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The Good Life

Wings Over Detroit
A fusion of an airplane and a car is how Detroit-based Sanjay Dhall has designed this four-wheeler

In a hangar in Canton, near Detroit, Michigan, an engineer’s dream is about to take off. Meet Sanjay Dhall, the founder of Detroit Flying Cars, who’s created the prototype WD-1, and already shown it at Airventure 2017 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the biggest airshow in the US, where it got a lot of interest from flying enthusiasts. Speaking exclusively to Outlook Business, Sanjay Dhall says that his ideas for his carbon-bodied, futuristic flying car may have originated in India.

 “Ever since I was a child in India, I was fascinated by airplanes,” he says. “I remember being surrounded by crowds of people or traffic wherever we went, and I craved open spaces, where I could fly my little planes. I was fascinated with flying over the crowds and traffic.” In addition to flying kites, he would make models out of sticks and rubber bands, that would move or fly. With an engineering degree from IIT Bombay, he moved to the US for a master’s degree in robotics and mechanisms design, setting his sights on ultralight planes, and becoming a pilot. 

And for the last 10 years, Sanjay, who runs a product design and engineering company in Detroit, has been thinking of a car that transforms from road to air modes. “My goal has been to achieve a design that would make for a good vehicle on the road, and fly as a decent airplane,” he says. 

“How does one collapse a full airplane into the footprint of a regular average American car,  one that is comfortable to drive, and fits comfortably in an average American garage?” he asks. This has led him to develop “sliding wing configurations”, where sections of wings and control surfaces slide inside other sections, all the way, so that when the sliding motion is complete, what’s left visible is a regular-sized car, with aerodynamic features, but one that does not occupy any more space on the street than other cars. All with the push of a button. With a length of 16 ft, a wingspan of 26 ft, and 100 hp power using an internal combustion engine, it has a cruising speed of 125 mph, and a range of 400 miles. 

On the road, it is powered by 40 kW electric power. There’s a full vehicle parachute, and the instruments, on digital displays, switch automatically when switching from flight to drive mode. “I hope to test fly it in 2018, perhaps at the historic Willow Run Airport in Detroit,” says Sanjay. No pricing or production strategies have been ironed out yet. “If there’s interest in India, I would love to be able to offer a solution. But for now, I am focused on its completion so I may be able to test fly it next year,” says Sanjay. Happy landings.

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