There's been a bit of a renaissance in designs for personal flying craft over the last few years, with everything from conceptual electric fan passenger craft designed for quiet commuting, to real jetpacks flying around landmarks and jet-powered hoverboards breaking records, and the collection just keeps growing. Now add one more personal flight machine concept to the list in the form of the Airvinci: a ducted fan VTOL aircraft that is expected to start its aeronautical life as a heavy-lifting drone and later have a cockpit added for carrying human cargo.
The brainchild of inveterate tinkerer, Tarek Ibrahim, and built on the dream of a safe, compact and affordable way to skip daily traffic jams, the Airvinci is designed as a ducted fan, fixed-pitch rotor aircraft drone prototype. It's claimed to be in the latter stages of development for a trial flight some time in the coming months, with a full-size "backpack helicopter" version slated for trials next year, all going well.
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"We scheduled our first test flight this (US) summer with more test flights later this year," says Airvinci project manager, Markus Engelhart. "Currently, we are finishing final versions of several components like the rotors, the rotor hub and control surfaces. In about two weeks we are planning to start the final assembly of our prototype."
Whilst some obvious similarities can be drawn with the Martin Jetpack in terms of the ducted-rotor design, the people at Airvinci point to some notable differences. It puts the pilot in a sitting rather than standing position and is powered by two aircraft-specific engines and a single-rotor rather than a single engine and two rotors. According to Airvinci, the prototype engines for the drone put out around 28 hp (21 kW) each, and the total rotor size for the craft is about 7 ft (2.1 m).
"With our design we are convinced to have a better weight balance that will improve flight dynamics and the ease of use," says Engelhart. "We have two separate engines that make our aircraft safer and more resilient to engine failure, since you can fly even with only one left in an emergency case. We decided to use aircraft engines from an external supplier that is known by most aircraft mechanics in order to simplify maintenance and repair."
Airvinci also believes that, based on its design calculations, the eventually manned craft will have a higher flight-ceiling, greater range, and longer average flight time than the Martin Jetpack, too.
Intended for a range of users and uses, the team at Airvinci assert that their markets will include pilots, search and rescue teams, and forward-thinking shipping companies who could dispatch and deliver heavier parcels than possible with the likes of Amazon drones, thanks to the Airvinci's proposed carrying capacity of around 265 lb (120 kg). And, when a planned autonomous flight system is fully developed, the company also sees a potential niche for skydivers, where the proposed 12,500 ft (3,800 m) altitude capability of the Airvinci will allow such users the ability to climb to a jumping altitude and have their craft return autonomously to base.
Of course, like all new aircraft, the Airvinci will also need to complete a raft of airworthiness trials and comply with all manner of flight regulations well before the first potential customer straps themselves into the flying seat.
"One of the biggest challenges will be laws and regulations for personal aircraft in urban areas and for aircraft that are remote or autonomously controlled," says Engelhart. "However, history has shown that laws and regulations eventually follow new technological developments."
No word on potential price or any possible delivery dates, yet, but Airvinci plans to continue flying tests after an inaugural mid-year sortie, then tinker with development of a manned prototype onward through 2017 and beyond.
The short video below shows an animation of the Airvinci in its various guises.