Project Formula: Russian hoverbike creators take aim at VTOL flying car
The Russian team that brought us the terrifying Scorpion Hoverbike (now being flown by the Dubai police department) is working toward a 5-seater VTOL air taxi. The Formula Project concept from Hoversurf uses fold-away wings and 52 tiny turbine Venturi propulsion units for a combination of VTOL convenience, winged efficiency and a compact form factor.
Details are fairly scant at this point, but here's what we know: The Formula Project is a vehicle designed to fit in a single car space, once its wings are folded up. The designers consider this a key point, as early flying car type designs are going to need to work with the way our cities are currently built, which typically doesn't include a lot of aircraft hangars.
Forty-eight small electric thrusters handle the VTOL/multicopter style flight mode. They look like no more than 8 or 10 inches in diameter. These are a proprietary Venturi turbine design; hopefully they work better than Venturi designs do in wind energy harvesting, which is not very well. But the Venturi effect would appear to be minimal here anyway.
There are a few key benefits in comparison to big ol' props, though. Firstly, they're completely shrouded by the body of the vehicle, making them much less likely than the Scorpion to end up blending a bystander. Secondly, redundancy. This thing should fly even if half its thrusters have failed. Providing that half is conveniently distributed across the airframe, we'd presume. And thirdly, they'll at least make a different annoying noise than one large helicopter prop or 18 smaller ones, a la the Volocopter.
Once the wings fold out, the aircraft enters a very efficient cruise mode, using just four pusher turbines on the back for longer range flights. There's a safety aspect here too; once you're flying as a winged aircraft you've got the capacity to glide down to Earth in a power failure situation. That'll probably take some proper piloting skills, mind you. And the team is looking into fitting some kind of ballistic parachute to take the jolt out of a drop from a hover.
The apparent lack of wheels could make this thing a pain to push around on the ground, and there's some suggestion in the images we're looking at that the landing skids will fold in depending on which flight mode you're in.
That's about what we know of the concept design at this stage, apart from the fact it looks pretty cool. According to the Hoversurf team, they're currently looking for investors to take the project to prototype stage and beyond. And heck, they've already taken the Scorpion hoverbike further than we'd have thought possible in a short amount of time, so I wouldn't bet against them.
Source: Project Formula