If you’re among those of us who keep pining away for the oh-so-slowly breaking dawn of the age of the flying car, maybe it’s time we all turn off those Jetsons reruns and start thinking about taking a real risk that may just be scarier than manned flight itself: putting our money where our wandering minds are.
Astro Aerospace, a company that’s joined the flying-car race with its in-development "Astro Passenger Drone," has announced an initial public offering on the personal transport it’s developing, soliciting investors to buy in to refining its super-light, multi-rotor hovercraft beginning May 8. The company will trade under the ticker "ASDN" in the United States.
Sort of a scaled-down personal helicopter, the flying car is, according to the company, about the size of a small sport utility vehicle and is designed to essentially serve the same function — only by taking to the air instead of lining up behind earthbound road traffic.
Astro Aerospace is promising a functioning aircraft that will “disrupt our cities and our daily lives in an unprecedented way; radically improving urban mobility and avoiding time lost in traffic.” The company says the finished product will “service society from the skies via agricultural farming, monitoring, carrying small cargo, or even for military drills and take-downs.”
We’re guessing you’ll need some extraordinary clearance to cover that last one, but for everyone else, the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) craft offers, at least on paper, the kind of skyborne travel shortcut that motorists have been daydreaming about since — well, really since before Leonardo da Vinci drew his own whiz-bang flying contraption all the way back during the Renaissance.
The drone's small footprint covers a lightweight, all-carbon fiber body surrounding a cockpit that, according to Astro Aerospace, provides a 360-degree view. The working prototype "includes its VTOL capabilities and hosts 16 individual rotors to maximize safety performance, and is eco-friendly and emission-free," the company promises. "Touch flight control enables passengers to fly the drone manually or autonomously."
Weighing just 240 kilograms and sporting a takeoff maximum weight limit of 360 kilograms, this thing could haul you and a couple of svelte friends up for a commute that could have the three of you laughing at those poor saps jockeying for the rush-hour front spot in that HOV lane down below.
With a top speed of 70 kph (43 miles per hour) and a maximum flight time of 25 minutes, you’ll want to fly in a relatively straight line to hurry up and get where you’re going — so long as it’s within roughly 18 miles of where you started. Any distance beyond that will require a landing and a recharge, but that still leaves you plenty of cruising range to make that emergency milk run.
The company has launched a website that offers a bit more on the project, although it’s definitely giving out more of a (ahem) bird’s-eye view of things rather than swooping low for a granular breakdown of where development on the aircraft currently stands. You can check it out — including more clips of the vehicle in the air — here.