Italian research agency Centro Italiano di Ricerca Aerospaziale (CIRA) is backing the concept of a stopped-rotor flying car, with plans to invest around €500,000 ($640,000) in an initial feasibility study into a two seater convertible flying car.

The study envisages a three wheel automobile capable of vertical take off and cruise like that of a conventional fixed wing aircraft, as well as driving on roads. The feasibility study is set to be launched in January 2007.

The vehicle, known as Aviocar, would also be equipped with advanced navigation, control and communication technology. Technologies being refined for unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) could be employed in the development of Aviocar, CIRA says.

Takeoff Aviocar W445 


Aviocar general arrangement W445

Aviocar will have a rotor to take-off, transition to forward flight and stop the rotor, which would then act as a fixed wing, which would then stow itself  parallel to the longitudinal axis of the vehicle, when driving on roads. Sergio Vetrella, president of CIRA, expects an initial prototype to be built in around six years, with three or four more years needed after that before large scale production and a commercial launch are viable.

Vetrella predicts that the whole cost of the research project, which six people will work on, could be around €60 million.

CIRA estimates that an Aviocar could eventually cost around €200,000 – “more or less the price of a luxury car today.”

From this year onwards, CIRA is benefiting from a new Italian tax law that directs a part of income tax paid to organisations that carry out scientific research, and the agency plans to invest these funds into the Aviocar project.