World’s First EVTOL Airport Will Land This November

We have to admit that flying cars still sound pretty cool. But if we’re ever going to get this idea off the ground, there’s a truckload of harsh realities that must be faced head-on. The most obvious and pressing issue might seem to be the lack of flying cars, but that’s not really a problem. Air taxis are already in the works from companies like Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Cadillac, who premiered theirs at CES this year.

Where we’re going, we don’t need roads. But we do need infrastructure to support this growing category of air traffic that includes shipping drones that are already in flight. Say no more, because by November 2021, the first airport built especially for flying cars is slated to be operational in England.

Image via Hyundai

British startup Urban Air Port is building their flagship eVTOL hub smack dab in the center of Coventry, UK, a city once known as Britain’s Detroit due to the dozens of automobile makers who have called it home. They’re calling this grounded flying saucer-looking thing Air One, and they are building it in partnership with Hyundai thanks to a £1.2 million ($1.65M) grant from the British government. Hyundai are developing their own eVTOL which they are planning to release in 2028. Continue reading “World’s First EVTOL Airport Will Land This November”

One Wheel Is All We Need To Roll Into Better Multirotor Efficiency

Multirotor aircraft enjoy many intrinsic advantages, but as machines that fight gravity with brute force, energy efficiency is not considered among them. In the interest of stretching range, several air-ground hybrid designs have been explored. Flying cars, basically, to run on the ground when it isn’t strictly necessary to be airborne. But they all share the same challenge: components that make a car work well on the ground are range-sapping dead weight while in the air. [Youming Qin et al.] explored cutting that dead weight as much as possible and came up with Hybrid Aerial-Ground Locomotion with a Single Passive Wheel.

As the paper’s title made clear, they went full minimalist with this design. Gone are the driveshaft, brakes, steering, even other wheels. All that remained is a single unpowered wheel bolted to the bottom of their dual-rotor flying machine. Minimizing the impact on flight characteristics is great, but how would that work on the ground? As a tradeoff, these rotors have to keep spinning even while in “ground mode”. They are responsible for keeping the machine upright, and they also have to handle tasks like steering. These and other control algorithm problems had to be sorted out before evaluating whether such a compromised ground vehicle is worth the trouble.

Happily, the result is a resounding “yes”. Even though the rotors have to continue running to do different jobs while on the ground, that was still far less effort than hovering in the air. Power consumption measurements indicate savings of up to 77%, and there are a lot of potential venues for tuning still awaiting future exploration. Among them is to better understand interaction with ground effect, which is something we’ve seen enable novel designs. This isn’t exactly the flying car we were promised, but its development will still be interesting to watch among all the other neat ideas under development to keep multirotors in the air longer.

[IROS 2020 Presentation video (duration 10:49) requires no-cost registration, available until at least Nov. 25th 2020. Forty-two second summary embedded below]

Continue reading “One Wheel Is All We Need To Roll Into Better Multirotor Efficiency”

Hackaday Links: September 6, 2020

That was a close shave! On Tuesday, asteroid 2011 ES4 passed really close to the earth. JPL’s close approach data pegs its nominal distance from earth at about 0.00081083276352288 au! Yeah, we had to look it up too: that’s around 75,000 miles (120,000 kilometers), just ten times the diameter of the earth and only about one-third the distance from the earth the moon. It got within about 52,000 miles of the moon itself. Bookworms who made it all the way through Seveneves are surely sweating right now.

There’s a low current arms race when it comes to lighting up LEDs. The latest salvo in the field comes from [Christoph Tack] who boasts a current of 1.36 µA at 3 V for a green LED that is roughly 10x brighter than a phosphorescent watch dial. Of course, the TritiLED is the design being chased, which claims to run 17.6-20.2 years on a single CR2032 coin cell.

Proving once again that Hanna and Barbera were indeed future-tech prophets, flying cars are now a thing. Sky Drive Inc. made a four-minute test flight of a single passenger octo-rotor aircraft. Like a motorcycle of the sky (and those are a thing too) this thing is single-passenger and the cockpit is open air. The CNN article mentions that “The company hopes to make the flying car a part of normal life and not just a commodity”. Yeah, we’re sure they do, but in an age when electric cars are demonized for ranges in the low hundreds of miles, this is about as practical for widespread use as self-balancing electric unicycles.

Just when you thought the Marble Machine X project couldn’t get any bigger, we find out they have a few hundred volunteers working to update and track CAD models for all parts on the machine. Want a quick-start on project management and BOM control? These are never seen as the sexy parts of hardware efforts, but for big projects, you ignore them at your own peril.

Google and Apple built a COVID-19 contact tracing framework into their mobile platforms but stopped short of building the apps to actually do the work, anticipating that governments would want to control how the apps worked. So was the case with the European tracing app as Elliot Williams recently covered in this excellent overview. However, the United States has been slower to the game. Looks like the tech giants have become tired of waiting and have now made it possible for the framework itself to work as a contact tracing mechanism. To enable it, local governments need to upload a configuration file that sets parameters and URLs that redirect to informational pages from local health departments, and users must opt-in on their phone. All other tracing apps will continue to function, this is meant to add an option for places that have not yet adopted/developed their own app.

And finally, it’s time to take back responsibility for your poor spelling. Auto-correct has been giving us sardines instead of teaching how to fish for them ourselves. That ends now. The Autocorrect Remover is an extension for Google Docs that still tells you the word is wrong, but hides the correct spelling, gamifying it by having you guess the right spelling and rewarding you with points when you get it right.

Flying Cars A Reality

[Stillboy] alerted us to a flying car that runs on biofuel. Flying cars have been the mainstays of science fiction and technological wish lists for years, but they elude production, as expenses, fuel, and gravity get in the way. [Gilo Cardozo], a paramotor manufacturer, managed to overcome those hurdles by thinking simply. He attached a paramotor to his car, which is powered by a Yamaha superbike engine and a gearbox from a snowmobile. His modified Rage Motorsport buggy is street legal in the United Kingdom, and in the air, can get up to 80 miles per hour. It will be fully tested in January, when he and his chief pilot and expedition organizer [Neil Laughton] drive and fly the car to Timbuktu.

Other flying cars are also in the works. DARPA recently announced their Personal Air Vehicle Technology project that will hopefully lead to a military-suitable flying car that can get up to 60 miles per hour on the ground and 150 miles per hour in the air. Moller International claims that a flying Ferrari is in the works, and could be available for purchase within two years. Are jet packs next?