Friday, October 31, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Hobbyists will soon fly a scaled-down Moller Skycar

Paul Moller, a Davis inventor and entrepreneur, shows off a one-ninth-scale model of his Skycar 400, a vertical take-off and landing vehicle. Moller has signed a deal with American Space Industries, a Bay Area-based company, to produce the remote-controlled reproductions. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

By
From page A11 | July 21, 2013 |

Science-fiction novels — they’re still the only place where UFO-like flying automobiles lifting off and buzzing away can be described as normal.

And while Davis inventor and entrepreneur Paul Moller has spent nearly a lifetime developing a flying machine like that futuristic fantasy, he’s been unable to bring such a car to market.

But now, model aircraft fans will be treated to a radio-controlled reproduction of Moller’s Skycar 400 model — albeit at one-seventh size — thanks to a partnership between Moller International Inc. and American Space Industries. The Skycar has the potential for vertical take-off and landing.

Russell Decker, CEO of the Bay Area-based American Space Industries, approached Moller three months ago to discuss a partnership.

“When it comes to Moller’s aircraft, the way it flies is so fantastic that we just had to have it,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to fly it. It has such unique, premier aerodynamics.”

While there are quad-copters that can ascend vertically, Decker said nothing really compares to the Skycar’s flight characteristics.

But because of that, it’s going to be quite a technical endeavor for American Space Industries to scale the Skycar down.

“There are elements to stabilizing a small vehicle that are significantly more difficult than a bigger vehicle,” Moller said. “Our experience is that he’ll have to have fairly rapid processing.”

Like others in the line of Moller International vehicles, the Skycar 400 is driven by the company’s trademarked Rotapower engine. It features four of the compact rotary engines, one each in every nacelle.

Because miniaturizing the engines and integrating them into the sub-scale models is not feasible, the remote-controlled Skycars instead will rely on recent advancements in battery design for power.

American Space Industries’ developers will be using lightweight components, in conjunction with layout data supplied by Moller International, to get the little aircraft in working order.

“It’s definitely going to be a challenge,” Decker said. “If we do a good job on creating this first one, we’ll probably be talking again with Moller about replicating some of the other designs.”

The release date of the RC vehicle is slated for mid-October. It will be available in local hobby stores and online, Decker said, with the price tag of $300.

The accessibility of the replica Skycars will far predate that of the full-sized vehicles, as Moller International is still in the process of securing enough capital to proceed with production.

“You spend a huge amount of money to get to the next stage, and then it’s incrementally more money to get to the stage after that one,” Moller explained. “The aerospace business, as anyone knows, is an expensive business.”

In December 2011, Moller International announced a joint-venture partnership with a consortium of private companies in China. Included in that agreement is $13.7 billion in funding, with a stated objective of overseas distribution of Skycars by 2018.

At the beginning of this year, the company announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Athena Technologies LLC in Los Angeles to establish co-production for its aircraft in China.

The joint venture, which has yet to be finalized — despite a recent Moller International news release stating that “steady progress” is being made on it — will amount to a $480 million investment.

But Moller International lost a reported $1.2 million in its first three quarters of 2013, ending March 31. It also suffered a loss of $1.1 million loss in the same period the year prior.

Though the financial struggles bring questions as to when the dream of a Skycar on the market may be realized, there’s a certain enthusiasm for it that’s been reignited by the announcement of the reproduction.

“We didn’t get involved in this with that view in mind,” Moller said, “but we’ve certainly seen a lot of interest because of it; so from my point of view, and that of stockholders, it’s a good thing.”

— Reach Brett Johnson at bjohnson@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Gardner guilty of murder, with special circumstances

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    State superintendent makes campaign stop in Davis

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Meet Poppenga at Saturday reception

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

    Bob Dunning: Lawn display causes a theological crisis

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Couple killed in Yolo County crash

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Same-party races challenge incumbents

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    State races test one-party rule

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A2

     
    Indians celebrate Diwali with gala on Sunday

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Rairdan dinged for late report

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A3

     
    Veterans will tailgate at ‘Salute to Heroes’ game

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Wolk hailed for environmental votes

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Yamada honored for leadership on aging issues

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Embroidery group meets at mall

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Bet Haverim will hear Israel update

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Local artisans featured at holiday craft fair

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Got bikes? Donate ‘em!

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Kids walk for friends at Birch Lane

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Explorit: Creep out with some spooky science

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4

    Shambhala offers Tai Chi class

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Bones for Life classes offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Enjoy wine, music and art at Sunday fundraiser for DHS choir

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Forum

    New-school cheating on the smartphone

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Garamendi, Dodd get my votes

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

    High hopes for Sunder

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Public service is in her heart

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    A calm, thoughtful voice

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Sunder is a perfect fit

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Best predictor is past behavior

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Vote for students, with Tuck

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    My choices on Tuesday

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    .

    Sports

    Blue Devil girls net an easy win at Grant

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Aggie offense A-OK; now what about defense?

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    In Davis, rugby is as American as apple pie

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    DHS plays undefeated Pacers Friday night

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
     
    Niemi’s 43 saves aren’t enough in loss to Wild

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    Calling all artists for upcoming show

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    ‘Birdman': A dark comedy that soars

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11

     
    DHS Madrigals host singing workshop

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12

     
    Marcia Ball to play at The Palms

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

    Big, capable luxury defines Yukon

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Joseph Francis Gray

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, October 31, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6

     
    .

    Real Estate Review

    Featured Listing

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER1

    Professional Services Directory

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER2

    Lyon Real Estate

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER3

    RE/Max Gold

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER4

    Kim Eichorn

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER5

    Susan von Geldern

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER6

    Team Traverso

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER6

    Yolo FCU

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER6

    Juan Ramirez

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER6

    Tracy Harris

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER7

    Susan von Geldern

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER7

    Wells Fargo Home Mortgage

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER8

    Julie Leonard

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER8

    Joe Kaplan

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER9

    Melrina A Maggiora

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER9

    Coldwell Banker

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER10

    Leslie Blevins

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER12

    Julie Partain

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER12

    Robin Garland

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER13

    Jamie Madison

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER13

    Diane Lardelli

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER13

    Karen Waggoner

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER14

    Jamie Madison & Associates

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER14

    Lisa Haass

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER14

    Ciana Wallace

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER15

    Travis Credit Union

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER16

    Malek Baroody

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER17

    Marcelo Campos

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER18

    F1rst Street Real Estate

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER20