Moller’s M400 Skycar

Moller’s M400 Skycar
Moller International has developed a concept vehicle that can execute vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) like a helicopter, fly like an airplane and drive short distances on the ground like a car. This innovative vehicle, called the M400 Skycar, is capable of reaching speeds of up to 375 MPH (about 600 kmph). Since it is airborne, the Skycar is not restricted by road speed limits or by traffic jams. If successful, the M400 Skycar could be the next big step in the field of personal transportation.

Dr. Paul S. Moller has been inventing and developing Skycars since 1962, when he built the first prototype for a VTOL vehicle, named the XM-2 Skycar )video here). The M400 Skycar is the latest in a series of innovative Skycars developed by his company. An extremely successful previous model is the two-passenger M200X Skycar, which has successfully completed over 200 test flights since 1989.

Since a computer controls the flying, all the pilot of the M400 Skycar is required to do is to move the controls in the direction in which he wants to go. This is achieved by using an array of proprietary technologies. The airframe of the Skycar is constructed of fiber reinforced plastic (FRP), a material that is  both aerodynamic and strong, and provides the vehicle with stability and safety. Another reason Moller chose FRP is that it is lightweight, allowing the vehicle to obtain a favorable power-to-weight ratio.

Safe take off and landing of the M400 Skycar require a great deal of power . Therefore, Moller needed to design an engine that was both strong and lightweight. In addition, the company wanted the Skycar to be economic in terms of maintenance and purchase price, and environmentally friendly.

For these reasons, Moller International decided to use a rotary engine that employs aluminum housings, peripheral porting and an air-cooled rotor. Their rotary engines were developed from technology obtained from Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC) and are of the Wankel-Type. The 150 HP model in the M400 typically uses unleaded gasoline, but has been demonstrated to run on diesel and on natural gas as well. Using gasoline, the M400 can be expected to reach over 20 mpg. To top off its many advantages, the rotary engine is also very small and can be easily replaced.

The M400 Skycar is a four-seat model that can be altered to seat six passengers or one passenger. The Skycar has a 750 mile (approx. 1,200 km) range, and a 36,000 ft (approx. 11,000 m) ceiling. In addition, it can climb more than one vertical mile per minute.

The Skycar’s multiple ducted fan arrangement is designed to generate low fan noise by using modest thrust loading and tip speeds. The company is expected to reduce the Skycar’s noise level sufficiently to allow urban usage.

A short video of the Skycar’s hover test is available here.

TFOT recently covered another flying vehicle expected to be launched in 2009, called Gyrocopter – this is a new flying motorcycle, currently under development by the Dutch company PAL-V.

More information on the M400 Skycar is available on Moller International’s website.

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About the author

Noa Rotkop

Noa has a B.A. in Philosophy from Tel-Aviv University and is currently completing her degree in Arts. She has also applied for MA studies in Philosophy, which she plans to begin next year.

View all articles by Noa Rotkop