Octocopter Will Someday Kill Someone

Above you can see Doctor Wily a Chinese hacker starting up one of the propellers on his octocopter. It seems that the man is using a collection of eight motorcycle engines, each with its own wooden propeller to create an eight-bladed helicopter. We were able to locate some video footage of his experiments, which you’ll find embedded after the break. As you can see, this is perfectly capable of flight, but we’re not quite sure if we’d call it controlled flight just yet.

The video starts off showing all kinds of hack-ity activities, like tightening the bolts on the propeller and priming the gas lines by sucking on them like a straw (mmmm….. high-octane!). Coke bottles serve as the gas tanks, and you’ll want to keep your hands inside the vehicle because there’s no cages to keep them out of the hand-started propellers. Although we don’t speak his language, we did understand the demonstration of the controls that the man gives, showing an earlier model with rings of fabric around four of the propellers meant to help direct the downward thrust as a steering mechanism. We don’t think this will be viable until there is some type of PID system that predicts the performance of each motor and makes quick adjustments to keep the craft balanced. None-the-less we were glued to the screen hoping that this turkey would fly.


[Thanks KillerBug via BoingBoing and DIY Drones]

104 thoughts on “Octocopter Will Someday Kill Someone

  1. That absolutely looks like its going to kill someone. A propeller hitting something and coming loose, or part of it, it slipping towards someone, god the number of things!

    That being said, kudos to him for trying and building such a crazy thing. Crazy things are good! Just wish he had a bit more safety in mind.

    1. The only way to make this work is variable pitch propellers at the four corner motors. It would give this monster the quick response needed to control attitude during flight. Throttling the motors just isn’t fast enough to react to turbulence. Also moving the box lower would increase stability (helicopters have blades above for this reason).

  2. yeah i dont know how predictable gasoline engines are it seems like it wouldnt take much to throw things off (kink in the line, misfire of one of the cylinders, etc) electric engines have similar issues (frayed wire, em interference, bad coil) i imagine but it seems to me like an electric engine is easier to predict than a gas engine. but being a novice to both i can’t say with any certainty.
    either way its a nice build i want a flying car already dammit!

    1. really the worst part of gas engines is the carburetors. This seems to be the problem for this guy. The engines all run great and everything seems fine, but not all the carbs are perfectly tuned the same to each other. So while he throttles it up, some engines might get a little more gas then the others or more air and hit their power band before the rest. Then one side takes off and the other just sits on the ground.

  3. No, it’s not flying, it’s barely a hovercraft. I don’t have the math, but if farther off the ground it would lose around 50% of it’s thrust, due to not having the ground to push air against, with the reflected air pushing back up.
    Same problem with most demos of flying cars and “jetpacks”

    It’s really hard to get the thrust to weight ratio high enough to actually fly.

    1. he said that the 3 of the motors were basically idling as he havent been able to balance their outputs yet, so there is plenty more power, but lots of tuning to be done (if it is even possible)

  4. Without the aid of computer control, this is pure madness. Sloshing of fuel alone would affect fuel pressure on carbbed engines, not to mention leaning out should you climb to steeply, etc. It would take years of practice, under ideal scenarios, to fly.

    However, with basic quardricopter telemetry data and a stiffer chassis there is no reason this couldn’t work.

    Kudos to you, Chinese man with a healthy disregard for your own personal safety.

  5. I can imagine the entire process of how the first victim will go. They’ll be hand-starting one of the motors when they trip over a support or hot exhaust and walk into another nearly invisible spinning propeller. It’ll take off their legs across the shins, then they’ll fall face down into the prop and get bounced across several propellers.

    Or it actually gets aloft and the pilot falls off his chair and through the thin fabric wall.

  6. In addition, computer control would be hard, because you need accelerometers or something to detect tilt, so you can balance thrust and keep from flipping over and dieing. In a design like this, there’s going to be a lot of flex and bouncing, giving a real high noise level in readings from your sensors. If the delay between detecting tilt and the engines actually compensating for it is a multiple of one of the bounce frequencies, it could immediately flip over and dive into the ground with practically any tilt.

  7. I want to see a Video of this Flying ASAP!
    This goes right up there with the crazy hover vehicles made way back when jet engines were new science.
    Like the weird UFO looking things with jet engines and dual prop vertical take-off style vehicles.
    And those with safety concerns;yeah I can point out a few problems like getting chopped to shreds whilst starting the engines up and some kinda cages for the intake at least.{I wonder if a single decent sized motorcycle engine could power all eight props with a central geared drive shaft setup like a bunch of turning spokes?
    oh well never know what some one will build next.

    1. Oh yeah as i mentioned that it is reminiscent of the crazy hover cars and UFO spook stuff the skunk works made …[Kevin]pointed the dead obvious problem of the thrust drifting right off as soon as it got far enough away from the ground effectively grounding it to maybe a few feet hover in a kinda sloshing hover.
      In addition it also needs some accelerometers and Heli-Style maneuvering for the props to even make a decent kind of lift off as well as bigger higher area blades to create the amount of thrust needed to make it into the air.
      I would imagine some sort of electric motor setup and a generator hooked to a light weight high efficiency engine could provide power it would need a hell of a motor controller and navigation system fast enough like the Osprey Aircraft does Sans the tilt rotor setup.

