Building A Magnetic Levitating Quadcopter

hover Three days ago on October 21, 2014 it was announced to the world the Back to the Future hoverboard was real. It’s a Kickstarter, of course, and it’s trending towards a $5 Million dollar payday for the creator.  Surprisingly for a project with this much marketing genius, it’s a real, existing device and there’s even a patent. From the patent, we’re able to glean a few details of how this hoverboard/magnetic levitation device works, and in our post on the initial coverage, we said we’d be giving away some goodies to the first person who can clone this magnetic levitation device and put it up on hackaday.io.

[jellmeister] just won the prize. It’s somewhat cheating, as he’s had his prototype hoverboard working in July, and demoed a more advanced ‘upside-down quadcopter’ device at the Brighton Mini Maker Faire in September. Good on ‘ya [jelly]. You’re getting a gift card for the hackaday store.

hoverLike the Kickstarter hoverboard, [jelly] is using an array of magnets rotating in a frame above a non-ferrous metal. For the initial test, eight neodymium magnets were arranged in a frame, suspended over 3/4″ aluminum plate, and spun up with a drill. With just this simple test, [jelly] was able to achieve 2kg of lift at 1cm and 1kg of lift at 1 inch of separation. This test also provided some valuable insight on what the magnets do to the aluminum or copper; the 3kg aluminum plate was nearly spinning, meaning if this device were to be used on small plates, counter-rotating pairs of magnetic lifters would need to be used.

The test rig then advanced to two pairs of rotors with standard hobby brushless motors, but stability was a problem; the magnetic rotors provided enough lift, but it would quickly fall over. To solve this problem, [jellmeister] took a standard quadcopter configuration, replaced the props with magnetic rotors, and successfully hovered it above a sheet of aluminum at the Brighton Maker Faire.

Since [jellmeister] has actually built one of these magnetically levitating hoverboards, he has a lot more data about how they work than an embargoed press release. The magnetic rotor hoverboard will work on aluminum as well as copper, but [jell] suspects the Kickstarter hoverboard may be operating right at the edge of its performance, necessitating the more efficient copper half pipe. The thickness of the non-ferrous plate also makes a difference, with better performance found using thicker plates. No, you bojo, hoverboards don’t work on salt water, even if you have pow-ah.

So there ‘ya go. That’s how you build a freakin’ hoverboard. [jellmeister]‘s design is a little crude and using a Halbach array for the magnetic rotors should improve efficiency. Using a 3D printed rotor design is a stroke of genius, and we’ll expect a few more quad-magnetic-levitating-things to hit the tip line in short order.

Demos of [jellmeister]‘s work below.

Oh. These things need a name. I humbly submit the term ‘Bojo’ to refer to any device that levitates though rotating magnets and eddy currents.

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The Hoverboard You Can Build At Home

Press embargoes lifted today, heralding the announcement of the world’s first hoverboard. Yes, the hovering skateboard from Back to the Future. It’s called the Hendo hoverboard, it’s apparently real, and you can buy one for $10,000. If that’s too rich for your blood, you can spend $900 for a ‘technology demonstrator’ – a remote-controlled hovering box powered by the same technology.

Of course the world’s first hoverboard is announced to the world as a crowd funding campaign, so before we get to how this thing is supposed to work, we’ll have to do our due diligence. The company behind this campaign, Arx Pax Labs, Inc, exists, as does the founder. All the relevant business registration, biographical information, and experience of the founder and employees of Arx Pax check out to my satisfaction. In fact, at least one employee has work experience with the innards of electric motors. At first glance, the company itself is actually legit.

The campaign is for a BttF-style hoverboard, but this is really only a marketing strategy for Arx Pax; the hoverboards themselves are admittedly loss leaders even at $10,000 – the main goal of this Kickstarter is simply to get media attention to the magnetic levitation technology found in the hoverboard. All of this was carefully orchestrated, with a ‘huge event’ to be held exactly one year from today demonstrating a real, working hoverboard. What’s so special about demoing a hoverboard on October 21, 2015?

next year

I defy anyone to come up with a better marketing campaign than this.

