Aircraft

Students create a human-carrying multicopter

Students create a human-carryi...
The Snowstorm personal flyer is being developed for the leisure market
The Snowstorm personal flyer is being developed for the leisure market
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Mounted to a hexagonal anodized aluminum frame with carbon fiber plates and tubes and Kevlar ropes are 24 electric motors that each drive a 76 cm diameter prop
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Mounted to a hexagonal anodized aluminum frame with carbon fiber plates and tubes and Kevlar ropes are 24 electric motors that each drive a 76 cm diameter prop
The Snowstorm personal flyer is being developed for the leisure market
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The Snowstorm personal flyer is being developed for the leisure market
The pilot can adjust pitch, roll and yaw, as well as thrust, but the craft also offers a number of automated flight modes, including altitude hold, loiter and position hold
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The pilot can adjust pitch, roll and yaw, as well as thrust, but the craft also offers a number of automated flight modes, including altitude hold, loiter and position hold
The Snowstorm vertical take-off and landing prototype is the culmination of two semesters' work under a collaborative program at the National University of Singapore known as FrogWorks
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The Snowstorm vertical take-off and landing prototype is the culmination of two semesters' work under a collaborative program at the National University of Singapore known as FrogWorks

This year, we've seen a number of important developments in the race to bring personal flyers to market. A team of flying enthusiasts from Hungary took to the skies in a proof of concept tricopter named Flike in March, Malloy Aeronautics announced plans to develop its Hoverbike for the US Department of Defense at the Paris Air Show in June, and the JB-9 made its maiden flight around the Statue of Liberty just last month. Now a team of students from Singapore has joined the fray with a battery electric multicopter called Snowstorm that's being designed for recreational flying.

The Snowstorm vertical take-off and landing prototype is the culmination of two semesters' work under a collaborative program at the National University of Singapore known as FrogWorks, which challenges students to design and construct clean leisure craft. The eight-strong student team prototyped the design by initially building a scale model, before starting work on a version that could carry, and be controlled by, a single pilot.

Mounted to a hexagonal anodized aluminum frame with carbon fiber plates and tubes and Kevlar ropes are 24 electric motors that each drive a 76 cm (30 in) diameter prop. The aircraft's three lithium batteries, each designed to function independently as a safety measure, provide enough juice for five minutes of flight with a 70 kg (155 lb) pilot aboard. The pilot's seat is secured to the frame by a five-point harness and six landing gear legs, each ending in an inflatable ball, break out below.

The pilot can adjust pitch, roll and yaw, as well as thrust, but the craft also offers a number of automated flight modes, including altitude hold, loiter and position hold
The pilot can adjust pitch, roll and yaw, as well as thrust, but the craft also offers a number of automated flight modes, including altitude hold, loiter and position hold

The pilot can adjust pitch, roll and yaw, as well as thrust, but the craft also offers a number of automated flight modes, including altitude hold, loiter and position hold. As an added safety measure, the craft can also be controlled from the ground at the flick of a switch to terminate the flight and bring Snowstorm smoothly down to terra firma.

In addition to building the frame, the student team also designed and implemented Snowstorm's electrical control and stabilization system, as well as a pilot safety and energy management and supply system. The current prototype can also be dismantled for ease of transport.

"NUS' Snowstorm shows that a personal flying machine is a very real possibility, primarily as a means to fulfil our dreams of flying within a recreational setting," said Dr Joerg Weigl, one of two supervisors of the project.

The team intends to continue development of Snowstorm with the aim of eventually bringing the project to commercialization.

A video of Snowstorm in action can be viewed below.

Source: National University of Singapore

NUS Snowstorm

6 comments
Bob Flint
Yes we know it can be done, but these will never get into mass market to be used by consumers. Legislation & legal issues will ground this and flying cars for a long time till we can prove we can care for ourselves, & our planet.
Daishi
@Bob Flint I see it as more of a proof of concept. Cars are making a move now to EV but (large scale) flight is one area where petroleum based fuels will rule for a while. A human-powered (pedled) copter was done in ~2011 http://www.gizmag.com/gamera-longest-human-powered-helicopter-flight/19570/ What makes this specific feat less impressive is they did it tethered to an extension cord without the use of battery power or weight.
chec
Yes, I agree with Bob Flint that these flying machines will never be allowed to us consumers in our time because of over regulation and big government interference. If this and other personal flying machines had come out 50 years ago, there would have been a chance, before over regulation came in to snuff out these wonderful concepts!
MichiganDave
"Over regulation" is a bad thing? If the technological issues get resolved there is that stubborn human problem that will remain as long as humanity does. If you think car wrecks are horrible now just wait until the wreck occurred 300 feet overhead, and the debris -both material and human- fall on your house, or your kids. I love the dream of being able to just fly up, up and away but I surely do not want to see it become a reality soon. Too many drunk drivers now, and just wait until some nut adds the deer hunting rifle also and for additional political "commentary". We need the government, and we need those regulations.
Bruce H. Anderson
Certainly an interesting engineering challenge. Real world data and experience is a wonderful teacher. I don't see much future for this type of human transport due to energy density of batteries vs jet fuel and the lack of aerodynamic lift. There is also the challenges of landing spaces and propwash.
Nostromo47
The comments that express concerns that that Snowstorm type vehicles will never make it in the mass market as a flying car because they pollute or the bugaboo of "big government" or technological shortfall miss the point. Chill, guys. This is a student project meant to explore the limits of what can be done. To the students, I say, good going! No one knows where this research is going to take us. But, so what? When Jobs and Wozniak were tinkering in their garage, there was no shortage of disparaging opinions about what they were doing; not to mention all those other nerds whose efforts went nowhere. And if we never see manned multicopters as commuter vehicles in the next fifty years, they may still find a place as recreational vehicles outside of urban regions. Just look at the hang gliders and paragliders, powered and unpowered, enjoyed by thousands every weekend.