British adventurer and pilot Neil Laughton poses in his Parajet Skycar in London on Tuesday. Laughton and his Parajet Skycar Expedition team on Wednesday are kicking off a 3,600-mile journey from London to Timbuktu in the vehicle, which is essentially a dune buggy with a fan motor and paragliding wing attached. Creators call it the "world's first bio-fueled flying car."
The prototype Skycar will travel by land and air through France, Spain, Morocco, the Western Sahara, Mauritania, and Mali, returning home via Senegal. Joining Laughton for part of the trip will be engineer Gilo Cardozo, the brain behind the Parajet Skycar. The pair has participated in past flying expeditions to the Himalayas, Alps, and Venezuela.
The Parajet Skycar is a two-seat, road-legal vehicle capable of performing on and off road. It has a take-off speed of 60 mph, and in flying mode, it supposedly can hit a cruising altitude of 2,000 to 3,000 feet and a maximum altitude of 15,000 feet.
The car's flexible "ParaWing" can be folded into the trunk of the car. This technology offers airspeeds up to 100 mph. Cardozo, the car's creator, told told the BBC News he plans to sell the vehicle for around $90,000 if its maiden mission, expected to last 42 days, proves successful.
In the event of engine problems during the Skycar Expedition, the car would glide down to the nearest field or strip of sandy desert. Should a catastrophic wing failure take place, a ballistic reserve parachute would be deployed to bring the car and pilot down to earth.
During the expedition, the car will be supported by a team of overland adventurers using an assortment of all-terrain vehicles carrying fuel and supplies. A camera crew will record the team's adventures for use in a televised documentary about the car and its inaugural voyage.