The meat of the story comes from what has until now been a scientific curiosity. Everyone reading this has no doubt seen superconductors levitated off a bed of magnets, and demonstrations of eddy currents are really just something cool you can do with a rare earth magnet and a copper pipe. What [Greg Henderson] and Arx Pax have done is take these phenomena and turned them into a platform for magnetic levitation.

According to the patent, the magnetic levitation system found in the Hendo hoverboard works like this:

  • One or more electric motors spin a series of rotors consisting of an arrangement of strong permanent magnets.
  • The magnets are arranged in a Halbach array that enhances the magnetic field on one side of the array, and cancels it on the other.
  • By placing the rotors over a conductive, non-ferrous surface – a sheet of copper or aluminum, for example – eddy currents are induced in the conductive surface.
  • These eddy currents create a magnetic field that opposes the magnetic field that created it, causing the entire device to levitate.

hoverboard

That’s it. That’s how you create a real, working hoverboard. Arx Pax has also developed a method to control a vehicle equipped with a few of these hover disks; the $900 ‘Whitebox’ technology demonstrator includes a smart phone app as a remote control.

If you’re still sitting in a steaming pile of incredulity concerning this invention, you’re in good company. It’s a fine line between being blinded by brilliance and baffled by bullshit, so we’re leaving this one up to you: build one of these devices, put it up on hackaday.io, and we’ll make it worth your while. We’re giving away some gift cards to the Hackaday store for the first person to build one of these hoverboards, preferably with a cool body kit. The Star Wars landspeeder has already been done, but the snowspeeder hasn’t. Surprise us.

Oculus Rift and Wii Balance Board make Hoverboards a (Virtual) Reality

It’s almost 2015 and still don’t have the futuristic technology promised to us by Back to the Future Part II. Where are the flying cars, Mr. Fusions, or 19 Jaws movies? Most importantly, where are our hoverboards?

[cratesmith] got tired of waiting around and decided to take matters into his own hands. He combined the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset with the Wii Fit Balance Board to create a virtual hoverboard experience. He used the Unity3D engine (a favorite among Rift developers) to program the game engine. It’s a very rough demo right now, but the game comes complete with a simulated town to float around in and of course includes a model DeLorean.

Before you try to play this demo, you should know that it’s not without its faults. The primary problem [cratesmith] has experienced is with simulation sickness. His virtual reality system has no way to track body motion, which means that leaning back and forth on the Wii Fit board does not get translated to the equivalent virtual movement. The game must assume that the player stands straight up at all times, which is not an intuitive way to control something similar to a skateboard. The result is an off-putting experience that can break immersion and lead to a feeling of nausea.

A possible solution to this problem would be to use a camera style motion detector like the Microsoft Kinect. In fact, another Reddit user has recently posted a teaser video of another hoverboard simulator that uses the Oculus Rift, Wii Fit Board, and Kinect. Not much information is available about this second project, but we look forward to seeing updates in the future.

[createsmith] has not published the code for his demo because it’s still in the very early stages, but he has stated that he’s been giving it out to anyone who goes out of their way to ask. The hoverboard is probably the most coveted fictional technology from the 1989 adventure film. We know this because we’ve seen multiple projects over the years that were inspired by the movie.  We’re excited to see it come to fruition in any form.

[via Reddit]

It’s Not 2015 Yet But Marty and His Hoverboard Are Already Here!

Okay now this is seriously awesome. [Rodger Cleye] has made a real working Hoverboard.

You guys might remember the recent [Tony Hawk] and [Christopher Lloyd] viral Hoverboard hoax video… Well, this isn’t that. Nope, not even close. It’s real.

The Hoverboard is a quadrotor on steroids — it features four 1200W brushless motors driving 12″ props, a massive 13.4Ah 5S Li-Po battery, and a [Marty McFly] mannequin wearing the classic red vest. He’s counter-balanced [Marty] and the battery around the rotors which makes for a surprisingly smooth flight. It even has a run-time of over 5 minutes, thanks to a whopping 83% efficiency using the 12″ props.

[Rodger] designed and simulated the entire system in eCalc before construction — He had first attempted a bi-copter design, but opted for the tried and true quad-rotor instead. The frame is made of 1/2″ PVC pipe to conserve the mass budget, but altogether it still weighs an unbelievable 20lbs! How close are we to being able to give toddlers the ability to fly?

Just take a look at the following video — we’re seriously impressed.

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