Luxury carmaker Aston Martin has unveiled plans for a personal aircraft dubbed a “sports car for the skies”. The company has teamed up with jet engine maker Rolls-Royce and engineering boffins at Cranfield University on the futuristic project.
A concept aircraft was unveiled at the Farnborough Airshow, but the consortium hopes to have a flying version ready for the next show in two years. The three-seat hybrid-electric vehicle will be vertical take-off and landing.
Aston Martin, so associated with James Bond, dismissed suggestions it was a gimmick more likely to appear in 007 films than be seen flying commercially. “Personalised and electric air transport is a fast-developing area and we need to start getting into it,” said James Stephens, the company’s director of global government.
A number of aviation and technology firms are hoping to make electric-powered small aircraft and air-taxis a reality, including Airbus, ride-sharing firm Uber, and a Google-backed firm called Kitty Hawk. Earlier this week, Rolls-Royce announced plans to develop a flying taxi engine, although the project with Aston Martin is separate.
Mr Stephens said Aston Martin wants to corner the market in next-generation luxury flying vehicles for the rich and famous. The aircraft would, he said, “be a sports car for the skies”.
But it won’t come cheap. The working price guide for the vehicle is put at between £3-5m
“We, in the UK, have the ability to develop this,” Mr Stephens said. “The challenge is time, money and regulation. But the market will be there eventually.”
Called the Volante Vision Concept, the aircraft will feature autonomous technology and be able to hit speeds of up to 200mph.
Carl Bourne, Rolls-Royce’s strategy and business development head, said the consortium rejected plans to build a flying car. “You’d end up with a bad aircraft, and a bad car.” He said the Volante would be pitched as an alternative way to escape urban congestion and quickly move between big towns and cities. Unlike a private plane, it will be vertical lift. Unlike a helicopter, it will cruise more efficiently,” he said.
The consortium behind the Volante also includes aviation technology company Cranfield Aerospace Solutions.
It chief executive, Paul Hutton, said: “The introduction of autonomous and electric propulsion technologies into new aircraft designs is both inevitable and challenging.” But he said such projects put the UK consortium “at the vanguard of this revolution in aerospace”.