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PAL-V One: Future Fantasy Trike

A descendent of technology first introduced in the 1920s, the PAL-V One—cynically referred to as a 'tricycle helicopter' and a 'flying tricycle'—recently completed a proof-of-concept test flight that garnered responses from opposite ends of the critical spectrum.

pal-v sketch

image courtesy of PAL-V

by Ross Bonander

Specs:

General

  • Type: Flying car
  • Class: Motorcycle
  • Manufacturer: PAL-V Europe NV
  • Tailpipe emissions: Yes
  • Price: NA
  • Availability: 2011

Road

  • Top Speed: 125 mph (180 km/h)
  • Zero-to-60: 8 seconds
  • Vehicle range: 500 miles (800 km)
  • Fuel(s): Conventional gasoline
  • Fuel efficiency: 38 mpg

Flight

  • Maximum speed: 97 knots (127 mph, 185 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 80 knots (93 mph, 150 km/h)
  • Maximum rate of climb: 800 feet/minute
  • Range: 245 NM (280 miles, 450 km)

The manufacturer says

"PAL-V Europe NV is building everybody’s dream in mobility: a full-fledged flying and driving vehicle, the PAL-V One …a solution to increasing congestion in our cities, highways and skyways."

Overview

Dutch-based manufacturer PAL-V Europe is led by mechanical engineer John Bakker who, after several years of R & D, produced the PAL-V One ('Personal Air and Land Vehicle'), a single-passenger, three-wheeled vehicle with a three-pronged approach to transportation and technology, incorporating a car, a motorcycle, and a gyrocopter.

On the ground, the driver folds away both rotor and propeller in order to drive the roads, although no indication is given as to how long this transition might take. On the road, the PAL-V One incorporates the Dynamic Vehicle Control (DVC™) technology pioneered in the 3-wheeled Carver One and later, the Persu Mobility Hybrid.

Safe take-off requires a space of around 650 feet x 100 feet (200x30 meters). During take-off, a foldable pusher propeller provides the propulsion required for autorotation while the rotor provides the necessary lift. In flight, autorotation means the rotor is not dependent on the engine, but on aerodynamic forces; thus in theory the pilot is protected from catastrophic engine failure.

Since the PAL-V One is a gyroplane, it offers the pilot control over pitch, roll and yaw; the first two by way of tilting the rotor, the last (yaw) by way of a rudder—controls familiar to pilots of fixed wing aircraft.

pal v one airborne

What we like

The license requirement. In both Europe and the US, flying the PAL-V will require a sports aviation license, which demands at least a minor investment in time (as much as 40 hours), and a significant financial investment (about $6,500), to earn. The harder such a license to obtain, the better. Unfortunately, these requirements are far below those for airplanes and helicopters, giving us some pause.

The technology. The gyroplane flying technology allows the PAL-V One "Very Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (VSTOVL) capability", giving it the flexibility to land in a wide variety of areas, including small, localized airports as well as helipads. Because the rotor won't stop in the event of engine failure, this technology allows the vehicle to be both steered and landed safely.

The applications. Because of the vehicle's flight flexibilities as a gyroplane, the PAL-V One has potential applications beyond the commuter to include both private and government fleet potential—law enforcement, surveillance, even limited first-aid.

What we don’t

The federal regulations. Expectations are that the owner will fly below 4,000 feet, airspace generally open to uncontrolled VFR (Visual Flight Rules) flights. Thus, filing a flight plan with the likes of the FAA isn't required outside controlled airspace. In theory, this would keep the pilot out of both commercial and small craft traffic and avoid disastrous collisions or near-misses, but let's not be so optimistic about human behavior.

The engine and fuel demands. Does anyone else see the potential headaches brought on by engine, rotor, or other mechanical problems that require the services of a trained helicopter mechanic? PAL-V Europe does only a so-so job addressing this on their website.

Conclusions

A descendent of technology first introduced in the 1920s, the PAL-V One—cynically referred to as a 'tricycle helicopter' and a 'flying tricycle'—recently completed a proof-of-concept test flight that garnered responses from opposite ends of the critical spectrum.

Set against competitors ranging from the Terrafugia Transition to the Parajet SkyCar, the PAL-V One offers comparable specs, but it may suffer from its limited cabin space, and from the reluctance among some to accept the vehicle's rotary-based principles of flight, regardless of their validity.

Dive Deeper

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