Aircraft

Aussie electric Copterpack makes sensational first manned flight

Aussie electric Copterpack mak...
The Copterpack is a two-prop electric manned multirotor under development in Australia
The Copterpack is a two-prop electric manned multirotor under development in Australia
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The Copterpack is a two-prop electric manned multirotor under development in Australia
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The Copterpack is a two-prop electric manned multirotor under development in Australia
Large rotating tubes hold the rotors to the rigid backpack, and the batteries appear to be slung at the bottom of the frame
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Large rotating tubes hold the rotors to the rigid backpack, and the batteries appear to be slung at the bottom of the frame
Man aloft: the Copterpack takes flight
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Man aloft: the Copterpack takes flight
Looking stable and controlled, the pilot takes the Copterpack up to an impressive height
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Looking stable and controlled, the pilot takes the Copterpack up to an impressive height
The Copterpack achieves stable and ccontrollable manned flight using only two rotors
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The Copterpack achieves stable and ccontrollable manned flight using only two rotors
The nervous moments before first flight
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The nervous moments before first flight
View gallery - 6 images

A green alternative to the humble kerosene-burning jetpack? Recently released video shows an Australian man rising high off the ground using a two-rotor electric personal flight device he calls the Copterpack. It's bulky, but looks surprisingly stable and controllable.

In construction, it's closer to the New Zealand-built Martin jetpack than the JetCat turbine-powered devices flown by the big four personal flight pioneers – Yves Rossy, David Mayman, Franky Zapata, Richard Browning – we've been covering closely over the last decade.

It uses just two rotors, but fairly large ones with diameters around 3 ft (~90 cm). These connect via what appear to be carbon fiber tubes to a rigid-framed backpack with some underslung battery packs and a pair of flat armrests with hand controls on them.

Where drones with four or more rotors are able to self-stabilize and achieve control authority simply by varying the speeds of their fixed rotors, this two-rotor arrangement does it by twisting its rotors to vector the thrust.

Looking stable and controlled, the pilot takes the Copterpack up to an impressive height
Looking stable and controlled, the pilot takes the Copterpack up to an impressive height

And the arrangement here looks surprisingly friendly to fly. The pilot takes off in a stable and controlled fashion, rises to a frankly scary height over a beach, then demonstrates the Copterpack's forward and sideways movement and yaw control with some mildly aggressive-looking turns before touching down very gently.

Given the small size of the battery pack here, and the well-known energy density issues of lithium batteries, we don't expect it stays in the air very long at this point. This is likely the chief factor behind why it looks so ungainly; large diameter rotors produce lift more efficiently than smaller ones, so the Copterpack needs these big fans until energy storage becomes a solved problem.

As to safety, well, its two-rotor setup doesn't offer anything in the way of redundancy, the pilot is certainly betting his life on the strength of those two carbon tubes, and his motorcycle gear is unlikely to do much in the event of a 50-ft (15-m) drop.

Still, the whole thing looks solidly built, and the flight itself is very impressive. We've reached out to try to connect with the Copterpack team and talk through the design, the flight experience, and what's next, and we'll bring you more when we can.

Check out the video below.

CopterPack First Flight

Source: Copterpack

View gallery - 6 images
31 comments
31 comments
Towerman
Whooohoo ! ! Fun Fun FUN ! ! !

All we now need is an order button below the write up :D
Arcticshade
The Tilting mechanism is to DROOL over, it's the perfect 2 rotor flying machine !
And like you say when battery performance increase we can make the rotors even smaller.

OR keep the 90cm diameter motors and fly even further, i actually like the size of the rotors.

""It's bulky, but looks surprisingly stable and controllable.""

Bulky ? Martin Jetpack is bulky, not this thing !

eirobotix
Nice job mate but please do your demos over water not land - nobody wants to see you seriously injured or worse....

RIP Jetman Vincent Reffet :(
kvncloete
This is far to dangerous. Somebody is going to get hurt. Jet packs are compact and robust.
Arcticshade
Vincent did a backflip at 800ft and could not recover quickly enough as he was too low, that was the cause not an engine failure.

Having said that, electric motors in any case are more reliable than turbine engines so i would say its definately safer to fly this twin motor. Yes i do agree test over water until full certification/confidence is developed.

@KVNcloete

No you have it backwards, Turbines are less robust, moreover, they have a lag in response time, Electric motors have instant power changes making for precise control. These are the basics ;)
dan
Great! That looks simply great! love it! Finally big (efficient) rotor diameter, ultra light/minimalistic design for a few minutes of FUN! Being so light, I guess it classifies as sport equipment and they can skip certification issues of other eVTOLs. Not sure if I flew with this invention over rocky ground, maybe safer over water. And I would have to go first on a severe diet before take-off...
Michael son of Lester
Very cool! I haven't been this excited about a flying machine since I watched the first Gen H4 flight video years ago. Weight-wise, I suspect that in the USA the Copterpack would be classed as an ultralight so no license would be required.

Considering the quiet of the electric motors, if they could get the endurance time sorted out these would also be natural for special forces. Think, putting people on ships that have been hijacked or inserting special ops teams on top of buildings or into enemy-held hard to reach areas.

So far as safety goes, I'm sure that if these come to market, it will be after all the bugs are worked out. Otherwise, the makers would face some serious court issues the first time a flyer came to earth the hard way.
paul314
I'm not sure the safety issues can all be worked out. Those tiny shrouds avoid the really stupid prop accidents, but they won't contain much if something goes seriously wrong (or if the props ingest something.) But it's really cool and I totally want one...
jerryd
Will need a lot of training for most people and likely still not safe and missing a ballistic parachute.
Far better would be 2 12' diameter rotors on the same center shaft to get 4x more lift/kw. It's also inherently stable and so efficient the Mars Helicopter used it.
Edward Vix
It looks like it wouldn't be too hard to stick your hand into the propellers. Or topple to the ground when landing and get your lower leg or a dog into the works. Not at all practical.
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