The craft said to be currently under development, the M400, is purported to ultimately transport four people; single-seat up to six-seat variations are also planned and is described as a car since it is aimed at being a popular means of transport for anyone who can drive, incorporating automated flight controls, with the driver only inputting direction and speed required.
The Skycar demonstrated limited tethered flight capability in 2003 by hovering only. Scheduled tethered flight tests, which were to occur in mid-2006, were apparently canceled. Moller upgraded the Skycar’s engines in 2007, and the improved prototype is now called the “M400X”. According to a 2008 article in the media, a prototype is supposed to be flying in 2012, with certified versions “a few years later”. Moller announced that a public test flight was scheduled for October 11, 2011 in Vacaville, CA. However, this flight was postponed in an announcement on September 27, 2011, with no further announcement of a date.
Moller International’s website claims that $100 Million has been spent in R & D at Moller International.
The company is also developing a more advanced model called M600, with an intended capacity for 6 passengers or a payload of about 2000 lbs (900 kg).
A Skycar is not piloted like a traditional fixed wing airplane, and has only two hand-operated controls, which the pilot uses to inform the computer control system of his desired flight maneuvers. The Skycar’s ducted fans deflect air vertically for takeoff and horizontally for forward flight. The ducted fans also encase the propellers, which prevents bystanders from being exposed to moving blades as well as improving aerodynamic efficiency at low speeds.
The engines to be used are being developed by a separate Moller company called Freedom Motors. They are Wankel engines they call “Rotapower” which have a direct drive to a propulsion fan. Each fan is contained in Kevlar-lined housings with intake screens to provide protection to bystanders. The Skycar has four engine nacelles, each with two computer-controlled Rotapower engines. All eight engines operate independently and, allegedly, will allow for a vertical controlled landing should any one fail.
The Rotapower Wankel engine would have the ability to operate on any fuel. Earlier Rotapower models used gasoline.
The M600 LAMV
The M600 Light Aerial Multi-purpose Vehicle (LAMV) is an aircraft with the vertical take-off and landing capabilities of a helicopter and the maximum speed of a high performance aircraft and without the limitations of either. Using these capabilities the M600 can shave critical minutes from a variety of missions where operational flexibility and speed are imperative. Forces using the LAMV would have unmatched speed and agility in positioning and repositioning from widely dispersed locations allowing them to achieve operational objectives quickly and decisively.
Credit: Moller International
Moller International’s low-cost, small unit VTOL aircraft incorporate many of the features of the V-22 Osprey, without the accompanying complexities. Like the V-22, the Skycar combines a high cruise speed (265 knots for the M600) with the ability to land and take off vertically from “unimproved” landing areas. The VTOL payload of the M600 is 1,250 lbs, which allows for up to six passengers or a combination of crew and cargo. Suggested configuration for Search and Rescue (SAR) or medical evacuation (Medivac) missions is a pilot and a medic, with space for two injured. Where a short take off or landing (STOL) is possible a 200-foot rollout provides for net payloads of over 2,000 lbs.
The M600’s combined VTOL and airspeed capabilities provide extremely rapid response. SAR, medivac, drug interdiction, critical logistic supply deliveries, surveillance or special personnel transport are examples where minutes saved can literally mean the difference between success and failure, life and death, or thousands of dollars. For a more detailed discussion of the capabilities see “A Revolutionary Vehicle for the Future” by Colonel Larry Harman (USA-Ret), Director of the Combat Service Support Battle Laboratory at the Army Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia or “Winning an Asymmetric War with the Skycar” by LTC James P Thomas, 304th SB, 3rd Expeditionary Force, Sustainment Command LNO, Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
Credit: Moller International
The M600 is being developed by Moller International to meet guidelines suggested by representatives of the US military. Helicopters have traditionally offered the flexibility of VTOL applications allowing for ingress and egress into a limited space where fixed wing aircraft do not have access. The performance penalties for using helicopters as compared to fixed wing aircraft have been low speed, limited range and restricted operational ceiling. In aircraft like the M600, vectored thrust allows the use of all the installed engine power when in conventional flight. The high thrust-to-weight ratio allows outstanding climb, accelerations and decelerations, and maneuver. For example, the M600’s projected maximum climb rate is more than a mile per minute.
Moreover, the M600’s engines have many of the characteristics of turbine-powered aircraft without the accompanying complexity and massive fuel consumption of the latter. For example, in cruise the M600 burns only 1 pound of fuel per minute. Moller’s M600 operational characteristics are predicted to provide a maximum dash speed of 395 mph, a range of 750 miles, and operational altitude of over 25,000 ft.
The M600 could also meet the requirements of commercial high-value cargo delivery, air taxi and emerging VTOL transportation service providers.
Cost Effective Performance
From its inception the Skycar 400 has been designed to minimize both direct and indirect costs. The Skycar uses an engine that can burn almost any fuel from diesel to natural gas so that worldwide refueling can be accommodated by what is locally available. Using gasoline, the Skycar can be expected to get over 20 mpg. With a range of 750 miles, the logistics associated with refueling the shorter-range helicopter can be eliminated.
The Rotapower engines have only two major moving parts, weigh less than 80 pounds and occupy less than one cubic foot. The bulk of the remaining technology is electronic and replaceable in modules as the onboard redundant systems identify a failed or failing component.
Vehicle size greatly affects ground mobility and parking space required. The Skycar, with its compact size, can be stored in a space the size of a standard single car garage. The landing gear on the vehicle makes roadability possible for short distances.
Initially introduced as the M400, four-seat model, the Skycar 400 technology has the ability to be both scaled up to a six passenger, M600, or scaled down to a one passenger, M100. This allows a cost efficient vehicle size to accommodate a variety of military, paramilitary, and commercial transport missions.
Time Critical Performance
The Skycar’s combined VTOL and speed capability make extremely rapid response possible. Search and Rescue, Emergency Medical, Drug Interdiction, Surveillance, or Critical Personnel Transport are examples where minutes saved can literally mean the difference between success and failure, life and death, or thousands of dollars. Helicopters have traditionally offered the flexibility necessary in these applications allowing for ingress and egress into a limited space where fixed wing aircraft do not have access. The performance penalties for using helicopters as compared to fixed wing aircraft have been a low maximum cruise speed of approximately 125 mph, a limited range of around 300 miles, and a restricted operational ceiling of less than 15,000 ft.
A Skycar 400, by utilizing its VTOL capability, has the flexible access of the helicopter. In addition, it has the 375 mph maximum speed, 750-mile range, and 36,000 foot ceiling of a high performance aircraft. The Skycar can also climb at more than a vertical mile per minute.
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