  8. incredible, if it wasn’t tied down that thing would have shot up with him in it! they need a mechanism for faster and more direct control of the power to the propellers; not too dissimilar to the aeroquad stuff, horizontal balancing and the like

  9. From a machine design point of view, well, it’s just SO wrong! reliability, thrust to wieght ratio, control, the list goes on. Don’t mean to beat the guy down, but, hey, it is what it is.
    A better tack would be one powerplant for increased thrust to wieght ratio, then a multiprop differential drive for control. True, a siamesed, dual powerplant would be even more reliable still. Ya gutta hand it to the guy though, “A” for effort to be sure and it IS a work of art in a cool, almost “steampunk” kinda way. Dr.Suess meets Igor Sikorsky?

  10. I think the concept can work, but if your going to use gas engines you have to use props with variable pitch instead of reling on engine speed, then you just need gyros hooked up to the pitch on each prop to keep it level.

    I think you could really take one of the basic off the self RC quadracopters then amplify the output of the receiver and gyros on a larger platform. Other than a lot work I don’t see any reason it wouldn’t work.

  11. It’s top heavy; if they just raised the plane of the engines so he sat lower in it, it would be stable. (Sort of hang under it more like a traditional helicopter w/ 8 overhead blades.)

  12. Since no one of HAD clicks through or reads….the video above is “showing an earlier model with rings of fabric around four of the propellers meant to help direct the downward thrust as a steering mechanism.”

    If you clicked the link and read you would find…..

    “Local farmer Shu Mansheng starts the engines of his self-designed and homemade flying device before a test flight in front of his house in Dashu village on the outskirts of Wuhan, Hubei province September 21, 2011. The round steel flying device, which cost more than 20,000 yuan ($3,135), is the fifth model made by Shu, a junior middle school graduate. It measures around 5.5 meters (18 feet) in diameter, and is powered by eight motorcycle engines. Shu managed to hover for 10 seconds at about 1 metre (3.3 feet) above ground during a recent test flight. ”

    HIS FIFTH MODEL, $3135, still in ground effect at 3.3ft…..but How long have we been waiting to see anything real from MrMoller? How many millions has he spent in development?

    As for overcoming ground effect….The Martin Jetpack has been tested using remote control successfully at 5000ft with a weighted dummy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHPedpE70Es&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

    Im not saying this guy is the next orville nor wilbur….but he I give him huge credit for actually doing something. Airplanes were the MurderMachine Folley of their era….lots of people died building and testing contraptions no better nor worse than this mans machine.

  13. Risk aversion..What’s that? Hey, we have all been there. Its almost working and maybe just another motor and another $25 dollars and a couple of days. And, I would be critical but I have done some pretty foolish things and still have all of my digits and most of my sanity. Carry on fellow experimenter!

  14. How long before the countershaft bearings fail and send the shaft and propeller spinning off into the void (or through someone)? The props are loading the bearings in a direction they were not meant to be loaded in… won’t last long!

  15. Wow! A fabric cockpit, just like the Wrights, of oh wait the Wright flyer didn’t have a cockpit. Anything that require a ground crew isn’t likely likely to attract a retail market All that concern about personal injury, but no concern about the pool table being damaged.

  16. Wow that thing is scary looking. But things with horizontal spinning blades driven by motor cycle engines turned on their sided usually do. Kudos to the guy for trying. At best he has a really loud hovercraft. At worst a death trap. I assume that he enjoys what he is doing. So if your going to go out let it be doing something you enjoy.

  17. wow, cool!

    now do this;
    1) use engines with ECM/CPU + CANBUS (car networking)
    2) use uC to network all CANBUS comms with some other super fast (cough:only16mhz) central uC
    3) use accelerometer and stuff (or toy heli’s balence control)
    4) DPAD JOYPAD hell yeh!

    hehehe now you have a flying machine! :D

    … and dont forget the lights, you DO want to be a fake UFO in the news right? lol yeeeeee that alien is dropping empty beer cans!!?!?!?!!?!!?!

  18. If you watch the video closely, you will notice that the camera man seems to be backed into some bushes as far as he can go…the poor guy signed on to film hostage situations and to run into burning buildings…not to do something as dangerous as stand next to THAT!!!

  19. first off i dont like how the props are below the aircraft’s cg, so you get no inherent self stability like you do with true heli.

    second i dont like that the engines are not interconnected. you loose one engine you loose control, your only hope is to kill the engine on the opposite side, reducing net thrust and potentially your ability to stay alift. if this was done automatically (such as computerized throttle control) it would improve the safety margin and even without sufficient lift you could slow your decent to survivable levels.

    multiple engine failures would be catastrophic, especially engines on the same side. other kinds of failures like a prop failure could kill to injure the pilot and/or destroy other engines/props.

    i think id use a single more powerful engine to drive a bunch of variable pitch props though some kind of chain, or better yet, shaft drive with engine and pilot suspended below the structure rather than on top of it. you could probably get better yaw control if half the props counter rotate to the other half.

    1. This guy never even went to high school, and he managed to do a test hover without killing himself…I’d say that is pretty good.

      Yeah…a test hover is a disaster waiting to happen and if he dies in an actual flight it will be listed as a suicide…but have you built a hover platform that is any better?

  20. What no arduino control?

    I agree with a previous post. should get cheap RC quad heli with gyro/compas etc and from there control prop speed etc. Should be minimal design efforts.

    Blades higher up would be good. less chance falling into blades and better balance once in the air.

    you know once he gets like 15-20 feet in the air its going to flip over! At least there is only small amounts of gas on board the octocopter.

    Should redesing using single motorocycle in the middle and a chain or axel driven control to all 8 blades. Like a harley in the middle. Then control could be left right with some kind of forward reverse push of the handle bars?

    anyways, if he doesn’t change his design to include some saftey im sure we will be hearing about his grusome death.

    And yes, he is tryting to get the hell out of china!

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.