If you're a believer in flying cars, you can now put down a $5,000 deposit to get one called the Aska that's scheduled to land in 2026. A Silicon Valley-based startup called NFT earlier this month opened a showroom to tout the aircraft and accept the refundable deposits to join its founder's club.
NFT debuted the Aska in 2019. It's an unusual design that can drive on conventional roads to and from takeoff and landing sites. It has folding wings, a 150 mph top speed, a 250-mile range, six propellers powered by six batteries, and dual gas motors to keep those batteries charged. The name is Japanese for "flying bird," but at the size of a large SUV (it fits four passengers and has a 50-foot wingspan), you won't be mistaking the Aska for any actual avians.
That $5,000 -- held in an escrow account and fully refundable, by the way -- gets you one share of the company's stock, admittance to status update meetings every three to six months, and a place at the head of the line for a planned 1,500 limited-edition models of the Aska, each costing a whopping $789,000.
NFT is among several companies hoping to shake up transportation with new flight technology. Even though Archer, Lilium, Wisk, Horizon Aircraft and Joby Aviation, which acquired Uber's air taxi program. Spending on air taxis should grow to $14.7 billion by 2041, analyst firm IDTechX predicts., plenty of companies are interested in flying car and flying taxi efforts. That includes big names such as , and and startups like ,
They face daunting challenges -- safety, cost, regulations, societal acceptance and airspace management, for example -- but if they succeed, they could bring a Jetsons-like sci-fi dream to the world. New approaches to electric propulsion, propeller configurations and autonomous navigation are fueling development of aircraft that blend the look of drones and conventional airplanes.
Attention wealthy early adopters
The revolution will come first to people with deep pockets. NFT (whose name is unrelated to the) located its showroom in Los Altos, in California's Silicon Valley. That's close to successful tech businesspeople who have the money and curiosity for something like the Aska.
"They've seen everything already, but this is something new. They want to be part of it," said Chief Executive Guy Kaplinsky.
Eventually, the technology will spread beyond the Lamborghini set, Kaplinsky expects. A second set of Askas should cost $589,000, followed by mass production models at $359,000.
The price tag includes training for a necessary private pilot's license, a 40-hour process. But by 2030, NFT expects the Aska to be fully autonomous, able to take off, fly and land automatically.
Expensive flying car, cheap house
That's still a lot of money, but Kaplinsky and Maki Kaplinsky, his wife and NFT's chief operating officer, believe people will buy Askas once they realize they can combine an expensive flying car with an aerial commute to a vastly cheaper house far away from urban centers.
"A $500,000 house and our vehicle is still cheaper than an apartment in the city," Kaplinksy said.
When NFT first showed its Aska plans, it was more like a boxy car with wings. The current design, enabled by the use of in-wheel motors to propel the Aska on the road, is a more aerodynamic teardrop shape.
The Aska is an example of an EVTOL -- an electrically powered vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. It needs a square patch only 65 feet on a side to take off or land, but a conventional runway takeoff takes 30% less power and increases flight range. The company plans to start test flights of full-scale aircraft in 2022.
For much more crowded skies, airspace control technology will need an upgrade -- a project going on right now at the Federal Aviation Administration to accommodate EVTOLs, delivery drones and other new types of aircraft. "In the next 10 to 15 years, we'll see a huge infrastructure improvement," Kaplinsky said.