May 4, 2009 Last week we reported on the two-seater Hummel helicopter concept and mentioned that it looked very similar to the SoloTrek XFV (Exo-skeletal Flying Vehicle) backpack helicopter flown in the movie Agent Cody Banks. We haven't had a close look at this Exoskeleton Flying Vehicle but, although the design was first tested in 2003, it's still a unique form of transport that we hope to see more of in the future.

The Springtail Exoskeleton Flying Vehicle, built by Trek Aerospace, is a single pilot, vertical take-off-and-landing (VTOL) vehicle that supports the operator/pilot in a standing position. The aircraft is powered by a single 118 hp rotary engine, which drives two counter-rotating fans housed in one meter diameter ducts on each side of the aircraft above the pilot. Counter-rotating the blades eliminates the torque usually associated with a single rotor helicopter, so the Springtail does not require a tail rotor.

The aircraft is controlled by a fly-by-wire computer system that can tilt each fan individually to control pitch and yaw. It has a top speed of 113 mph (180 kph) and a range of 184 miles (295 km) from a 12.3-gallon (46.6-liter) fuel tank. With an empty weight of 375 pounds (170 kilograms), it can carry a payload of 358 pounds (162 kilograms). With a full tank, the maximum take off weight is 834 pounds (378 kilograms).

The Springtail EFV-4 "A" research vehicle achieved its first transition to forward flight on November 5, 2003, while a "B" model, with improved variable pitch blades, was tested in 2005. The Springtail VTOL is for sale, but unfortunately due to FAA regulations can only be sold as an experimental aircraft, which limits how it can be flown. The asking price is USD$1.25 million.

Paul Evans

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