DAVIS, CA - The former UC Davis engineering professor who has spent decades developing a personal vertical takeoff and landing vehicle is seeking individual contributions tokeep his dream alive.
Beginning today, Paul Moller will try to raise close to a million dollars through the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to prepare the four-passenger M400 Skycar for a public test flight.
Moller, 76, said pledge committments from three partner companies would double the money raised from crowdfunding.
"Funding has always been a problem in this process," said Moller, whose company, Moller International,has spent an estimated $100 million developing the Skycar.
A company spokesman said Mollerraised $35 millionfrom a public stock offering and the rest has come from his personal investment.
Moller now calls the public offering a mistake.
"It turned out to eliminate my ability to raise money," Moller said. "You make incremental steps, but you can't progress in a (meaningful) way."
In 2003, Moller paid a $50,000 fine to settle a suit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission that alleged, among other things, that Moller's projections for thecommercial viability of the Skycar were overly rosy.
Following a personal bankruptcy that was closed in March, Moller is no longer in a position to continue funding research and development out of his own pocket.
But he thinks he has enough supporters around the world who are willing to make small contributions to get the Skycar into production, even if they get little more than a t-shirt and Moller's gratitude in exchange.
"We have an international following," he said. "We think crowdfunding was made for Moller."
Moller said developments in technology and regulation could lead to limited production of the Skycar by 2015.
Moller International recently reported a breakthrough in the lightweight rotary engines that power the eight-engine Skycar, offering nearly double thehorsepower necessary for stable flight.
"If you've got twice the power than you actually need, then you have the ability to fail more than one engine during hover," Moller explained.
Moller said four onboard computers offer electronic redundancy in addition to the margin of safety created by the more powerfulengines.
Until now, the vehicle has only flown in unmanned tests on a tether.
With money raised from the crowdfunding campaign, Moller plans to prepare his prototype M400 Skycar for FAA test flight approval.
Moller hopes to have a test pilot at the controls for a public demonstration June 11, 2014overLake Minden, a 41 acre private lakein Sutter County.
Moller believes with mass production, the cost of a Skycar would be comparable to a moderately-priced automobile.
The ultimate goal is to market the Skycarto owners with a sport pilot certificate, which can be obtained with a driver's license and groundinstruction.
Such a designation, however, would require a new powered lift subcategory in the FAA's Light Sport Aircraft classification, which currently prohibits high-speed, multi-engine and multi-passenger aircraft.
In the interim, Moller believes he can market the Skycar in an experimental category that would require a pilot's license to operate.
by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net