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Archive for Thursday, December 15, 2005

KU team helping to create flying car

9-member design group to unveil work today

December 15, 2005

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It's a car. No, it's a plane. No, it's AirCar.

Kansas University students are assisting a Washington state businessman intent on creating a successful, self-contained flying automobile.

"It's something that you think: 'Wow, this is very SciFi,'" said Yasuhiro Homma, the student leading the project. "It's very, very possible."

The Lawrence-based DARcorporation, an airplane design firm, sponsored the nine-member student team to develop a design for the Milner AirCar. The students, working with Lance Rake, professor of industrial design, will unveil their work today.

It's a project that Greg Thomas, chairman of KU's design department, has dubbed "From Kittyhawk to Jayhawk."

The students have put in long hours contributing to a concept that many have tried and many continue to work on. In its holiday catalogue, Neiman Marcus offers the M400 Skycar prototype for a cool $3.5 million.


Yasuhiro Homma and a team of Kansas University students have been working on designs for a flying car. Homma, the team leader, displays computer renderings of the car, with wings retracted, at top, for driving, and with the wings extended, middle and bottom, for flying.

Yasuhiro Homma and a team of Kansas University students have been working on designs for a flying car. Homma, the team leader, displays computer renderings of the car, with wings retracted, at top, for driving, and with the wings extended, middle and bottom, for flying.

"People have been working on this project for 50 years, and nobody has really solved it," said James Milner, the Vancouver, Wash., businessman who is behind the students' efforts. "I don't underestimate the difficulty of being able to do this."

Milner, a former commercial airline pilot who has run two aviation-related businesses, has spent the last year focused on his AirCar project. He has tapped about eight individuals and businesses nationwide to assist in various aspects of the AirCar's development.

It's the future of transportation, he said. Does envisioning a world straight out of "The Jetsons" cartoon sound crazy?

"Everyone thinks I'm crazy," he said. "My mother is even skeptical. I don't know if I'm going to succeed or not, but I'm certainly going to try."

It's a challenge, said William Anemaat, president of DARcorporation. Anemaat said Moller Corporation's Skycar has not successfully "flown like a flying car."

He said one challenge of building a flying car was that the typical aim for autos was that they be substantial enough to deal with crashes, yet planes must be light.

But technology has improved, Milner said, and the weight and durability issue has been solved by using graphite and strong composite materials.


Jeff Lewis, Lecompton, left, and Doug VanderValk, Rochester, N.Y., both seniors at KU, work on constructing a model of a flying car. Lewis and VanderValk, along with team leader Yasuhiro Homma and six other students, have designed an AirCar that includes retractable and folding wings, enabling both driving and flying.

Jeff Lewis, Lecompton, left, and Doug VanderValk, Rochester, N.Y., both seniors at KU, work on constructing a model of a flying car. Lewis and VanderValk, along with team leader Yasuhiro Homma and six other students, have designed an AirCar that includes retractable and folding wings, enabling both driving and flying.

A Toyota Prius, which is about the same size as the planned AirCar, weighs about 2,900 pounds. AirCar creators are planning a flying car that would weigh less than half that.

Milner said he was planning tandem projects, a prototype of a flying car and a car, without the wings, that would be lightweight and get more than 100 miles per gallon of gasoline.

The students drew about 1,000 different sketches of the flying car, Homma said. They considered removable wings, or wings that could be placed beneath the car during driving. Their final plan has wings that meet together at the top when driving.

Homma said it was difficult working with the stated rules for the project, such as the set 35-foot wingspan, and creating a design that not only looked good, but could be functional.

"As designers, we always try to break the rules, to be innovative," he said.

Milner said he likely wouldn't adapt the students' design in its entirety, but would incorporate its good ideas into the final product.

Video

KU Design's AirCar. Enlarge video

KU's design department aims to work with industry on an increasing number of projects, Thomas said, because it prepares students for work after graduation. The department must keep on top of the changing world off campus, he said.

"We can't remain satisfied with where we are," he said. "We have to move forward."

Comments

bankboy119 9 years ago

Amazing what can happen at a university that everyone is so worried about looking dumb.

