The Aska Hybrid is a Unique Take on the Flying Car
It’s part-car, part-plane, and part-helicopterby Kirby, on
The idea of the flying car has been around for 80-something years, and yet, we’re no closer to finally achieving that feat as we approach the third decade of the new millennium. That doesn’t mean people haven’t tried, though. In the last 10 years, projects like the Terrafugia Flying Car have taken shape. Google founder Larry Page has also taken a stab at building a flying car with Kitty Hawk, and, more recently, the PAL-V has come to existence. Now, we can add another name to this ambitious list.
NFT is an American/Israeli startup company that wants to take all of us to the skies with the Aska, an electrically powered flying car that can also double as a road-legal, ground-bound vehicle. Classified as an eVTOL — the name stands for Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing — the Aska is a car with wings or a plane with four wheels. It really depends on your perspective. Either way, it’s NFT’s first stab at introducing a flying car that can take off and land vertically with wings that can be folded back in case you want to drive it on the road like a regular car. NFT has said that it plans to do test runs of the Aska as early as the first quarter of 2020 and if everything goes according to plan — a huge “if” — look for the Aska to start hitting the skies by 2025.
What is the Aska NFT flying car and what does it want?
The pragmatist in me thinks that this endeavor has no shot of taking to the skies anytime soon. Literally and figuratively. That’s because we’ve been down this road before. A lot of companies have embarked on ambitious projects related to flying cars and those projects have remained, well, ambitions. What makes Next Future Transportation (NFT) so different that it can inject life into what is still a non-segment in the automotive industry?
It’s a valid question, sure, but there’s also a part of me that wants NFT to succeed. Not only them but every other company that’s venturing into this business. This is the idealist in me and I like myself better with this frame of mind. See, if everyone in this world fell into the abyss of pragmatism, there wouldn’t be any place for innovation to breathe, let alone thrive.
It just so happens that I’m a big supporter of innovation, especially if that innovation results in something good for all of us. And yes, I think flying cars are good for all of us, not only because they’re cool to even think about, but because they represent the next big step in transportation.
NFT Aska flying car - Design and Features
NFT is not the first automaker that’s trying to make its mark in this space, and it won’t be the last. But there is something interesting about the company’s plans that’s hard to ignore. The Aska — it’s Japanese for “flying bird” — is a vehicle that looks like a large SUV when on the road and a flying car with enormous wings when it takes to the skies. When it’s functioning properly, the Aska can drive anywhere, and, in the event that it needs to fly, it can drive to a nearby area the size of a few parking slots, unfurl its wings, take off vertically like a helicopter and fly autonomously for a range of up to 150 miles without a pilot onboard. It’s not just a flying car, folks. It’s a flying autonomous car. Cue the melting of brain cells.
As tempting as it is to scoff at the very notion of an autonomous flying car — we haven’t even gotten to the point where we can trust autonomous-driving cars — it’s hard not to root for NFT and the people behind it. Co-founder and chairman Guy Kaplinsky not only believes that his company has the blueprint for the Aska to succeed but, more importantly, he’s confident that the project will actually result in something that could shape the future of transportation. "We have the most efficient and most comfortable way of commuting for the future,” Kaplinsky told CNET.
It’s too early to jump on NFT’s bandwagon, but one thing we can all agree on is that the Aska looks, well, interesting.
It measures 20 feet long and that contraption at the back are the wings. Not much was said about the car’s interior other than it has room for three passengers. It looks a lot like a modern-day interpretation of the Ecto-1, minus all the ghost-capturing machinery. When the Aska is set up to fly, the wings unfold to unveil a massive 40-foot wingspan.
It certainly looks like a flying car, but how does it actually fly? For that, NFT installed ducted fans enclosed within the wings with some piercing the body of the Aska. You see some of them in the hood.
These fans propel the car vertically, and once it’s airborne, rear-facing fans located at the tip of the wings and at the back thrust the aircraft forward as the wings help keep it in the air.
Noticeable by their absence our actual rotors, which are important elements of planes and, at least in other projects, flying cars. NFT eschewed conventional wisdom in this regard, opting to use wings, in part because they let the Aska glide down to a safe landing zone in a “quiet spiral descent.”
Powering the Aska are electric motors, which are then powered by batteries that can be recharged with a conventional fuel motor to extend the flying car’s range. According to NFT, the Aska has a flight range of up to 350 miles, albeit with only a single passenger.
Needless to say, the project is far from finished, and NFT is the first to admit that it has a long way to go before the Aska becomes fully functional. To help in that regard, the company, which, coincidentally, is based in Mountain View, California — a spit and a cartwheel away from Google’s headquarters — plans to launch a number of partnerships with automotive and tech companies to fill holes in its development of the Aska, specifically self-driving technology for driving on the road. Could it be that NFT takes it upon itself to walk down the road and knock on the front door of its neighbor? There’s no mention of a potential partnership with Google, but don’t count this out from actually happening.
As fascinating as the Aska is, let’s not get carried away by what it could turn into. That’s a slippery slope in it of itself. The startup company faces a lot of challenges before it can achieve its goals. The safety of the vehicle is paramount. Obtaining government approval is another thing. Then there’s competition from other companies that are also trying to become the first ones to launch a production flying car.
What are Aska’s chances to fruition?
Don’t count NFT out just yet. The company appears to be run by people with a clear vision of what it wants to do and how it plans to do it. There’s even a plan in place already on how it plans to offer the Aska once it’s operational, including an initial projected cost of $200,000 that could drop to around $50,000 if everything goes according to plan. There’s even a consideration to offer the Aska through a subscription service that calls for interested individuals to pay around $200 to $300 a month for expenses like payments, fuel, insurance, and maintenance.
A lot of things are in play here. It’s not a guarantee that we’ll eventually see the Aska take to the skies, but you have to give credit to NFT for coming this far in its ambitious project.
Whether it’s able to see it all the way through is another matter entirely, but I’m putting my idealist hat on once again so I can root for it to happen. If there’s anything I’ve learned about this business, there’s no fun in being the doom-and-gloom pragmatist.
NFT Aska Specifications
|Launch pad size||20 x 20 meters|
|Concept model size||1.5 x 2.5 meters|
|Real length||20 feet|
|Real wingspan||40 feet|
|Monthly subscription plan cost||$200-$300|