Sometime this year, a British designed and built flying car should start flight tests with the aim of going into production in 2020. Yes, it looks and the spec reads like something out of a sci-fi movie but it’s actually just scaled-up drone technology.

‘Just’ is an easy word to say but of course it’s a lot more complicated than that. Not only has the NeoXCraft got to fly, be controllable and be able to carry passengers, but it has also to go through a strict certification programme.

That’s difficult because aviation authorities have not yet come up with the regulations for this new breed of transport. So all the designers of electrically powered vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft have to go on is what’s applicable currently for all aircraft.

The NeoXCraft is a joint project from Nottingham-based aviation company VRCO and the University of Derby. Its most defining features are its four large ducted fans which rotate through 90-degrees to become wheels for driving on the road.

Sounds mad, and incedibly difficult to engineer but Daniel Hayes, CEO and co-founder of VRCO, is confident that his team, with years of experience in unmanned aerial vehicles – drones – can achieve it. That’s confirmed by a feasibility study into the concept and powertrain by the University of Derby’s Institute for Innovation in Sustainable Engineering.

Flying the NeoXCraft should be easier than it sounds because it will have an autonomous control system. The pilot/driver simply has to input where he/she wants to go, and the computer sorts it out. That’s already available not just in drones but in current passenger-carrying aircraft, where it’s known as the Flight Management System (FMS).

Admittedly, on airliners, the FMS does rely on the detailed input of highly trained pilots and their constant monitoring but much of that process could be automated.

The NeoXCraft will have flight controllers capable of managing each individual engine, gimbal and fan blade pitch to keep the craft stable, to take off and land safely and to fly in the necessary direction, said VRCO.

“This configuration removes the need for elevators, rudders and other traditional aircraft components,” said Daniel Hayes, CEO and co-founder of VRCO.

“We are about to build the prototypes to get it to certification and that’s going to take at least 18 months.

“If we are successful then we are hopeful of having something we can insure and sell. These will be supercars of the skies. They are luxury and high-performing.”

‘Supercars’ – yes, the NeoXCraft will be expensive with a price of £1.5m being mooted. That sounds ridiculous but all high-tech projects start off pricey, available to just a few wealthy early adopters, then as time goes on, the cost comes down and becomaes more readily available. VRCO sees NeoXCraft as “a showcase for British innovation”.

VRCO NeoXCraft
Price £1.5m
Seats 2
Payload 180kg
Cruise speed 180 knots, 200mph, 333kph
Two-hour duration off a single charge
Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL)
Autonomous Flight
Ability to drive legally on roads
Hybrid and Electric Power
Switchable power pods for instant power off grid
Fast Recharge
Integrated Energy Recovery System (KERS)
Emergency parachute system

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