Aston Martin is heading into a new dimension. So far this year, Aston’s unleashed a new 715bhp V12 supercar made for going fast on roads, and they’re working away on the Valkyrie to tear holes in space-time on racetracks. We’ve even seen them put a toe into the water of the high seas, with the 1,000bhp AM37 speedboat.
And so, Aston is taking to the skies. This is the Volante Vision Concept.
To answer your question, no. It doesn’t exist yet. These are renderings of what a ‘luxury personal air mobility’ craft from Aston Martin might look like. But the company says it’s no four-month late April fool. Aston is serious about exploring small, electrically-powered, vertical take off and landing (VTOL) craft as a possible future product.
The Volante Vision Concept (anyone object to us calling it VVC from here?) is an Aston idea that’s been designed by the same man who draws Aston’s beautiful bodywork – Marek Reichman – and had world-class input from Rolls-Royce (the aviation engine folks, not the builders of the Phantom) Cranfield University and Cranfield Aerospace Solutions.
Aston describes it as “a near future study that previews a flying autonomous hybrid-electric vehicle for urban and inter-city air travel, providing fast, efficient and congestion free luxurious travel”.
Quite the futurist dream. And there’s more. Because if you don’t fancy flying your VVC yourself, Aston says it’ll take over, courtesy of “the latest advances in aerospace, electrification and autonomous technologies, coupled with Aston Martin’s signature design”.
Many exciting claims, but not much in the way of concrete whens and hows. So, TopGear online spoke to Simon Sproule, Aston Martin’s vice president and marketing boss.
“When we started this project 18 months ago, it seemed outlandish when we dived in,” Sproule told us. “But this market has potential. We see lots of brands studying it – Audi, Porsche, Mercedes are all investigating aerial vehicles.”
Sproule added: “Aston Martin is a luxury brand today. We’re known for our cars and we have our marine product. But we’re interested in next-gen propulsion, and Rolls-Royce and Cranfield are interested in the same [things].
“We had a dream team of academia and two British brands. With this craft we’re testing reaction, but Rolls-Royce and Cranfield wouldn’t have put their name to it if you could just look at the design and know it wouldn’t fly.”
The design brief as it stands is for the electrically-propelled VVC to have a top speed of 322kph, and a 322-kilometre range. As Sproule sees it, this would get you from London to Birmingham in half an hour – a lot quicker than the proposed HS2 rail link, should it ever exist…
Or, perhaps you’d fancy dinner in London but dessert in Paris? The VVC is sized to fit on existing helipads, Simon explains, and can deploy its vertical take-off and landing to avoid the need for runways. So, it works with existing helicopter infrastructure, but would be quicker, quieter, cooler, than a chopper, and project a more eco-friendly image than a private jet.
And as you’d expect for a futuristic concept in 2018, there’s an autonomous element to the VVC. Simon says: “We don’t want to say automation won’t play a role in our future – but people are going to want to fly this thing.” The idea is, much like the holy grail of autonomous cars, that when you’re in the mood, you could take control yourself and come over all Top Gun, but when the highway to the danger zone gets a bit much, tap the screen and the autopilot will take over.
Sproule concludes: “The reason we’re launching this at an air show, not a motor show, is because it’s a serious design study. It’s not outlandish – this market is going to happen. A lot of companies have done a lot of research which agrees there is a growing market for this type of vehicle.”
A 322kph, zero local emission flying craft is a future for the supercar set we didn’t see coming. Are you convinced?