Terrafugia TF-X flying car approved for U.S. flight tests (sort of)

Massachusetts-based Terrafugia continues to develop its flying-car concept. The company unveiled its Transition in 2012, and is now developing a more-advanced model called the TF-X. Seen for the most part only in computer-generated press images, the TF-X can now take to the skies.

The new vehicle has been approved for tests in U.S. airspace, according to ScienceAlert. Specifically, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted permission for Terrafugia to test an unmanned prototype that’s one tenth the size of the actual car. Terrafugia believes using the drone will help speed up the TF-X’s development process.

The prototype can reach altitudes of 396 feet, and has a top speed of 99 mph. That’s compared to the 200-mph top speed Terrafugia promises for the actual TF-X. It also anticipates a range of up to 500 miles. The production model will be a plug-in hybrid, and will be small enough to fit in a normal garage, Terrafugia has said.

In actual use, the TF-X will transform from a car into a plane. When switching to flying mode, wings will fold out, and two electric-motor pods will be used to lift the vehicle off the ground.Two helicopter-style propellors will also unfold from the bodywork, providing thrust for airborne travel. Terrafugia previously said that it will need eight to 12 years to complete development work on the TF-X.

History is littered with previous attempts at a practical flying car, but Terrafugia has approached the concept a little differently. Its previous Transition model was intended to be more plane than car. Rather than a vehicle meant to take commuting to the skies, it was meant to make pilots’ lives more convenient by providing them with built-in ground transportation for stops at rural airports.