In Raamsdonksveer, a new chapter is about to be added to the history of aviation. Because, after roughly 15 years of development, the first PAL-V is due to take to the air in 2022. When it does, this invention from Brabant will become the world's first officially certified flying car.
The information presented in Brabant Brand Box is offered free-of-charge for positive stories about Brabant.
James Bond had Little Nellie in ‘You Only Live Twice’. Harry Potter not only had a flying broomstick for Quidditch, he also took to the air in an enchanted car. And flying vehicles have entertained us with imposing stunts in numerous science fiction films.
In the near future, the first real-life flying car will become commercially available for drivers who regularly travel long distances. The Netherlands already boasts 23 take-off and landing locations where the PAL-V will soon be able to take off. And this number is likely to double in the near future. There is even more choice in the rest of Europe, which offers at least 10,000 landing sites.
PAL-V stands for Personal Air and Land Vehicle, which is a completely accurate description of this car and plane in one. To be more precise, it is a combination of the Carver and a gyrocopter design. The Carver is a motorised three-wheeler in which the occupants sit behind each other. The roof supports a folding rotor system, which is based on the aeronautical principles of the gyrocopter. Unlike a helicopter, only the tail rotor is powered. The vehicle’s movement through the air causes the main rotor to rotate and create a lifting force.
People have dreamed of a flying car for almost 100 years. Robert Dingemanse, the CEO of PAL-V, once said: “We have been dreaming about this machine for a hundred years, so there has to be a market for it.” After years of development, that dream is about to come true.
“We have successfully completed the vehicle type approval process in the Netherlands and that is a very important milestone”, says Beau Metz, who is responsible for marketing and sales at PAL-V. So the vehicle has been approved for road use, but it still has to pass the aircraft certification test. The vehicle is currently in the final stages of the European Aviation Authority's certification process.
Making this dream come true has been both complex and challenging. If the founders of PAL-V had known just how much effort would be needed to get a flying car certified for both road use and for the air, they might not even have started.
It obviously has to offer everything you expect in a production car - gears, a throttle, brakes and a clutch - while at the same time incorporating all the engineering and technology that are required for flight. Furthermore, the combination has to be as light and compact as possible, and quickly transformable from a car to a gyrocopter. “It is one of the easiest and safest ways to fly”, says Metz.
John Bakker, an inventor living in Raamsdonksveer, came up with the idea originally and subsequently teamed up with Robert Dingemanse in 2003 to start the company that would be destined to make the first flying car in the world. But it was obvious that getting the dream project off the ground would require a significant amount of money.
One of the first people to get involved was Ted den Ouden, who started looking for investors on a ‘no cure, no pay’ basis. “I was either laughed at, or people said: ‘Come back in about five years’ time’, says Den Ouden. “They expected more certainty after that period. Obviously, I know that a development process takes time. But I might have thought twice if you told me back then that 16 years would be needed…”
Nevertheless, several investors showed interest in the project. When Den Ouden withdrew, Robert Dingemanse took over and started to structure PAL-V as a viable business. The developments have accelerated at an astounding pace during recent years. The company currently employs 100 people, who are all busy making preparations for production and delivery of the PAL-V.
The flying car is expected to eliminate all the frustrations of an airport: a place most people prefer to avoid. The PAL-V is a fully-fledged car that you can fill up with normal Euro 95 pump petrol. The driver decides whether he wants to take off in Hilversum or Eindhoven for his flight to Frankfurt when he is still at home, so he is no longer dependent on the vagaries of airlines and airports.
A specially designed navigation system helps the driver decide which part of the route should be driven on the road and which part is more suitable for flight. “The navigator is biased towards air travel though, because that is obviously the fastest solution”, says Metz. “The PAL-V Liberty can fly 400 to 500 kilometres on a full tank.”
Because the PAL-V Liberty is effectively a gyrocopter when in the air, the vehicle falls under existing aviation legislation. And when the skies get busy, the driver can use the Corridor in the Sky system, which is basically a virtual motorway for aircraft. As the vehicle normally flies at a height of 500 metres, it does not interfere with commercial aviation.
“A relatively large amount of free air space is available at this altitude”, says Metz. “In the past, setting out flight paths used to involve lots of paperwork. Now we offer a training course that shows users how they can make these arrangements quickly and easily. Obviously you can also explore adventurous routes. Taking to the skies with a car is a dream come true that pushes past traditional boundaries.”
In addition to consumers, PAL-V also expects many institutional buyers to be interested in this product. The Police and the Coastguard, for example. “Most of the helicopter flights carried out by these organisations are for observation purposes,” Metz comments. “The PAL-V is also capable of being the eye in the sky, but costs 4 to 5 times less to purchase and operate than a helicopter.”
The PAL-V also does not need to be stored in a hangar at an airport, it can be parked in a normal car park for cars. And you can use it to drive to the airport from your own home or from the office. “There are discussions about creating a landing area for the PAL-V on the Maasvlakte to avoid the return trip to Rotterdam/The Hague Airport”, says Metz.
Technology has not been the only challenge when developing the PAL-V: legislation and certification also play a major role. A flying car cannot simply be registered with the tax authorities or the RDW, the vehicle registration authority in the Netherlands. Stricter legislation applies to aviation than to other forms of mobility.
“The aviation certification process takes about ten years because the safety requirements far exceed those in the automotive industry”, Metz says. “PAL-V has devoted a huge amount of manpower to that process to gain an edge over possible competitors. Extremely important, because the PAL-V Liberty will be the first commercially available flying car in the world as a result.”
In recent decades, only a few new companies have been granted an aviation certificate for developing, certifying and building an aircraft. PAL-V will be the third successful entrant in the last 20 years of aviation history. “That demonstrates how special this position is”, says Metz. Because PAL-V is the very first fully certified flying car in the world, the company has been working with the relevant agencies to develop standardised programmes for this type of machine. As a result, the company has itself now become a certification knowledge centre.
Certification is not only required for the vehicle; the whole factory requires EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) certification. PAL-V is also writing history in this area as well. After Fokker, the Netherlands now has another truly international aerospace manufacturer in PAL-V. The flying cars will also roll off the production line in Brabant. This production facility will make a strong contribution to employment in Brabant. Private individuals and institutional buyers in the Netherlands alone have already placed more than 50 firm orders.
The company, which is based in several office buildings near Raamsdonksveer, is firmly rooted in Brabant. The Carver was also invented in Brabant. In addition, the company has found an important partner in Breda International Airport: a perfect location for testing vehicles and arranging training courses.
In collaboration with Breda Aviation, PAL-V has started a FlyDrive Academy where the first customers are already taking tuition. So there is already a professional training system in operation for future users. Buyers of the PAL-V must obtain a pilot's licence first, after which they receive their first lessons in Breda to prepare them for delivery of their Liberty. They must have a pilot’s licence (at least 20,000 euros) in order to venture into the air.
During the next ten years, PAL-V expects mobility to change more than it has in the past century. The motorways are filling up, but the skies still offer plenty of three-dimensional space. Henry Ford once spoke these prophetic words: “It’s not a matter of if a car is gonna fly, but when” . PAL-V has proved him right.
The latest news about (smart) mobility in your mailbox? Enter your e-mail address and you will receive our mailing about (smart) mobility.
Cookies are required to make the site operate properly. And cookies also allow us to share other cool and interesting stories about Brabant with you, via advertisements on social media and other websites. Worthwhile, right?