Good luck students!

compmd 9 years ago

Harley, wendt: don't worry about idiots flying these. These are aircraft remember, and require a pilots license. As far as I am aware, these are considered in the light-sport class and are meant for VFR. I guess one could configure it for IFR though. It would be reasonable I think that if someone were to buy one of these, they either already own a small aircraft or are replacing it.

As far as not believing in aircars, you should have seen Monster Garage's. 2004 Panoz Esperante with a Lycoming O-320 (I think), airboat prop, and wings and tail booms based on a Cessna 337. I know the people at Cessna who worked on this. With a bigger motor, better motor mounts, and rudders, that monstrosity would have been a real aircraft, not a toy that flew in ground effect.

Milner has the best and brightest working on this. Its not like I see the designs for this every day because I work for one of the consulting companies...looks around shiftily

I'm curious to see what other people think of this project.

badger 9 years ago

To heck with flying cars.

Where is my robot maid?

weterica 9 years ago

Marion- I know! Yasuhiro Homma looks like such a money eating feline! He probably took that class just so he could get his paws on other people's money. Greed pure and simple.

I'm so sick of these science dorks trying to rob the American people blind!

And its just appalling that the a KU class would involve themselves with an airplane design firm and that Pacific Northwesterner for some silly pipe dream. (Milner is probably totally potted out anyway--they all are up there in Lefty land.) You gotta stay realistic to accomplish anything valuable. This a university not an alchemy academy!

memoirs_of_a_sleepwalker 9 years ago

Marion, You've officially earned the title of "idiot." Congrats.

Kookamooka 9 years ago

I LOVE IT!!! I don't care if it never gets off the ground. My kids love the animation. It's the hottest thing at our house!! Now all of our hotwheels are "air cars".

Thank God I'll never have to worry about my teenagers flying around in those things, I'll just have to worry about my grandkids!

Hawkarma 9 years ago

[insert negative garbage here]

bthom37 9 years ago

But does it have a nuclear power plant and laser beams?

Because I was promised those things!

Oh, and this is cool. Impractical, most likely, but still cool.

DuQuesne 9 years ago

1 It's been done. 2 It's never been done with much success. 3 It'll continue to be done until it works. 4 It'll always be a cool idea. 5 I want one. (I want a red one.) 5a I want one before some ass-hat politician decides it has to be regulated beyond my reach. 5b I'll vote against any ass-hat politician who tries to cut university funding because of their narrow view of projects like this.

-Schuyler DuQuesne

compmd 9 years ago

I'm seeing more bashing of this project than I thought I would. For those of you who are bashing it, let me ask you two questions:

1) Are you a pilot? 2) Are you an aerospace engineer?

If you answered "No" to both of those, then your credibility as a critic is pretty minimal.

Learn about composites, aerodynamics, and flight controls, then get back to me.

kshaff03 9 years ago

As a concept, it is neat, but totally impractical from a buisness standpoint.

Absolultely zero market for such a car/plane, and the FAA is going to have a field day with this one...

compmd 9 years ago

just like there was a world demand for maybe five computers? thats what ibm thought...

gontek 9 years ago

I'm a pilot and an aerospace engineer-

The market one day will want a flying car if it doesn't already. This is a real world experiment and I'm glad the KU engineers are working on it. As navigation systems are improving greatly, and I have heard experienced aero engineers speculate that in the future all you would need is a drivers license to operate a light aircraft. That's pretty close to the sport pilot rule now.

I want one. If it was efficient enough and cost comparable to a cessna, piper, or mooney or something, I would take the flying car - I could keep it in my garage and drive it to the airport! Yes, I would want one.

I'm glad to see KU working with DARCorp still. They have some history together, as the founder of DAR is one of the most highly respected aerospace engineers alive and a former KU professor.

gontek 9 years ago

I have to agree with Marion - Amphibious cars are awesome - I have always wanted either a DuckW http://www.105th.org/gallery/blanding/duckw.jpg or a Grumman Amphibious Aircraft. I'd also settle for a Lake V.

While the designers are shooting for the sky they should make this thing operate on water too.

I assumed they were aerospace, but it just calls them designers, and it references industrial design. I guess I made that association because of DARcorp and my professor at KU.

Wish the articale was more clear about that. I guess it is may be more practical to focus on industrial design of this than the aerospace design. Makes more "real world" sense.

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