Here’s your flying car

We’ve seen quadrocopters galore over the past few years. We’ve never seen one big enough to lift a person until now.

[Thomas], [Stephan], and [Alexander] of e-volo have been working on a gigantic, human-lifting multicopter for a few years now. A few days ago, their prototype took to the air carrying a fully human pilot. There aren’t a whole lot of details on their build, but from what we can tell the flight was powered entirely by batteries.

The test vehicle looks to be a study in minimalism. The landing gear looks to be a repurposed yoga ball, and the chassis is just four pieces of aluminum tube welded into a cross. The the power plant for the prototype is four brushless motors in each quadrant of the vehicle. That’s right – there are 16 motors spinning around the pilot.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a build based on Doctor Robotniks designs. Earlier this year, some guy in China built a very nice deathtrap an octocopter. The e-volo team definitely has the leg up in safety considerations – they have actual design and engineering studies

The good news is the e-volo team wants to improve their prototype and sell it to the masses. The bad news for Americans is the FAA hasn’t taken too kindly to electric flying machines. The team is working on a hybrid drive version, and as long as the weight is kept down, we can always get an ultralight cert.

Check out the video of some 16-blade hovering action after the break.

Comments

  1. Techrat says:

    How the hell is that stable? Every time the pilot shifts his weight, the thing must start tipping in one direction or the other. And if it does work, Mr. “Flying Car” Moller must be kicking himself.

  2. Grovenstien says:

    Excellent News! Is that a Gym Ball I see hovering in the distance?!

  3. svofski says:

    While it’s super cool as a sports, I guess, I still don’t understand how this is practical. It seems to be less safe, less efficient and less compact than a helicopter or autogyro. What happens when an engine fails? Helicopter and autogyro have an answer for that. What will this thing do?

  4. mankmanger says:

    This is quite impressive!

    @Techrat: It’s got 16 motors with which to stablize itself with. All you need is a standard gyroscope controller found in high-end quad-copters.

    I look forward to seeing a more powerful one zoom someone into the sky =D

    • jc says:

      aaaand.. if the gyroscope fails ? or the power supply for that matter? I guess this thing can’t autorotate or anything. Dangerous as hell.

      • Pilotgeek says:

        I swear this is all anyone cares about on Hack a Day. Wear your helmets, blah blah safety. Come on. They’re flying like maybe 6′ off the ground. It would certainly suck, but that’s not going to kill anyone if it falls during the test flight. Stop being afraid of death and live a little!

      • Merrick says:

        I agree, there is too much negative speculation for something this impressive. The guy made an amazing build, I’m sure this is a beta or at least its a first step into something more practical…I want a flying car :)

  5. mikelist says:

    i’m failing to understand why they are not being used as ground effect vehicles, as opposed to actual flight. it solves the sudden impact to some extent. autorotation isn’t much of a lifesaving possibility, unless you have a lot of space between the bottom of the vehicle and the ground, even if the propellors/rotors are articulated for full negative pitch.

    there is nothing anyone can say that can convince me that flying cars are a good idea without a whole lot of laws and regulations being invoked.

    • Hunter says:

      though oddly no more laws and regulations than it takes to make cars as safe as they are. Just think of everything that goes in to making a fuel pump safe for the average “end-user.”

  6. Max says:

    You wouldn’t catch me on that thing.
    You wrote “16 motors”. I read that as “32 blades whirling without any safety mesh, any of which could chop bits off…”

  7. xorpunk says:

    rofl the music makes it even funnier..

    add a flock of ducks and you have gold

    (I’m laughing cause it’s extremely unstable, has no safety in it’s design, and isn’t evolved from the last attempt at the same design)

  8. fartface says:

    Your flying car is an autogyro. The problem is 99.9978% of all car drivers are so stupid they cant figure out how to drive a car let alone an aircraft. add into that that we can sue for stupid things, unless it can fall like a rock from 50,000 feet and the people inside dont even get injured it will never be made.

    So flying cars will exist when… A- people cant fly them, they are autopilot only. B- defy the laws of physics and can not hurt anyone even when it hits the ground at 50,000 miles per hour. and C- the government finds a way to make a buttload of taxes off of it.

  9. TellusCitizen says:

    Love it!

    One motor fails and you 15 to pick up the slack, fairly good safety margin on that point. And the autogyro hardware keeps it all in balance, as long as there is enough thrust to play with. The uncovered whirling blades defo need a some kind of safety solution. Perhaps a helicopter type arrangement: cargo/occupants hung beneath the prop plane.

    Looking forward to new design iterations.

  10. No One says:

    I didn’t see any mention of how long those batteries last (and what happens when they’re low on charge). Isn’t that the true killer of flying cars, carrying your fuel along for the ride?

  11. Jeremy says:

    I think it’s a cool backyard project, or something to play with, but I don’t see any production qualities to it. Once enough safety equipment is added to it to make it safe to operate it’ll be too heavy to lift itself much less add a person or cargo. I have to agree with the comments about flying cars not coming to fruition for safety reasons. Watch people drive on a typical city street any given day of the week and you’ll find 100s of examples of why people shouldn’t be allowed to fly a car much less drive one.

  12. Chris says:

    Interesting use of the yoga ball. I wonder if it provides something of a dampening system for both take off/landings and while in flight.

    And on a side note, why would you want safety cages for the blades? This would make an awesome tool for a zombie apocalypse. Just fly around at neck level and decapitate ‘em all!

  13. Steve says:

    “A few days ago, their prototype took to the air carrying a fully human pilot.”

