Nation’s First “Hybrid” Drone Passenger Vehicle Receives FAA Approval for Advanced Flight and Road Testing

A California-based company has just received FAA approval to begin testing its new passenger drone vehicle in the real world.  The company, ALEF, claims it’s the first air taxi company to receive such FAA approval.  Big news, right?

Well, not quite.  ALEF’s “flying car” isn’t the first passenger drone vehicle to receive a “Special Airworthiness Certificate” from the FAA – or even a COA granting it authority to move beyond in-house laboratory testing into the experimental pilot phase.

Several other air taxi companies – most recently, the German company Lilium – have received such FAA approval.  And they’re hoping to begin producing the first of their vehicles fairly soon – as early as 2024 in fact – a year before ALEF plans to do so.

Why all the fuss?  Because, in theory, ALEF’s vehicle is a “hybrid.”   It not only flies, it can also be driven on the road.  And unlike most passenger drones, it actually looks like a car – with a chassis and four wheels no less.

The clever theory behind the car is that it’s not really an aircraft but a road vehicle — with wings.  ALEF officials say ideally, the car will start out on the road and only become airborne if it encounters too much traffic.  Really?

Well, perhaps.  But check the specs:  ALEF’s “car” – which is designated a “slow-moving vehicle” – is limited to a speed of 25 mph on the road.  Which means it’s not fit for highway driving or even for most street driving, except for the city center.   So, is all this talk of a “hybrid” air/road taxi really just a publicity stunt?

It’s hard to know.  Another “drive-and-fly” car – developed by ASKA – is also in the process of getting its FAA air-worthiness certification.  ASKA says its new car is ideal for airport shuttle transportation.  It could drive up to planes on a runway and pick up a handful of passengers for a taxi flight back downtown.  So maybe there’s a special niche for these vehicles after all.

Welcome to the rapidly expanding world of “flying cars.”  Commercial airlines like Delta and United are beginning to partner with Silicon Valley-based companies like Archer Aviation and Joby and a number of new companies like ALEF and ASKA – formerly in “stealth” mode – are suddenly popping up, ready to take on all comers.

And, naturally, each has figured out it needs a clever design “angle” to distinguish itself from the rest.

There may be real money to be made here — eventually. Morgan Stanley estimates that the air taxi sector could  be worth as much as $1.5 trillion by 2035.  However, to date, most of the investment capital to support drone taxi prototypes is coming from small venture capitalists.  A few corporate giants like Boeing and Mitsubishi, have begun weighing in, which should speed things up, but not everybody’s convinced that air taxis are actually viable commercially, especially given their prohibitive cost (ALEF’s vehicle may sell for $300,000, for example).

And there are A LOT more regulatory hoops to jump through.  In the short term, ALEF’s vehicle will need an FAA “type” certification, which requires a more in-depth review of the vehicle’s safety and fuel use systems.   That could easily take another year or more.  And unlike other air taxis, the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration will also have to approve ALEF’svehicle for road use.

So, you probably won’t see ALEF’s newfangled flying car in the air – or on the road – anytime soon.  2025?  That’s a bold prediction for a company that hasn’t even identified a site for its manufacturing plant yet – let alone built one.

Rest assured:  the race to full-scale commercialization – with ALEF and a half a dozen others in fierce competition – is about to get underway.  But it’s still not clear who – if anyone — will actually make it to the finish line.

ABOUT US: is a Nationwide Media Company specializing in custom Drone Videos for real estate, commercial, farms, construction, golf courses, roof inspections and more. All of our Drone Operators are fully licensed and insured. When you purchase a Drone Video Package from us, you will receive a video professionally edited, color corrected and presented to you on an SEO-Friendly webpage that you can easily share online and on Social Media with a click of a button. Click here to get started.

Previous Drone News:

Start Your Order
We Offer a Variety of Drone Video Packages
to Fit Your Needs and Budget