Urban air mobility

Where’s my flying car?

It’s almost here, but not quite as you expected it

BLACKFLY IS ONE of the strangest flying machines yet built. Its body resembles a small whale—though, when flying, the whale is facing backwards. Attached to its nose and tail are two wings, angled to the horizontal. Each wing sports four propellers. Seen from below when airborne, the thing resembles a slightly flattened letter H (pictured). Its inventor, Marcus Leng, and its sponsor, Larry Page, co-founder of Google, hope it will spawn a transport revolution.

People have talked of flying cars for years, with little to show for it. In part that is because they took the idea of being car-like too literally. In part it was because the technology was not yet available to build them. Blackfly in no physical way resembles a car. It is a single-seater, and wheelless (its convex belly means that it can land on most surfaces, rocking its way to stability after landing so that it needs no undercarriage). Yet it is aimed at the car-owning classes. It has a car-like cruising speed of 100kph (62mph), and a range of between 40 and 60 kilometres. More than 95% of domestic car journeys undertaken in America are shorter than 50km, and a majority involve only the driver.

As to technology, Blackfly has a carbon-fibre airframe, electric motors for propulsion, lithium-ion batteries to provide the power, and smart software to stop the pilot…