The Skai is a multipurpose flying car powered by hydrogen fuel cells

Another startup is joining the long list of companies developing flying cars. Alaka’i Technologies is launching a new craft called the Skai, and like many competitors, Alaka’i plans to use its vehicle as a flying taxi or delivery van. What sets the Skai apart is its power source: Hydrogen fuel cells.

“It’s the cleanest form of energy available on the planet,” Alaka’i board member Dr. Bruce Holmes told Digital Trends regarding the choice of hydrogen. Many competitor designs use batteries, but Alaka’i believes it can achieve a lower environmental impact and better performance from fuel cells, Holmes said. Fuel cells have much greater energy density than batteries, he said, meaning they can store more energy in a given volume. That allows for a reduction in weight without sacrificing operating range. The Skai’s fuel cells are also 99% recyclable, don’t use the rare-earth metals found in lithium-ion batteries, and have a decades-long lifespan, Holmes said. Refueling is also quicker than recharging a battery pack, at under 10 minutes.

Long range and quick refueling times have been touted as perks of hydrogen fuel-cell cars, but producing and distributing hydrogen have proven problematic. Alaka’i will get its hydrogen from renewable sources, such as wind, solar, and hydro-electric, Holmes said. Instead of building a network of permanent fueling stations, Alaka’i plans to refuel its Skai vehicles from trucks, similar to the way airplanes are refueled on the tarmac at airports. That eliminates a major infrastructure headache that is currently plaguing makers of terrestrial fuel-cell vehicles.

The Skai’s fuel cells provide power to electric motors that turn six rotors. That setup gives the Skai the appearance of a giant drone, which is appropriate, as Alaka’i plans to develop an autonomous version after launching the initial human-piloted model. The Skai has room for four passengers and a pilot, and Alaka’i is aiming for a payload capacity of 1,000 pounds and a top speed of 118 mph. On a full tank of hydrogen, the Skai should have a range of 400 miles, or about four hours of flying time, according to Alaka’i.

Alaka’i has four main uses planned for the Skai. A passenger-carrying Skai Cab version will be used as a flying taxi, similar to what Uber and numerous other companies have proposed. The Skai Cargo model will be used as a flying van for so-called “last-mile” deliveries, taking packages short distances to their final destinations. The Skai Med version will be aimed at first responders, while the Skai Craft will be designed for use as personal transportation, either through sales to individual owners or through sharing services.

Upon hearing the phrase “hydrogen-powered aircraft” many people will likely think “Hindenburg.” Regardless of the power source, an aircraft that will spend most of its time flying over populated areas needs safety backups. Holmes claims the Skai can continue flying even if it loses a rotor, and can undertake a powered emergency landing after losing two rotors. The Skai’s hydrogen fuel-cell system is “triple redundant,” according to an Alaka’i press release, and the vehicle is equipped with a parachute.

The Skai needs to complete the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification before it can go into production. Alaka’i is aiming to complete that process by 2020, Holmes said. If it can overcome that hurdle, Alaka’i will still face competition from other startups, as well as established aviation companies like Rolls-Royce and Bell Helicopter, all of which are looking to fill the skies with flying taxis.

Emerging Tech

Bill Nye the Science Guy talks “solar sailing” and the new space race

If successful, The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 will be a milestone in spaceflight, the first craft to raise its orbit around the planet using just the power of sunlight.

Airbus-backed Voom could take on Uber’s on-demand flying taxi service

Airbus-backed Voom says it's planning to take its on-demand helicopter taxi to more U.S. cities this fall, a move that could put it in direct competition with Uber's app-based air taxi service launching soon in New York City.

Flyers in Apex Legends may be hinting at something monstrous for Season 2

Flying beasts have appeared in Apex Legends' King's Canyon map. While the creatures are peaceful for now, they may be hinting that something more monstrous is coming to the team-based Battle Royale shooter once Season 2 launches on July 2.

Nissan’s high-tech ice cream truck removes the fumes from your order

Nissan has given the traditional ice cream truck a modern makeover to create a cleaner, greener, high-tech alternative that also gives aging electric-vehicle batteries a new life.

How the furious pace of innovation has sculpted the world’s fastest motorcycles

The technology that powers modern MotoGP race bikes isn't just inside of them -- it's everywhere. Literally every single part of the bike, from the brake pad coating to the shape of the gas tank, is painstakingly designed to make the rider…
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Illuminated keyboards and a retro gaming console

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Volvo invented the three-point seat belt, and it might be the company that kills it

Volvo didn't invent the seat belt, but the firm patented the three-point configuration found in every new car in 2019. Autonomous technology will force automakers to rethink how they keep motorists pinned to their seats, and Volvo is…

What is Android Auto? Pull over and we'll tell you everything you need to know

What is Android Auto? Google's app overrides native infotainment systems to reduce distractions while driving. Here's everything you need to know about it, including the feature set and compatible car models.

The hottest of all Mini hatches is coming with a Batman-approved design

The Mini John Cooper Works GP concept first seen at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show will go into production in 2020, Mini has confirmed. The John Cooper Works GP is the ultimate performance version of the Mini Cooper.

Airstream inspiration Road Chief puts an off-grid luxury camper on the road

Updated for off-grid camping for four people, the Bowlus Road Chief Endless Highways awaits your tow hitch and your wallet. Bowlus design, build quality, and technology in a world-class trailer towable by most mid-sized SUVs.

Ford promises exciting GT supercar news at Goodwood Festival of Speed

Ford will make an announcement regarding its GT supercar at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed. The GT's racing career is winding down, but could Ford be planning a hotter road-going version?

This ’60s Ford Mustang EV has Tesla-like specs and a Rolls-Royce-like price

British startup Charge Cars planted its flag where electric cars and muscle cars meet when it unveiled a battery-powered 1960s Ford Mustang. Starting with a reproduction shell, the firm added an electric powertrain and modern electronics.
Product Review

2020 Mercedes GLS shows what happens when unstoppable force meets immovable luxury

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS is more than a luxury family-hauler. Yes, it’s got all the luxury features and all the bells and whistles of modern technology, but this three-row Teutonic tank has some serious off-road chops as well.

U.S. firm plans to power soccer stadiums using aging Nissan Leaf batteries

We've heard of aging EV batteries being repurposed to power homes and other facilities, but how about an entire sports stadium? An American firm is already doing just that, and now has plans to expand its system across Europe.