Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Flying car to go on sale

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It may not be quite like the Jetsons, but for a few hundred thousand dollars you too can soon fly around in a car. | AP Photo

MONACO — It may not be quite like the Jetsons, but for a few hundred thousand dollars you too can soon fly around in a car.

A Slovakian company called AeroMobil unveiled on Thursday its version of a flying car, a light frame plane whose wings can fold back, like an insect, and is boosted by a hybrid engine and rear propeller.

It will be available to preorder as soon as this year but is not for everyone: besides the big price tag, you’d need a pilot’s license to be able to use it in the air.

“I think it’s going to be a very niche product,” said Philip Mawby, professor of electronic engineering and head of research at the University of Warwick.

Several companies are working on flying cars, either like Aeromobil’s two-seater that needs a runway, or others that function more like helicopters, lifting off vertically. But not many companies are seriously looking at marketing these vehicles anytime soon, Mawby said.

“The technology is there. . . . The question is bringing it to the market at an affordable cost, and making it a useful product.”

Among the big questions is how to control the air traffic if there are hundreds of such vehicles zipping through the air. There is no control except for traditional aircraft, notes Mawby.

So while vehicles like the AeroMobil could be used for recreational purposes by people who have a large piece of land, flying cars are unlikely to become a mass market reality anytime soon, he says.

The AeroMobil has a driving range of about 62 miles and a top speed of 99 mph. When flying, its maximum cruising range is 466 miles, and it takes about three minutes for the car to transform into a plane.

The previous AeroMobil 3.0 prototype made news in 2014 when it was presented in Vienna, but no test-flight took place then. It crashed during a test flight in Slovakia in 2015 with its inventor Stefan Klein on board. He escaped largely unharmed.

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