A Personal Flying Vehicle Prototype Can Fly You at 160 MPH

Hold on tight.
Derya Ozdemir

Nothing makes you yearn for personal flying vehicles more than New York traffic — just imagine being able to yeet out of your automobile as soon as things start to go sour on the highway. Now, wouldn't that be the dream?

A team of Washington State University (WSU) researchers is working with ZEVA Aero, a Tacoma-based start-up, and testing components to create a single-passenger, electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, taking us one step closer to turning that dream into reality.

In fact, ZEVA Aero has completed a functional prototype of an incredibly futuristic-looking eVTOL vehicle, with the goal of first responders and emergency services using it first.

The prototype is ready to take off

The prototype is capable of flying at 160 mph (257 km/h) for up to 50 miles (80 km), and when it's taking off, the unique vehicle hovers like a hovering helicopter, and then, it tilts horizontally to fly more efficiently like a plane. This enables it to take advantage of the reduced drag.

The WSU researchers are assisting in the modeling and testing of the aircraft's propulsion system, as well as studying aerodynamic configurations to optimize the vehicle's thrust and controls. This is especially important since the biggest challenge of building personal flying machines has been generating enough thrust to get a person off the ground, but the advances in motors, control systems, and lighter materials are helping the researchers catch up with the dream of personal flying vehicles.

So, when will be able to fly in our personal electric vehicles? The answer is complicated since it wouldn't be just one person flying but numerous people whizzing across the sky, but John Swensen, associate professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, who is in the team, is hopeful that we'll see these vehicles happen “sooner rather than later."

The prototype is the latest addition to a world of personal flying machines that are getting ready to take off in the long history of our species' quest to take to the skies. Many companies are working on such vehicles, and most recently, we've even reported a single-person, DIY eVTOL with eight motors that can fly and land anywhere by the Sweden-based Jetson Aero. It does come with a hefty price tag of $92,000, but it being DIY really makes you think we're fast approaching the future.

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