What is it about flying cars? We’ve been trying to make them since we switched over from horses. The flying car is about as close to visual shorthead for “the future” as one can get.
According to Gonzalo Espinoza Graham, founder of Watfly, it’s all about democratization. Flight, he says, is limited to the wealthy – especially solo flight. And so the dream of flying cars is, “…an aircraft that is similar to a car: affordable to most, as easy to pilot as cars are to drive, as safe as commercial air travel, and with convenient, practical use.”
Watfly’s first product, the Atlas, aims to take a step in that direction. This electric single person vehicle will be powered by four powerful electric rotors, capable of vertical take-off and landing, and promises 60 minutes of flight time.
Graham calls his engines “Electric Ducted Fans.” If you’ve ever driven a hybrid car, you know electric equals quiet. The EDFs register 87 dBA from 15 meters away. And while that’s not exactly silent (it’s about as loud as a gasoline-powered lawnmower) it’s still a lot less noisy than a prop-plane or a jet engine.
An active gimbal suspension, carbon fiber frame, and powerful onboard battery complete the design, while the cockpit provides 180 degrees of visibility. And you’ll have plenty of time to look around because an onboard computer will be doing the flying for you (Graham calls this autonomous flight, or AF).
In fact, you won’t even need a pilot’s license to fly the Atlas. It’s a Certified Ultralight Vehicle, so no years of training or expensive courses needed (Watfly has a tailored training course to help you learn the ropes). You will have to stay in Class G airspace though – no urban flying allowed. But that’s fine – the storage compartment is perfect for skis, snowboards, or other oblong outdoor toys.
Watfly knows the Atlas doesn’t exactly promise on the dream of the flying car. By their own admission, it’s too limited, too expensive, and too bourgeoisie to appeal to the masses. But they consider the Atlas their Model N – the automobile Ford produced just prior to the famous Model T. In other words, it’s the technology just before the technology that changes the world.
All revenue generated from sales of the Atlas will go towards research and development of Watfly’s next model – a two-seater licensed for controlled airspace. It’s with this next model, produced on a scale designed to drive consumer costs down, that Watfly hopes to revolutionize travel.
Until then, we can keep dreaming – and maybe put in an order for the Atlas.