opener black fly

Toronto-born startup debuts futuristic flying machine

Imagine commuting to work in your own personal aerial vehicle.

It's not a flying car, per se — more of a quadcopter or other such drone that can carry humans — but it's fast, energy-efficient, 100 per cent electric and it has cruise control.

It's something that engineers all over the world have been working to bring to market for years, and a company founded just two hours outside of Toronto by a U of T grad might finally have done it: Invented a mainstream aero vehicle for consumer travel.

That company, called OPENER, just launched something called the BlackFly: "The world's first ultralight all-electric fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft."

It's not the first single-seat, Personal Aerial Vehicle to make headlines — far from it —  but it is one of the sleekest-looking to date, and it was built specifically with regular people in mind. This has caught the attention of tech heads, analysts and hopeful flyers worldwide.

A press release from OPENER's current home in Silicon Valley explains that the aerial vehicle requires no special skills or licensing to fly or operate safety.

It's also the first Canadian-qualifed vehicle of its kind, recieving permission from Transport Canada to operate as a basic ultralight aircraft just a few weeks ago.

"OPENER is re-energizing the art of flight with a safe and affordable flying vehicle that can free its operators from the everyday restrictions of ground transportation," said the company's Canadian CEO, Marcus Leng.

"We will offer competitive pricing in an endeavor to democratize three-dimensional personal transportation."

While it is now located in Palo Alto (where their investors, such as Google billionaire Larry Page, are based), OPENER actually started right here in Southern Ontario.

The company revealed in its latest press release, in fact, that Leng actually carried out the first manned flight of a fixed wing all-electric VTOL aircraft — ever — in Warkworth, Ontario, on October 5, 2011.

OPENER moved to California in 2014, but has been working on the project "in stealth mode" for nine years, designing, developing, and testing the "new innovative technologies which have now evolved into the zero-emission BlackFly vehicles."

Test pilots — including Leng — have successfully completed 1,400 flights and flown 12,000 miles to date.

You can't go out and buy one of these puppies just yet, I'm afraid, though they will be on public display at tech conventions this year.

At the 2018 EAA AirVenture Convention in Oshkosh, WI, later this month for instance, the public is invited to both view the BlackFly vehicles as well as "experience three-dimensional flight by operating the vehicles in a virtual reality simulation."

The company says its long-term vision is to integrate the vehicles into a rural/urban commuting network.

"These networks would be powered by renewable energy sources requiring only a fraction of the transportation energy used currently," it says.

When that will happen remains to be seen, but OPENER is already being hailed as a pioneer in the consumer aero vehicle space. Is Marcus Leng the next Henry Ford? I'm going to say yes, because why not?

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