The Terrafugia got a light sport aircraft weight exemption from the FAA, meaning that the person who is now swerving into your lane while texting on her cell phone may soon be landing at an airport near you:
The Terrafugia Transition is designed as a ‘light sport’ aircraft, the smallest kind of private aeroplane under FAA classification.
But manufacturers found it impossible to keep under the 1,320lb weight limit, once they had added safety features – such as airbags, crumple zones and roll cage – required for road vehicles.
Uniquely, however, the FAA has granted the Transition an exemption – allowing it to be classified as a light sport aircraft despite being 120lb over limit, reports the Daily Telegraph.
Light sport aircraft licences require just 20 hours’ flying time, making them much easier to obtain than full private licences.
The two-seater Transition can use its front-wheel drive on roads at ordinary highway speeds, with wings folded, at a respectable 30mpg.
Once it has arrived at a suitable take-off spot – an airport, or adequately sized piece of flat private land – it can fold down the wings, engage its rear-facing propellor, and take off.
Meanwhile, taking yet another page out of the comic book archive, DARPA is at work manufacturing the first Transformer robot:
At the moment the tiny robot – a sheet just half a millimetre thick, scarcely thicker than a piece of paper – only folds itself into a boat, like a child’s toy, or a “paper glider” plane shape. But it is anticipated that in future it will be used to create full-sized cars and aircraft that morph as they move, or robots that can “flow” like mercury into small openings, or multipurpose military uniforms that can adapt to different environments.
Researchers at the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) launched the project in 2007 in conjunction with Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is a small sheet of stiff tiles and “joints” of elastomer, “studded with thin foil actuators and flexible electronics. The demonstration material contains 25 total actuators, divided into five groupings. A shape is produced by triggering the proper actuator groups in sequence,” according to a statement by Robert Wood, the head of the Harvard research team.
In France, on the other hand, locals have chosen to go the other way, with a team building a medieval chateau using local materials and only contemporary tools. The project as seen as both an experiment and a jobs program:
In woods surrounding the castle, craftsmen ply all the trades required for so monumental an endeavour. Stone-cutters and carpenters fashion the raw materials. A blacksmith forges the nails. Ropes, baskets and roof-tiles are all made on site.
“The rule is that only what we know from documents that existed at the time is allowed,” says Sarah Preston, an English guide.
BBC file image of craftsman at work Only contemporary tools and materials are used in the construction
What started out as an eccentric pipe dream is now an established enterprise, drawing in tens of thousands of visitors from around Europe every year.