In a groundbreaking development, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted an experimental special airworthiness certificate to Alef Aeronautics, a mobility firm, for their flying car. This marks the first time the government has given such a vehicle “legal approval to fly.”
The California-based company’s flying car, the Armada Model Zero, was given the certification for vehicles used for research and development, training, market surveys, exhibitions, and regulatory compliance.
Alef’s Armada: Model A’s luxurious precursor, available by 2025
The Armada is a precursor to Alef’s Model A vehicle, unveiled last year, with a hefty price tag of $300,000.
The Model A is in pre-sale and expected to be available by 2025.
Alef gets limited flight clearance; Awaits Model A certification
Without this certification, “Our flights were very limited,” said a representative from Alef. It now allows them to fly in specific locations near their Silicon Valley headquarters and for specific purposes like exhibitions.
However, for the Model A to fly, it must secure a separate FAA certification and comply with the safety standards set by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
FAA certification: A leap towards environmentally friendly commutes, says Alef CEO
Jim Dukhovny, CEO of Alef, enthusiastically stated, “We’re excited to receive this certification from the FAA.”
“It allows us to move closer to bringing people an environmentally friendly and faster commute, saving individuals and companies hours each week.”
“This is one small step for planes, one giant step for cars.”
Alef’s Model A pre-orders exceed $132 million
Alef has opened pre-orders for the Model A, priced at an estimated $299,999, requiring a fully refundable deposit of $1,500 for the “priority queue” and $150 for the “general queue.”
As of January 24, the company had amassed over 440 pre-orders, equating to more than $132 million in revenue, including a large order from a Hong Kong-based aviation firm.
Alef Model A: Groundbreaking flying car redefining urban mobility
The Alef Model A aspires to be the inaugural flying car with both street driving and vertical take-off capabilities and is engineered to integrate with the existing urban infrastructure.
The company claims that the Model A offers “a unique experience of flight in any direction.”
Besides its electric power option, Alef intends to introduce a pricier hydrogen fuel alternative, providing an extended driving and flight range.
Challenges in the emerging flying car industry
Nevertheless, the nascent flying car industry faces numerous safety and security challenges.
A September 2022 study by the NIH highlighted the issues in regulating flying car traffic: “A simple failure can lead to the loss of high-value assets, loss of the vehicle, and/or injuries to human lives, including fatalities.”
Unfavorable weather conditions, unexpected aerial events, and cybersecurity threats also pose risks to flying vehicles.
Regulatory scrutiny, urban road challenges for flying cars
Increased regulatory scrutiny is inevitable for flying cars, as they must meet safety standards for automobiles and aircraft.
Unlike specialized take-off locations, Alef’s vehicles, designed to take off from urban roads, face an additional hurdle.
Hence, while promising, the path to airborne commuting remains filled with anticipation and caution.