July 20, 2007 -- A flying car resembling what the Jetsons drove could show up soon at a dealership near you.
Moller International, a company founded by a UC Davis professor devoted to developing a flying car, announced in a statement recently that it has begun production for its "Jetsons-like M200G Volantor, a small airborne, two passenger, saucer-shaped vehicle that is designed to take off and land vertically."
Flying an estimated 10 feet off the ground, which allows it to avoid regulation by the FAA, the M200G takes to the air with the help of eight Rotapower rotary engines.
According to the company, flight times, once airborne, could last between 45 minutes and 90 minutes, depending on the vehicle's speed. It's expected to zip through the air as fast as 50 mph, said Bruce Calkins, general manager of Moller International.
The car is designed to hold up to 250 pounds, including the driver and any cargo.
Because of its ability to fly vertically over obstacles on the ground such as rocks and water, Rob Enderle, a tech analyst with the Enderle Group, said the flying car could be used to avoid gridlock.
"This is a way to solve traffic backups," Enderle said. "Traffic management is one of the overall goals of a product like this."
But, he said, a market has to be created before a full-blown flying car can be sold effectively. The first step is demonstrating that the vehicle is reliable and does what it says it will do.
"It depends on who uses it first. The marketing of a product like this will make all the difference. If these things start popping up on TV and in movies, we may see the demand increase sooner rather than later," Enderle said.
Calkins said the M200G was designed as a recreational vehicle, but that its development will lead to future models that could be used during the morning commute. Until then, he's content to consider its uses in more relaxed settings.
"If somebody was on a yacht and wanted go over to the beach, they would just go down to the deck and get on the vehicle and fly just above the water and over rocks and land on the beach," Calkins said.
Not everyone wants to fly blindly into the future, however.
"There's a host of other regulatory issues," cautioned Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley technology analyst. "They're the first company to go after this market, and it's a long, hard path, trying to sell a flying car."
Calkins said the company has 67 deposits for its products, which include other flying vehicles in addition to the M200G.