So you're thinking of a new car. Why not get a plane instead? Silicon Valley-based Opener are taking orders for their BlackFly electric one-person plane from this autumn. The company's not-so-modest plan is to revolutionise the future of personal transport. Pricing - in the United States at least - is said to be close to the average SUV, only with more flying ability. Could this finally be the moment when electric-propelled flight is within reach of all of us?
The BlackFly is a strange-looking beast, in keeping with its disruptive aim to change the way we look at flying. It is, in the jargon, an eVTOL design, meaning electric vertical take-off and landing. The idea is that you can put your BlackFly onto its bespoke trailer - equipped if you so wish with solar panels further to charge your plane's batteries - and drive to just about any available open space for your flight. Opener say it takes no more than half an hour to off-load and take flight.
The boat-like silhouette is no accident, since Opener claim amphibious capability for their new baby, meaning you could choose a placid lake for your take-off point, permissions, pike and passers-by permitting, of course. The snug cockpit has a fighter-pilot like canopy for excellent all round vision and can accommodate slim pilots of up to six foot six in height. Opener will provide training, but you’ll be flying solo since there's no room for a passenger. Rotating propeller units front and rear offer thrust on take-off and - when horizontal - provide for a top speed of just over 60 mph.
Power is provided exclusively by the on-board batteries which give a flying time of about 30 minutes with a maximum height of about 1,200 feet, which is higher than even the most lofty of the SUVs that you might have been considering around this price point. Safety is, not unnaturally, a key selling point with multiple back-up systems and, should all else fail, a built-in parachute to bring pilot and plane safely back to earth.
Opener is serious about its mission of bringing flying to us all, claiming more than 4,000 test flights. Production is to be vertically integrated with everything from wings to battery packs made by the company itself. While the cockpit contains all that’s needed for flying, it’s all been kept as simple as possible. For those whose navigation skills might have been challenged by passing clouds, the "return home" function might well prove handy.