Want to fly like a bird in the backyard of your home? Your dream will come true soon as a team of engineering students from National University of Singapore (NUS) have built the first personal flying machine that can bear the load of a 70kg person for a flight time of about five minutes. Also Read - Facebook for Android will soon get dark mode and coronavirus tracking featureAlso Read - Scientists develop soft contact lens that can zoom with a blink
Comprising an intricate design of motors, propellers and inflated landing gear set within a hexagonal frame, “Snowstorm” is an electric-powered aircraft capable of vertical take-off and landing that can be controlled by a single person seated within it. Rather than a mode of transportation, the right-member team envisions this more as an electric aircraft for personal recreational use in a large indoor space, to satisfy one’s desire to fly freely. Also Read - Increasing smartphone usage may be resulting in growing horns on our skull; research suggests
“Snowstorm shows that a personal flying machine is a very real possibility, primarily as a means to fulfill our dreams of flying within a recreational setting,” said Dr Joerg Weigl, one of two supervisors of the project.
The electric flying machine features 24 motors, each driving a propeller of 76cm in diameter, with 2.2kW of power. Its hexagonal frame is made up of aluminum beams, carbon fiber plates and tubes with Kevlar ropes. The pilot seat is positioned at the centre of the machine, its weight supported by six landing gear legs, the bottom of which is an inflated ball that adsorbs shock when landing. Three independent rechargeable lithium batteries sets provide a total power of 52.8kW.
To ensure pilot safety, the seat is installed with a five-point harness that secures the pilot to the centre of the machine. The flight control system allows the pilot to adjust thrust, pitch, roll and yaw of the craft. In addition, Snowstorm provides a variety of automated flight modes familiar to operators of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), including altitude hold, loiter and position modes. For safety, the team has also worked in a separate switch that can be controlled from the ground to end the flight and bring the machine to a landing, should the pilot lose control of the machine.
“Designing and building Snowstorm was a great learning opportunity for us. In some instances, we even 3D-printed parts such as our landing gear mount so that we can have a customized and optimal fit,” informed Shawn Sim, third-year NUS engineering student.
The NUS team hopes the improvements in the coming year will bring Snowstorm closer to commercialization. The personal flying machine was built over a one-year period, under the auspices of FrogWorks, a collaboration between NUS Faculty of Engineering’s Design-Centric Program (DCP) and the University Scholars Program (USP).