“We moved from the typical aircraft paradigm where we have pedals, to a 6 degree of freedom joystick,” says Munir Jojo-Verge, aerospace control flight engineer for the firm. “You can control the vehicle with one hand – roll, pitch, yaw. This is a huge step.”
Ease of control will be critical when the firms’ next generation craft, which are twice the size of the test vehicle under construction, are built.
Assuming they pass their flight tests, which will begin later this year, the big question is whether anyone will choose to fly in them. For all of their cutting edge design and elegance, they will still only travel at about quarter of the speed of a passenger jet.
“It will be slower than a 747 [plane] at approximately 110 knots (approx 200km/h) cruising speed,” admits Edworthy. “But it would be the event of ‘getting there’ rather than how quickly you get there.”