The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

California-based start-up NFT (New Future Transportation) has designed its hybrid-electric flying car, Aska (Japanese for flying bird), with a small petrol engine for battery charging. It has fans built into its body for vertical lift, lift/thrust fans at the end of the foldable wings, and similar fans at the back. It requires a takeoff distance of under 100 feet to be able to carry three people around 350 miles, cruising at up to 150 mph, when operating on hybrid power. With electric power only, range would be pegged back to just 124 miles.  

NFT presented a prototype Aska at the EcoMotion show held in June 2019 in Tel Aviv, Israel, and said it planned to begin unmanned test flights in the first quarter of 2020. It revealed the car will drive and fly autonomously using a sense and avoid system the company is developing. However, as of June 2020, the company had yet to report the start of flight trials. 

The Aska will be available for purchase for $200-300,000, initially, or on a subscription model where subscribers ask to use a vehicle when they require one. NFT envisages owners making their vehicles available to subscribers when not utilizing them.

Timeline

test flight

The first test flight of NFT's Aska flying car was supposed to happen before the end of the first quarter of 2020. However, as of June 2020, the company had yet to report the start of flight testing. 

Outlook

Our objective assessment of this program’s probable success.

FutureFlight assesses the probability of success for a new aircraft program by considering the following criteria:

  • Total investment funds available in proportion to the anticipated cost of getting an aircraft certified and in service
  • A company’s in-house capability (in terms of numbers of engineers, technical staff, and customer support teams)
  • The past experience of the company and its senior leadership in developing aircraft
  • The caliber and past experience of key program partners
  • Whether key aircraft systems have been selected and are available for use
  • Whether the preliminary design review has been completed
  • Whether the design for the full-scale prototype has been completed
  • Whether the type certification process has been formally initiated with an appropriate regulator
  • Whether the company has achieved a first flight with a full-scale prototype
  • The number of hours logged in a flight test program
  • Whether type certification has been achieved
  • The number of orders and commitment received for the aircraft
  • Whether the company has adequate facilities to begin series production of the aircraft
Our Methodology

Folding wings are notoriously complex and cumbersome and aeronautical engineers tend to be very skeptical due to issues with weight and drag, and mechanical reliability. New eVTOL designs are trying to do a task which is hard enough with the weight of the batteries required so engineers would also question the logic of flying with the wheels and other parts that a road vehicle requires (and all the certification requirements for road safety etc) when these are redundant during flight. Also undercarriage can be small and light or for an eVTOL and can be lightweight skids/stands rather than wheels. Finally, aviation regulators will have a field day pulling apart the safety risks of complexity and performance requirements to be safe in challenging adverse conditions or with failures, or both (as they will inevitably require). Moller has been trying to make a flying car work for 50 years without success and AeroMobil is also trying but it seems likely eVTOLs could find a way to succeed by dropping the requirement to drive on roads as well as flying. Flying cars are the least likely UAM vehicles to succeed in the short/medium term and by the time they are technically viable, the world may no longer have roads.

As of June 2020, it remained unclear as to whether flight testing had started in the first quarter, as predicted by NFT. Also unknown is the amount of financial backing behind the program. The company's website does not provide an updated timeline for the program, but in recorded interviews chairman Guy Kaplinsky indicated that he expects the vehicle to be in production by the end of 2025.

Aska Models

NFT Aska Specifications

Performance

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  • Range
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  • Cruise Speed
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  • Powerplant Type
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  • Power Source
    electric
  • Endurance
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  • Max Altitude
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  • Takeoff Distance
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  • Landing Distance
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  • Empty Weight
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  • MGTOW
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  • Payload Weight
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Dimensions

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  • Wingspan
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