The world’s first ultralight, all-electric, fixed wing personal aircraft has been unveiled by its Canadian developer Opener.
The Personal Aero Vehicle – dubbed BlackFly – has been designed for the new era of three-dimensional transportation. While it can take off or land on water, it is designed to operate from small grassy areas and on a full charge can travel distances up to 67km at speeds of up to 115kph. Take-off and landing space required is just a few metres (as the video below shows).
The public unveiling last week followed Transport Canada certification for BlackFly to operate as a basic ultralight aircraft.
With simple controls, it is easy to master and operate safely – there is no need for pilot’s licence in the US, although Canadian authorities require pilots to hold an ultralight licence.
“Opener is re-energising the art of flight with a safe and affordable flying vehicle that can free its operators from the everyday restrictions of ground transportation,” says Marcus Leng, CEO, pictured at the controls of the plane in flight (below). “We will offer competitive pricing in an endeavour to democratise three-dimensional personal transportation.”
Leng says safety has been a primary driving goal in the development of this new technology.
“BlackFly operators will be required to complete company-mandated vehicle familiarisation and operator training. In Canada, ultralight pilot licences are also required.”
One of the ways safety is ensured is the use of multiple propellers: eight in all, on two wings.
Creating BlackFly took nine years of design and development work. Originally based in Canada, most of the team relocated to Silicon Valley after the first successful test flight in 2011. Since that first flight, they have achieved more than 1400 flights covering more than 19,000km.
The result is an aircraft which produces zero emissions, weighs just 142kg and can carry a single adult up to 1.98m tall and weighing 113kg. It can charge from 20 per cent to full in as little as 25 minutes, when connected to a 240-volt supply.
“I just saw the future,” exclaimed Darren Pleasance, director of Wisconsin-based Experimental Aircraft Association, after seeing a demonstration. “Watching BlackFly take flight just blew me away. I’ve never seen anything like it. The magnitude of innovation that Opener has been driving in electric motors, aerodynamics and vertical take off and landing operations is stunning and inspiring. Opener has made a huge step forward in bringing the Jetson’s world to life.”
Opener’s long-term vision is to integrate these vehicles into a rural/urban commuting network. These networks would be powered by renewable energy sources requiring only a fraction of the transportation energy used currently.
“The future of aviation begins today,” said Alan Eustace, Opener director and former senior VP of knowledge at Google. “The dream of flight, which was so difficult and expensive to obtain, will soon be within the reach of millions. Opener is putting the fun back into flying and opening up a new world of possibilities.”
One of the project’s strategic backers and investors is Google co-founder Larry Page.