The Alphabet CEO and Google co-founder has been unveiled as one of the strategic backers of OPENER, a Silicon Valley startup with ambitious plans for a flying car like personal aircraft.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on July 13, 2018

Californian firm OPENER’s BlackFly is billed as “the world’s first ultralight all-electric fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft.”

On 12 July, it unveiled its BlackFly, a single passenger vehicle that can travel at a speed of 100 kilometres per hour, or 62 miles per hour. It can fly a distance of around 65 kilometres or 40 miles.

In the US, the BlackFly will not require a pilot’s licence to operate and the company says the vehicle is easy to control and can be flown by anyone.

While similar to a flying car, the BlackFly has no wheels and is not designed for use on roads. Its designers say it works best taking off from grassy surfaces. It has a curved belly and eight propulsion systems in its wings to guard against multiple system failure.

The BlackFly has been developed and tested in stealth over the last nine years and the company has undertaken more than 1000 trial flights. The ultimate goal is to integrate the vehicles into commuting networks and power them with renewable energy sources.

Is The Jetsons age here?

OPENER CEO Marcus Leng says the company is “re-energising the art of flight with a safe and affordable flying vehicle that can free its operators from the everyday restrictions of ground transportation.”

Leng said the BlackFly could be on sale as early as next year and may be a similar price to a sports utility vehicle.

Darren Pleasance of the Experimental Aviation Association was effusive about the aircraft. “I just saw the future,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.

“The magnitude of innovation that OPENER has been driving in electric motors, aerodynamics, and VTOL operations is stunning and inspiring. OPENER has made a huge step forward in bringing The Jetsons world to life.”

Alphabet CEO Larry Page involved

The company also revealed Larry Page is one of its strategic backers. Page is the CEO of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. He co-founded Google with Sergey Brin in 1998 and is currently ninth on Forbes’ real time list of the world’s billionaires with a net worth of US$54.8 billion.

Page is also involved in Kitty Hawk, a high-tech US start-up developing personal aircraft. It has recently been testing flying self-piloted taxis. Uber has also been exploring the possibility of introducing flying vehicles.

OPENER has been testing the BlackFly in Canada, where it has gained licences from the national aviation authority. It is based in Palo Alto, California, having moved to Silicon Valley in 2014.