• Written by Zoe Kleinman
  • Technology editor

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WATCH: Convertible 'flying cars' take to the skies in 2021

Flying car technology, originally developed in Europe and successfully test-flighted, has been acquired by a Chinese company.

Powered by a BMW engine and conventional fuel, the AirCar flew for 35 minutes between two airports in Slovakia in 2021, using a runway for takeoff and landing.

It took just over two minutes to transform from car to airplane.

Vehicles built based on that design will now be used within “specific geographic regions” of China.

Cangzhou-based Hebei Jianxin Air Vehicle Technology Company has purchased the exclusive rights to manufacture and use AirCar aircraft within an undisclosed area.

Anton Zajac, co-founder of KleinVision, the company that developed AirCar, said the company built its own airport and flight school after previously acquiring it from another Slovak aircraft manufacturer.

Last month, a company called Autoflight conducted a test flight of a drone carrying passengers between Shenzhen and Zhuhai. The trip, which takes three hours by car, was completed in 20 minutes, even though there were no passengers on the plane.

And in 2023, Chinese company eHang was awarded a safety certificate by Chinese authorities for its electric flying taxis. Here, the UK government has said that flying taxis could be common in the skies by 2028.

But unlike these drone-like passenger planes, AirCars don't take off and land vertically and require a runway.

KleinVision declined to say how much it sold the technology for. AirCar was granted an airworthiness certificate by the Slovak Transport Authority in 2022 and was featured in a video published by YouTuber Mr. Beast earlier this year.

This form of transportation still faces significant hurdles in terms of infrastructure, regulation, and public acceptance of the technology.

“This wonderful new world of personal transport is a great leveler,” said aviation consultant Steve Wright.

Global attempts to regulate the sector have left “everyone scrambling to come up with a whole new set of questions to ask.”

“In this respect, the history of the Western world can slow things down because there is a bit of a temptation to shoehorn these new machines into an old category,” Wright added. “China may well see this as an opportunity to move forward.”

Similar concerns once applied to electric cars, a problem faced by China as it became the world market leader.

The sale of Slovak Aircar could raise questions about whether China is prepared to do the same with flying cars.

Wright said that while prototypes like the AirCar are “a lot of fun,” the reality is likely to be more mundane, “with lines and bag checks and things like that.”

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