A patent application for an innovative flying helicopter car with wheels that double as rotary blades has been filed by Japanese auto giant Toyota.
A “dual mode vehicle” which transitions between land and air borne modes using its wheels, the patent describes how the wheels are attached to spaced arms that are fixed to a central pivot.
On switching from the land mode to the flight mode, its arms extend upward and the wheels begin to spin.
Rotors then extend from within the wheels, spinning similar to conventional helicopter rotors and producing enough lift to allow the vehicle to fly.
Toyota’s patent says each of the wheels/rotors would be powered by an electric motor fed by a power system.
The power system could be a battery pack, gas turbine generator, a hydrogen fuel cell or “any other energy conversion device capable of generating sufficient electric power to drive the wheels of the dual mode vehicle”.
When the car is in land mode the vehicle can steer in a way similar to a tank or excavator where the vehicle turns by adding speed to one side of the tracked wheels.
This might not be the most agile way to navigate urban traffic, nor make for a smooth landing or transition – however, as it is merely in the speculative patent stage and nowhere near even a concept prototype, this is not yet of concern.
Toyota’s patent is reminiscent of the start-up Terrafugia’s concept flying car.
A wholly owned subsidiary of Chinese auto giant Geely, Terrafugia first show cased its flying car in 2015.
It featured deployable helicopter-style rotors but had Terrafugia’s had dedicated wheels and rotors for flying instead of integrating the two into the same assembly like Toyota’s patent design.