Sunday, December 28, 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

.

News

 
Yolo makes hydrogen connection

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Sacramento man convicted for 2011 bar shooting

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

 
Drugs, stolen car lead to women’s arrests

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

NYC officer mourned at funeral as tensions linger

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
N. Korea uses racial slur against Obama over hack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

AirAsia plane with 162 aboard missing in Indonesia

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Nominate teens for Golden Heart awards

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

USA Weekend calls it quits

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Supplies collected for victims of abuse

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Sweet success: Cancer Center helps young patient celebrate end of treatment

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Reserve tickets soon for Chamber’s Installation Gala

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Holiday hours continue at The Enterprise

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Covell Gardens hosts New Year’s Eve dance

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

UC Davis debate team wins national championship

By Kathy Keatley Garvey | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Portuguese breakfast set for Jan. 25

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

At the Pond: It all started with kayaking on Putah Creek

By Jean Jackman | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Find the first cabbage white butterfly, and win a pitcher

By Kathy Keatley Garvey | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Does pre-eclampsia raise autism risk?

By Phyllis Brown | From Page: A6

Long will talk about value of hedgerows for adjacent farms

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
It’s a wonderful life — and a wonderful state

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8 | Gallery

College sees benefits in loan guarantees

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Tickets for New Year’s Eve party going fast

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12

.

Forum

This cat is on life No. 7

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B4

 
 
It was a busy, black-eye year for disease control

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Say thanks to the caregivers

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Commission’s list needs vetting

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Rifkin’s statement is offensive

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Bombing is not the answer

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

Just Us in Davis: Despair and hope for the new year

By Jonathan London | From Page: A10

 
Cuba policy changes highlight a momentous opportunity

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

Writer’s arguments fall flat

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
.

Sports

Kings cruise past Sharks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Lady Blue Devils top Tigers to reach Ram Jam title game

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

DHS boys get good film in tournament loss

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Sacramento survives Knicks in OT

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Sports briefs: Republic FC to host camp series

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

 
College bowl roundup: Sun Bowl goes to the Sun Devils

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10 | Gallery

.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

Rob White: Davis tech community is growing

By Rob White | From Page: A9

 
Yolo County real estate sales

By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A9

First Northern adds Peyret to agribusiness loan team

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Kaiser’s trauma center in Vacaville earns verification

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

.

Obituaries

Ruth Allen Barr

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Charles ‘Bud’ Meyer

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, December 28, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B8