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How Personal Air Vehicles Work

Springtail Basics
Springtail EFV-4A
Springtail EFV-4A
Photo courtesy

­The Springtail Exoskeleton Flying Vehicle developed by Trek Aerospace wo­rks something like the Harrier jet, lifting off vertically. But instead of jet propulsion, the Springtail uses ducted propellers to lift the aviator off the ground. The EFV-4B is the most recent model of a series of several prototypes.

Once strapped into this personal air vehicle (PAV), the engine will turn the overhead duct fans to provide adequate thrust to propel you into the air. The Springtail EFV-4B is 8.3 feet (2.5 meters) high, and operators should be between 5 feet 4 inches and 6 feet 6 inches (163 to 198 cm) tall and weigh between 115 and 275 pounds (52 to 125 kg) for maximum maneuverability and safety.

Once airborne, you can zip over treetops at a top speed of 113 mph (182 kph) for 184 miles (296 km) on a 12.3-gallon (46.6-liter) tank of gas before refueling. Average cruising speeds are around 94 mph (151 kph). Because it can climb as high as 11,400 feet (3,475 meters), there's the possibility that the Springtail would share its air space with other small aircraft. However, according to the folks at Trek Aerospace, it's ultimately meant to fly at an altitude of around 400 feet above ground level, moving around 90 mph. The compact size of the Springtail will allow it to land on an area roughly the size of two compact-car-sized parking spaces.

Now, let's take a look inside the Springtail.