One Student’s Dream of Flying Cars is Taking Off

What kid doesn’t dream about fabulous flying machines? He envisioned a flying car.

And now a prototype is making test flights in his native Colombia.

“But I don’t want just a cool toy,” he says. “I want something with social impact to help people and cities. Something people can use today, not in some future time.”

Varon says MIT Professional Education provided the knowledge, training and ideas he needed to upscale his invention in size, power and capability, and for financing, marketing and mass producing it. In 2018, he completed Professional Education’s Professional Certificate Program in Innovation and Technology; his courses included Beyond Smart CitiesRadical InnovationMastering Innovation & Design-Thinking and Precision Engineering Principles for Mechanical Design.

A flying car was the subject of his 2006 graduate thesis at the Universidad Externo de Colombia. “I put together this machine,” he says. “I knew a motor and propellers could make it fly, kind of like a table with four legs.”

That describes a drone. The skies were already full of them. But Varon took drone technology to the next level, founded Varon Vehicles Corporation with two partners and built a prototype flying car to travel in its own lane at low altitudes, safely clear of both land-bound and aeronautic traffic.

So, what does it look like?

Well, like a shiny red two-seated blend of a Batmobile and Agent 007’s Aston Martin, entirely electric, with neither wheels nor wings, and Varon’s company logo—a multi-layered “V”—on the hood. It has the sheen of power and luxury, which belies the high-flying altruistic purposes Varon and his partners foresee for their low-flying dream pod.

“We’re not focused on designing and building and trying to sell flying cars,” Varon says. “It would be for a service. And if I can get away with it, I would like the service to be free.”

He says it could go where traffic and congestion are a problem or there’s a lack of public transportation.

“In developing countries, you have areas with low accessibility, low quality of life,” he says. “Nutritious food and other things can’t get to those in need. It would take an hour and a half to reach them. A flying car would take only 17 to 20 minutes.”

Varon and his partners had a soft-launch for the prototype in Colombia and received good feedback. He says he’s been invited to fly it in European countries and is in conversation with aeronautical regulatory authorities there. He hopes to approach the Federal Aviation Administration in the US. He’s looking at a possible test site in Texas.

“We’ve tried to identify a market niche within an industry that hasn’t even appeared yet,” Varon says. As he speaks, he proudly shows pictures of the prototype with its two gray upholstered seat-belted seats, dashboard and steering wheel. “It’s very simple,” he says. “It doesn’t have any dials, buttons or strange pilot stuff. It steers just like a car. We’re trying to make it drivable by anybody. A computer does all the work.”

He’s searching for a clean power source. “We’re clean at the point where we charge,” he says, “but what happens behind the grid?” He envisions sharing assets with a hydro-electric power entity. “We don’t want to have an environmental impact,” he says. “We want to have a favorable social and economic impact, even providing jobs. We’re going to have a fleet of cars, so we’re going to need a fleet of drivers.”

So that boyhood dream is taking off. He credits his experience at MIT Professional Education for giving it lift.