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Editor's Note: The Author, Jason Celmer, submitted this as a paper during his studies in the Union Institute and Universities Criminal Justice Management degree program.  For more information about that program, click here.

The Moller Skycar: Patrol Unit of the Future

 1500hrs, June 6, 2015. 

 Like so many other stories, this one begins with the distinct trilling of the 911 line.  Frantic voices on the other end, a yell, a crash, bang…shots fired!  More calls from neighboring businesses, there are men inside the bank, men with guns.  This has happened before; the robbers are experienced, and smart.  Never inside for more than 3 minutes, they are gone and blending into the population before the first unit arrives on scene. 

            The suspects always hit jurisdictions without their own helicopters, and they always hit the furthest bank from the station, during rush hour.  This time, the nearest ground unit is at least 8 minutes away.  The nearest helicopter is 15 minutes away.  The suspects are going to get away, so they think. The 11 miles by road is less than 6 as the crow flies.  But this is no crow, it is the 360mph, 4 seat, Moller M400 Skycar, and it is overhead in just over a minute from the time of call.  No one is getting away from this machine.

Flying Cars in the 21st Century

The Moller M400 Skycar is not the dream it used to be.  With FAA certification expected before 2009, according to Moller International (n.d.), the first deliveries are expected to take place shortly thereafter.  As with all new technologies, the first units will not be cheap.  The first 500 production models are currently listed between $1,000,000, and $500,000 depending on the delivery position.  After that, if production continues and accelerates, Moller is currently estimating that the M400 will sell for between $50,000 and $80,000.  This is far cheaper than current private airplanes, and with much improved performance and safety.  But, it has been a long time in coming.

             Spanning nearly 40 years of development, the Skycar is not a new idea.  It is the marriage of new and emerging technologies with a very old idea.  According to Donald (1999) one of the most successful flying cars was the Moulton Taylor Aerocar.  Produced in the 1950’s, it took 5 minutes to convert from road car to airplane, but was doomed in the 1970’s when tighter legislation regulating vehicle safety standards was introduced.  While it was successful in its day, the Aerocar is obviously not a fixture in modern society.  It would not be viable as a flying patrol unit due to its reliance on full length runways, as it is literally a car that turns into an airplane.  The Aerocar was not even the first flying, road able, vehicle.  The first patent for a flying car was awarded to Felix Longobardi, with the patent granted on the 3rd December 1918.  While it is generally agreed that this combination airplane, boat, and car, would never have actually flown, it was nonetheless the first.

Flying Cops in the 21st Century

To be a truly viable patrol unit, the vehicle would have to be capable of short distance road travel, vertical take-off and landings, from unprepared locations, have tolerable noise levels, fuel consumption comparable to an automobile, and capable of speeds exceeding that of current helicopters.  According to Moller International (n.d.), the M400 Skycar is capable of all that, due to its unique, low maintenance, Wankle-type rotary engines.  The rotary engines have few moving parts, are multi-fuel capable, and highly efficient (Moller International, n.d.).  The vehicles projected capabilities are so unique, that it falls into a new category of vehicle, “volantor” (vo-lan’ter)(Moller International), not yet listed in the dictionary, it is defined by Moller as a “vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft that is capable of flying in a quick, nimble, and agile manner.

          While there are many companies currently developing road capable aircraft, such as the Volanter Flying Car, Volante Aircraft (n.d.), and the FSC-1 Flying Sports Car, Christe (2007), neither are capable of VTOL, and are not viable as quick reaction vehicles for law enforcement, due to their dependence on small runways.  They would also require small plane pilot training, something that the Skycar will not require due to the multiple redundancy computer flight control systems envisioned by Moller.  The Skycar’s flight control systems will allow the user to manipulate the input, indicating direction of travel, speed, and lift, and the computers will do the flying.

         If the M400 were to become operational in the near future, it would be a giant leap forward in transportation.  With the US military currently interested in its development, according to Harman (2000), a successful production vehicle is viable in the near future.  As law enforcement commonly adapts military equipment to its own uses i.e. helicopters, less lethal munitions, body armor, etc., it is highly likely that we will eventually see black and white M400’s patrolling our cities in the not too distant future.

Jason Celmer has been employed with the Brea Police Department since 1994.  In that time he has served as a Cadet, Patrolman, School Resource Officer, and Field Training Officer.  He is currently assigned as a Detective, investigating Commercial Burglary & Auto-Theft.



Christe, I. (2007, October). 3 Flying Cars Coming to a Skyway Near You:  A Progress Report. Retrieved November 12, 2007, from Popular Mechanics Web site:

Donald, David (1999). Aerocar. In David Donald (Ed.), The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft (p. 16). New York, New York: Barnes & Noble Inc.

Harman, L. (2000, Nov/Dec). A Revolutionary Vehicle for the Future. Army Logistician, 32, 38.

Moller International. (n.d.). Moller International. Retrieved November 12, 2007, from

Volante Aircraft. (n.d.). Volante Aircraft. Retrieved November 12, 2007, from