    Previous test pilots included werewolves, half-elves, and Darth Vader.

  14. Elegy says:

    When I saw this, I was pretty shocked. 16 propellors on a plane with the pilot’s legs, crotch, and torso? I’m not sitting in it, the possibilities of survival in the event of a catostophic prop failure are pretty grim.

    I don’t know how many of you have played with rc flight motors, but they can be pretty dangerous – my dad is a hard ore rc enthusiast and I was standing about 3 ft away when one of his friends damn near lost a finger through lack of attention.

    Now scale that up – about a decade ago in my home town, a mower on the interstate threw a blade. It sailed across a lane of traffic and through the windshield of a car riding down an entrance ramp. Decapitated the woman driving.

    And you want me to sit in the middle of 16 of these? (shudder)

    The pilot needs to be above or below the plane of rotation of the blades. One hard landing with the engines running high will bounce the props, dangerous enough. One bad landing where a prop touches the ground.. If a broken blade doesn’t hit the pilot, then it’s going to whir off into the other props, creating a deadly chain reaction…

  15. Barefoot says:

    Geez, you Negative Nellies are no fun.

  16. njh says:

    this came to mind>

  17. LordNothing says:

    mechanically a brushless motor has only one moving part, and its passive. i actually think that motor failure is unlikely. even if one is lost then the other 3 in the quadrant can be throttled up to compensate.

    the real point of fail is the batteries. one overheats and blows, the others have to take up the slack, and more current will be drawn from fewer batteries. i could see this causing a cascade failure, one battery explodes taking out the next, and the next until you have no power. so id design a good safety margin into the batteries. make it so you can loose half the cells (and use many) before the power demands on any one cell are exceeded.

    stability doesn’t seem to concern me much. im pretty sure he differential throttling of the motors can produce enough torque to recover from inversion at altitude. still to id like to see a lower cg to give it natural stability. for example hang the seat under the frame rather than above it.

    frankly the real issue i have with these designs are aerodynamics. designs like this do nothing at all to reduce aerodynamic drag. while this may be a fun thing to fly around on the weekend, it is less practical for actual transportation use. id rather see an ultralight chopper, perhaps something with dual rotors, either coaxial or inter-meshing, running off a single large brushless motor. this would allow for a more aerodynamic fusalage that might actually be capable of a range more than a few miles.

  18. MilwTd says:

    Hi,
    Ultralight is the way to go in the US.

    Ultralight requirements or lack thereof can be found at:

    http://www.all-about-ultralights.com/faq.htm

    Ultralight is a true hackers paradise.

  19. Hamtaro says:

    Pretty sweet, I gotta say. It reminds me of all the military tests trying to make a flying saucer type craft. It’s impressive that they made it off the ground.

    As an aside, did no one catch that the guy is synched down into the chair via a ratchet strap? That is awesome.

  20. Stevie says:

    Wow! I’d never have thought those little motors could lift him off the ground, even if there is quite a few of them.

    Absolutely amazing! I like

  21. Mike Bradley says:

    Now just add a turbin powered generator to supply power

  22. KeeCoyote says:

    Now they have flying thing. Now they need a few more of them, a secret lair in a volcano and a evil leader :)

  23. Isaac says:

    I’m surprised by all the negativity here. This is a first stage prototype. Many of the downsides can be addressed.
    -Use backup systems with a voting architecture on all critical systems.
    -Put a cage around the props…
    -Add an emergency parachute for catastrophic motor failure. (yes this would only work above a certain altitude).
    -Make the flying largely computer controlled (probably already is…) to keep the human pilot from doing anything stupid.

    The potential of this thing is really cool.

  24. Ted says:

    Was he flying it with a radio control? Just don’t drop the controller!

    Still, what an amazing feat; no way this could have been done just a few years ago.

  25. Enrique says:

    In the next days, sure it’s in the papers in the area have been numerous sightings of UFOs

  26. Wade says:

    Yeah, this thing is dangerous, but you have to remember – these guys are paraglider pilots. Back when I used to paraglide regularly, the death rate was roughly 1 in 10,000 per year – i.e., for every 10,000 participants, one of them would take a dirt nap, every year. My first instructor died paragliding about 6 months after I started, and my second instructor died a few years later, both of them during free flying competitions.

    So yeah, this multi-copter is a little more risky than the usual hack a day fare, but compared to launching yourself off the side of a mountain into extremely turbulent air on an aircraft that’s prone to sudden collapses, it’s not really that crazy. Sometimes the rewards are worth it – ask anyone who’s flown with eagles. Sometimes they’re not.

  27. Awesome! You’d definitely catch me in this. To heck with safety! This is just too cool to pass up.

    About the batteries: a central, computerized power management system would be really nice. If designed in a modular way, you could just add more batteries regardless the number of propellers.

  28. dude, this is CRAZY!
    :-)

  29. Sparki001 says:

    go fly a kite in a lighting storm….
    oh wait, that’s been done.

    Hats off to those who risk to quicken the growth of technology.

  30. Dude says:

    Nope,Chuck Testa!

  31. dan says:

    I might be wrong on this but I’d have thought that ducting the fans would improve safety, lift and directionality of the thrust?

  32. Mark A says:

    Is it a bird.
    Is it a plain.
    No it’s a U.F.O.

  33. austin says:

    meanwhile in germany….

  34. Khordas says:

    I’m surprised any of you will use dangerous devices like soldering irons, which can burn you to death, and automobiles which are powered by flammable and toxic gasoline.

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