning familial obligations of transit and shopping, and instead take to the sky, without an FAA pilot's license, and free.

The electric aircraft Blackfly has no wheels

The California-based company aims to sell up to 25 of the novel ultralight category aircraft, which are operated via computer, before the year is finished. And crucially, Opener's website claims that once Blackfly enters production, "it will [sell for] the price of an SUV." But the company seemed to approach walking back its statement, with an immediate disclaimer: "We are vague about the price so as not to overpromise." Which could mean anything. Anyway. The new electric aircraft features a bubble canopy in the middle of the vehicle, wherein one person may sit. A wing caps either side of the big teardrop vehicle, one in the rear and one at the front, each equipped with four electrically powered propellers.

Notably, the onboard computers can tilt the wings vertically, straight-on in the direction of motion, and any angle between, which means Blackfly can switch roles between aircraft and helicopter. But there are no wheels, with the landing process involving simply setting the keel of the hull down on the ground, which causes the entire vehicle to list to one side or the other, until a winglet catches it before it rolls over onto the canopy. Needless to say, crash landings would not go well, at all.

Most Popular
Blackfly Midair
Blackfly in flight behind two WWII vintage aircraft. Source: Opener LLC

The Blackfly's panic-friendly 'return-to-home' button

The vehicle was assembled for the U.S. recreational sport-vehicle market, and falls under Part 103 of federal air regulations, which comes with both drawbacks and perks. Since it's an ultralight class aircraft, it can't weigh more than 254 lbs (115 kg), and you're not allowed to fly it at night, or close to settlements or cities. But on the flip side, you don't need a pilot's license to take to the air, since, like a four-wheeler, it's a recreational sport vehicle that's equipped with a functional BRS parachute that may be opened at altitudes of 100 ft or less. Of course, a parachute is only necessary when the redundant computers running the machine all fail simultaneously. Note well: the onboard computers even come with a panic-friendly "return-to-home" button, which will also help lost operators find their way back to the launch point.

"We test Blackfly through a very wide flight-operating envelope, but then highly restrict what the computers will allow the aircraft to do," said the CEO Opener Marcus Leng during an EAA Radio interview, according to the Robb Report. Blackfly's unique motors and batteries were all manufactured in-house by Opener, and Leng claims the vehicle's "proprietary propulsion system includes the most powerful motors in the world for their size." Each flight of the Blackfly during the Oshkosh event, the vehicle lifted off the ground, flew several hundred yards above a grassy region between two runways, and then made a hasty return to its takeoff area, landing almost soundlessly on its keel before rolling slightly to its side. While not everyone will have the funds to buy a consumer-grade ultralight vehicle, more will have access to airport-less flights than before, thanks to this forthcoming eVTOL.

message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron