Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Hobby Inspired Electric Multicopter Makes Manned Flight

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the you-want-me-to-fly-in-what-now? dept.

Robotics 104

garymortimer writes "A German team has managed to fly its super-sized hobby inspired platform with a man on-board! A one-hour flight would cost something near to 6 Euro for electricity. In addition, the device holds few parts that could wear out, making maintenance intervals and cost low and far between. The control firmware can be integrated with a sophisticated integrated GPS system or obstacle detection. As such, automated flight for predetermined points on a 3D map is possible."

cancel ×

104 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

WOW! DIY Please (1)

bfmorgan (839462) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909228)

Publish the plans please!

Darwin Award Waiting to happen. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37909592)

Plans would instantly kill people. While R/C is an amazing hobby, you have to know a few things. These blades are not protected, that guy wearing a helmet? It's not going to help him when a blade breaks and decapitates him! and while motor failure was discussed, an unballanced rotor wasn't... That will screw things up fast!

Neat Idea, but not something I'd sit on. Not yet anyway...

Re:Darwin Award Waiting to happen. (1)

stooo (2202012) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909850)

True, a broken rotor could also make nearby rotors break.
Furthermore, i don't think this will be practical for more than a few minutes (battery weight)

Re:Darwin Award Waiting to happen. (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910206)

This could be part of the solution [theonion.com] to the US budget problems.

Re:Darwin Award Waiting to happen. (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911170)

I'd fly one in a heartbeat, assuming I had the skill, of course...I'm (so far) strictly a fixed-wing pilot :-)

First, I seriously doubt one of those blades would even remotely decapitate the pilot. As I've already discussed in the comments to this article [slashdot.org] , I think the likelihood of a blade breaking is very, very remote. Even if a blade were to fail, did you see the size of those blades? I doubt they would have the mass to penetrate deeply even if a blade broke and even if it were to fail in such a way as to fly towards the pilot. Second, yeah, an unbalanced rotor is a pretty big deal, but I think it would be trivial to design a circuit to detect excessive vibration in the motor and shut off power to that one motor if such a condition were to occur.

I'd be more concerned about a complete loss of power, for example, due to battery failure. I imagine this particular device doesn't do auto-rotation very well, and it's about as aerodynamic as a brick, so I suspect it doesn't glide any better. Consequently, I'd feel a lot better with a ballistic recovery chute on board, although that can be problematic to engineer on rotary-wing aircraft. Unfortunately, I didn't see one on TFA.

Re:Darwin Award Waiting to happen. (2, Interesting)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911338)

At about 0:44 in the video included in TFA, you can see them starting to load out the batteries. There appears to be one battery pack per motor, which eliminates the possibility of centralized battery failure. Can't say if there are redundancies in the control mechanisms.

This is most certainly a proof-of-concept prototype. Adding more robust safety and control systems should happen after they prove the thing works, which it appears they have.

A tip-o-the-hat to the e-volo team for brightening my day.

Re:Darwin Award Waiting to happen. (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912726)

Ahh...I didn't watch the video since I'm at work ;)

Re:Darwin Award Waiting to happen. (2)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912060)

Autorotation requires variable-pitch rotors; these are fixed pitch, but with some redundancy in the power and control systems, I bet this thing can be made rather safe. They look like large off-the-shelf model airplane props. A bit scary when they all spin like that, but a shroud around the prop can catch any debris if a prop breaks, and the control system can quickly shut that motor down.

Oh, and these multirotor platforms are easy to stabilise; with the right control system this thing will be a snap to fly, far easier than a regular heli or even a fixed wing plane (I've flown models of all of these).

Re:Darwin Award Waiting to happen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37913756)

So that woman who cut in front of me on the freeway while she was texting this morning because she didn't see the car stopped in front of her will instead plummet out of the sky on top of me. Great.

Re:WOW! DIY Please (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913238)

Great invention, and great music on the video!

Pogo-copter... (1)

Rhacman (1528815) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909238)

...is what'cha call it!

Nah...you'd call it... (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909290)

The control firmware can be integrated with a sophisticated integrated GPS system or obstacle detection. As such, automated flight for predetermined points on a 3D map is possible."

"Hello and welcome to Johnny-Copter!!"

Safety? (2)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909260)

Would it be so hard to suspend the pilot's chair underneath that mass of spinning rotors? I dub this thing "The Impaler".

GET TO DA' CHOPPA! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909348)

I'm pretty sure Cuisinart is a French brand.

Re:GET TO DA' CHOPPA! (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910580)

It Slices!

It Dices!

It Makes Julian (into) Fries!

Re:GET TO DA' CHOPPA! (1)

MrNiceguy_KS (800771) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910672)

Someone please mod parent up, based simply on the subject.

Re:Safety? (2)

WastedMeat (1103369) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910180)

That would make it more stable, but harder to maneuver. With the center of mass in the plane of the rotors, it only takes very slight modifications to the torque to rotate it, and is probably the more power efficient way to do it. There is much more micromanaging of the controls to keep it level this way, but this is all done by computer and the pilot is fucked in any case if the computer fails.

It has been a while since I was obsessing over this stuff as a kid, but I believe that was one of the innovations behind the F-16 when it was introduced. It was so unstable that a human could not fly it; the manual controls were essentially a DC offset on the rapid control from the computer. This made it incredibly maneuverable.

Re:Safety? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911068)

You don't put the CM right in the plane of the rotors. That's the critically stable point. You put it a few cm or dm below that. Now you have stability, and only a small moment to overcome to hold a non-level attitude. But, if you suspend the pilot below the frame, and gimbal the strut he's hanging from, now you're not worried about that moment at all. Make the gimbal an actively controlled joint, and you can use it for control, too. I call prior art.

Re:Safety? (1)

WastedMeat (1103369) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912354)

I did not mean precisely at the critical point, just that the entire body of the pilot should not be dramatically displaced. I still think that the critically stable point is a reasonable goal, considering that the computer can continually adjust the individual motors to keep the thing upright, and there is no gravitational torque to continually fight for any ground speed. A free gimbal would demand that the motors be powerful enough to correct for chaotic forces from a swinging 100KG mass in addition to maintaining normal flight, and an active gimbal would add a lot of unnecessary weight, and I doubt that would be more efficient.

It is hard to guess from that picture where the actual center of mass is anyway, since the power source is likely contained in that bulb under the pilot, but it looks to me like the goal was to keep the center of mass near the plane of the rotors, and this seems like the simplest and most efficient design considering that all rotors are under computer control anyway.

Re:Safety? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914706)

That bulb under the pilot is a Swiss Ball [google.com] , and it's there because it's cheap, light, tough, and pretty foolproof as a landing gear for a hovering vehicle.

The best reason to depress the CM below the rotors is that you don't have to do so much fine control to get what you want. You won't get terrific responsiveness, but you won't be wobbling about a nearly-unstable balance point.

If they do that, though, it stops being really different and becomes similar to any other lightweight helicopter, only with 8 small motors and propellors instead of one big one, and no need for a tail rotor. You can steer it without any control other than a throttle and a stick that angles the propellor frame relative to whatever you're hanging from.

Re:Safety? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37912816)

Depends upon the crash scenario, doesn't it? I can think of scenarios where being above would be safer, and others where being below would be safer. (Although, I'll admit I'm extremely skeptical about the entire safety proposition of all "flying machine for everyone" designs, regardless of configuration.)

A sufficiently high energy accident will result in blade or blade fragments going every which way. Any significant loss-of-control accident will likely involve one of the booms contacting the surface first, and either crumpling, bending, digging in (pole-vaulting), or groundlooping. And then there are the secondary trajectories (cartwheeling, tumbling, groundlooping) resulting from any remaining thrust from the surviving blades.

A plain-old heavy landing -- in a stable upright attitude -- would likely involve bent booms, undercarriage collapse (is that an exercise baloon?!), and blade contact with the surface.

Given all of the potential crash entropy, I'm not convinced that pilot-above-blades is any more inherently dangerous than pilot-below-blades.

Of course, if it came to a parachute bail-out, I'd definitely prefer to be below the blades. :-) But then, even that assumes a stable upright attitude -- which is not the norm for bail-out situations.

Euros? (-1, Troll)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909268)

A one-hour flight would cost something near to 6 Euro for electricity

So what is that in non-monopoly money? :) (before I get flamed: US centric site, and USD is the standard international currency.)

More on topic: while that multi-copter looks really cool, it also looks like a good way to loose weight. Specifically, by having your flesh smeared all over the field. Helicopter blades are usually put over the copter for a reason (though that does tend to make ejector seats... problematic.)

This is not a new idea, BTW, I remember reading an article about a copter like this which was intended to be used by the military to pass safely over minefields. Stability is a massive problem, because like I said, if you fall into the blades, you get an action-movie worthy death (or at least major accident, depending on blade speed/ construction).

Re:Euros? (1)

donstenk (74880) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909338)

Also on a US centric site one hour flight _in Germany_ would cost €6. In US dollars _today_ that would be just over $8.

Having followed Slashdot for around 15 years I never found it very US centric, but maybe I have missed something.

Re:Euros? (1)

elPetak (2016752) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910108)

Everything is US centric for some US people... I feel sorry for them. They have no idea there is a bigger world out there.

Re:Euros? (2)

SenseiLeNoir (699164) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909582)

Dont get me wrong, this is an amazing accomplishment. But six euros of electricity seems something like 20 - 50 KW of power. I wonder how LONG it will take to charge!!!!!!!

Not to mention the battery to hold that...

Not to mention the charging equipment, and power requirements to be able to "fast" charge it.

Re:Euros? (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910038)

20-50kW of power is going to cost you a lot more than six euros. 200A two phase run from the nearby transformer, plus a breaker and distribution panel wired to code, is going to cost you a couple thousand. Car batteries are good for 6-8kW each, so you could probably get by with 300-500 euros that route. A smallish capacitor bank would likely be the cheapest route to that much power, but isn't going to last long.

Now at US electricity rates, you're looking at around €0.06/kWh. I've heard European rates can be double to triple that, so 20-50kWh of energy does sound reasonable, but then energy is not power. €12/hr means the thing draws somewhere around 40-100kW of power just to hover.

Re:Euros? (1)

SenseiLeNoir (699164) | more than 2 years ago | (#37917904)

I agree with all you are saying :) In fact that's what I was pointing that the grid itself cannot provide that much charging power over a conventional 13amp wire (what we use in the UK) and even a 60amp wire (approx 6 to 7 KW) is going to still take a long time to charge.

It is "possible" to get 20 to 50 KWH in six euros, let me explain.

Here in the UK, we dont have standing (compulsory) charges, instead they charge the first few KWH at a higher rate than the normal rate. so for example, the first 3 KWH is 25p, then 7 - 9p thereafter. so 20 kwh over a day will cost £3.78 = just over 4 euros. 50 kwh is £4.98 = just under 6 euros. If you are on a nighttime tarrif (like me) then the cost is 4p per KWH with no higher rate charge, if done overnight. therefore we could squeeze 125 KWH for £5 = about 6Euros.

The power company will probably have a word with you if you do that though!

Re:Euros? (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 2 years ago | (#37920186)

Kilowatt hours (kWh) is a measure of energy, and costs however much your local power utility charges you. I did say that €6 did sound like a reasonable utility charge for 20-50kWh of energy. However, you did not say kWh , you said kW , a measure of instantaneous power. Not only that but you specifically said it was power and not energy.

The cost of instantaneous power is the cost of whatever device you use to provide that power. That could be a bank of capacitors, a bank of batteries, an engine hooked up to a generator, a link to the utility company rated for that much power, or something else like that. My point is that I doubt you could build anything for under €6 capable of outputting 20kW of electrical power.

I was pedantically correcting your use of words, because any time any story about power consumption ever comes up, people always seem to use power and energy interchangeably. It is a personal hatred that does not allow me to sleep at night because someone is wrong on the internet.

Re:Euros? (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910112)

Get rid of most of the batteries.
Replace that weight with a small efficient gas generator and your problems are solved.

Re:Euros? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910370)

No, it'd be more efficient to get rid of the electric motor altogether, and have a piston or turbine engine driving the rotors directly. Of course, that's exactly what modern helicopters do.

You won't get any efficiency benefits by creating electricity with a generator and driving an electric motor with it. That only works in cars, where the load is highly variable, and in trains and construction equipment, where they need the gigantic stall torque that electric motors can create; in both situations, weight isn't that much of a problem, and a hybrid system like this adds a lot of weight. Helicopters don't have variable loads; they always run the engine at 100%, so there's no benefit to a hybrid approach.

Re:Euros? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37913858)

Except that it is much easier to control many rotors using one gas generator and electrical motors at each of the rotors.

Re:Euros? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914048)

No, it's not. On a helicopter, there's only two rotors, and they're mechanically linked together because there's no reason to spin them at different speeds (you control them by altering the pitch of the blades). Even if there were a good reason for that, it still wouldn't come close to making up for the enormous weight penalty of a hybrid-electric system.

I've said it before the last time one of these dumb electric helicopter stories came up on Slashdot, and I'll say it again. Electric helicopters will NEVER be a reality until battery technology is orders of magnitude better than it is today (probably 2). The only reason we have such successful R/C ones is because those are tiny, super lightweight (they're made of styrofoam!), can't lift any kind of useful load, and don't stay aloft for hours at a time. We may even have successful electrically-powered UAV helicopters soon, but again those will be too small and underpowered to do anything besides be small, unmanned recon vehicles. To replace the kind of helicopter that carries humans, or better yet carries huge quantities of water for firefighting, or can lift tanks, requires an enormous amount of power which can only be provided by fossil fuels and internal combustion.

Re:Euros? (1)

NixieBunny (859050) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915410)

But this thing DOES carry a human! Granted, it's not carrying him any distance, but it at least got off the ground.
One order of magnitude in battery performance improvement would make this device workable for some applications.
Of course, the last order of magnitude improvement took 50 years, so I'm not holding my breath.

Re:Euros? (1)

lisp-hacker (460029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37931992)

No, it's not. On a helicopter, there's only two rotors, and they're mechanically linked together because there's no reason to spin them at different speeds (you control them by altering the pitch of the blades).

Exactly this is not necessary with these Brushless E-Engines. The control is done by some gyros and electronics. No complex pitch control as in helicopters. No horrible mechanics, required to be maintained every day. No redundant hydraulic systems, no prove that the system remains halfway stable and controllable by a (extremely experienced) pilot, if the single (turbine) engine breaks and you have to autogyro. This prototype is already able to fly up to 20mins with the current LIPO batteries. It stabilizes itself, it weight is about the same as the human on top. Engines Props and Batteries are nothing special, taken from the shop. Even if some of them break, the beast will be able to be landed.

Re:Euros? (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914458)

Doesn't work with these multicopter setups. They do not run at 100% all the time since the blades are fixed pitch. Direction and stability is maintained by varying the speed and each rotor has to be independent of the others. You'd need a massively complex mechanical setup to achieve that.

To do what you are saying, you'd require variable pitch blades so the engine could run at 100% all the time.

Re:Euros? (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910126)

At 20c per KWH, $8 would be 40 KWH of electricity. I think I actually pay more like 10c, but never mind. Using lead-acid batteries to produce 40 KWH of electricity would require (... quickly delving into Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] ...) about 1000 lbs. of batteries, assuming you could pull ALL the electricity out, which you can't - more like 30%. So, 3000 lbs. of batteries.

OTOH, a smallish car engine would do fine. Funny how that works.

That thing looks like the original saucer-shaped predecessor of the Moller SkyCar might look without the body. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Euros? (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911064)

Lead-acid is a poor choice, due to low energy density. LIon batteries are about 3X better per kg, enough lighter that you'd actually get off the ground.

Re:Euros? (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911512)

Yep. I was too lazy to look up Li-ion battery data as well. If they are 3X better, then it's still 1000 lbs. of batteries. And looking back at my arithmetic, I may have swapped Kg for lb., which makes things 2.2 times worse. Let's see - lead-acid = 40 WH / Kg. We need 40000 WH => 1000 Kg (not lb), and we can't use the whole amount, only 1/3 = 3000 Kg. So it is 2.2 times worse. You'll need 3000 Kg of lead-acid or 1000 Kg of Li-ion batteries. Sorry 'bout that. :P

Re:Euros? (1)

EETech1 (1179269) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912170)

My friend lost power in a storm a few months ago, and I rigged up a male to male extension cord, and plugged my inverter into his wall outlet, and we backfed power into his house to keep a few things going. I was charging group 31 deep cycle batteries on my commute to work, and I measured that they held almost exactly 1 KwH of energy each. Depending on the type of charge it took anywhere from 1.3X to 2.0X to charge them.

It is definitely interesting trying to live on 1 - 2 KwH a day and keep stuff going. Thank goodness for the kill-a-watt, gas hot water heaters, and city water pressure!

Re:Euros? (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913458)

I know someone who lives off the grid, on 60 acres. He started out with a diesel generator until he got his house built, now he has solar and a bit of wind. He has a very nice power system. The system looks at the wire every second to see if there is any demand, and if there is it provide the full 2 or 3 KW. The rest of the time it doesn't waste its own power maintaining the level. He had a heck of a time tracking down all the stray hidden power drains - even an LED on some piece of equipment was enough to trigger the system to come on. I think he averages about 1.5 KWH per day, including the water well. He has wood heat.

Re:Euros? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911126)

It's the battery that gets me.

The batteries in a Chevy Volt hold a couple of dollars worth of electricity, and weigh 175 kilos. That's twice what that pilot there weighs.

Sorry, kids. You're not getting an hour-long flight off the ground until you change the laws of physics.

Re:Euros? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37909728)

So what is that in non-monopoly money? :) (before I get flamed: US centric site, and USD is the standard international currency.)

I do agree that this is a US centric site, and thus dollars would be more appropriate. However, the standard internatural currency is the Euro, and it's been the Euro for a while.

Re:Euros? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910246)

the standard internatural currency is the Euro, and it's been the Euro for a while.

What other nature are you trading with?

Re:Euros? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909872)

An american complaining about monopoly money. Oh the irony.

Re:Euros? (0)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909946)

Hmm, I wonder if there is an HTML tag for "JOKE"? I've needed it several times on /., and apparently so do the mods...

6 EURO!? (1)

Saintwolf (1224524) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909274)

Damn that's economical!

Re:6 EURO!? (1)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909440)

The big question is, does that price include lifting the batteries needed for a 1 hour flight?

Re:6 EURO!? (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910296)

From TFA: "A better flight time from on average 20-30 minutes is something we wish to improve." [emphasis mine]

Re:6 EURO!? (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909476)

Compared to a real copter, for sure!

I wonder how fast it can go (how far you can get in that one hour). Cheaper or more expensive than a car?

I love the craft, by the way, it looks so amazingly simple!

Re:6 EURO!? (1)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909760)

Damn that's economical!

Depends on how far you can travel in 1 hour of flight...

Re:6 EURO!? (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910366)

In one hour flight I could do it twice or more the way from my house to work and back. That with the fact of being quiet and possibly take up less space than a car when saved creates an interesting way to replace a car

Re:6 EURO!? (1)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912030)

In one hour flight I could do it twice or more the way from my house to work and back. That with the fact of being quiet and possibly take up less space than a car when saved creates an interesting way to replace a car

Can you? Your scenario is exactly where I was going with it. The flying car is approaching us and all that. However, that's only assuming the thing moves fast enough that you could make it to work in back in a reasonable time. If we're talking about an hour's flight hovering around for fun, that's still incredibly cool in that it makes hobby flying more accessible to people, but it's not going to change the world.

Safety.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37909300)

I think it would help if the pilot was UNDER the blades, not parallel/above them. The shards will either go out or up if they fail, best plan is not to be there if it happens. And maybe some blade guards? If that thing's controllers failed while they were strapping on the batteries it could have been bad.

Very cool though, time to make it out of carbon fiber to add more lifting capacity.

Re:Safety.... (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910286)

First, let me say that I agree that the pilot should probably be under the blades, although I'm more concerned about stability. Lots of people have commented on the possibility of broken propellers, and yes, that is something to consider. However, I'd say it's less of a factor than most people on /. seem to think. I've got somewhere between 900 and 1000 hours of pilot in command time* in about 20 years and guess how many in-flight propeller failures I've seen in that time?

None.

Zero.

Not. One. Single. Failure.

Even the propeller that a friend of mine dragged along the runway during a botched landing bent, but didn't break. For the record, she recognized that something was wrong, and added power to "go around", and flew another approach and landing after curling up the last four inches of the propeller blade, but it didn't fail. The ONLY broken propeller I've ever seen was on my "amateur-built, experimental" airplane [google.com] when a windstorm overnight flipped the airplane onto its tail (it's a pusher airplane, not a tractor like most Cessnas or Pipers), breaking the wooden prop. But that wasn't an in-flight failure; it happened at night, while the aircraft was unattended and *definitely* not running.

*admittedly, in airplanes, not helicopters and most definitely not multicopters. I'd be surprised if that made any difference, however.

Re:Safety.... (1)

lisp-hacker (460029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37932030)

First, let me say that I agree that the pilot should probably be under the blades, although I'm more concerned about stability. Lots of people have commented on the possibility of broken propellers, and yes, that is something to consider. However, I'd say it's less of a factor than most people on /. seem to think. I've got somewhere between 900 and 1000 hours of pilot in command time* in about 20 years and guess how many in-flight propeller failures I've seen in that time? ... *admittedly, in airplanes, not helicopters and most definitely not multicopters. I'd be surprised if that made any difference, however.

As far as I understood, the pilot position is wanted above, because it allows to use a typical parachute safety, as in many ultralights. This is impossible with normal helicopter setups, due to the rotor on top. As for stability: without the electronic controller this beast will be inherently instable (doesn't matter where the COG is). With the controller the neutral state is, that the thing balances itself, hovering on the spot. With some reasonable controller (GPS etc.) it would even stabilize it's absolute position. Therefore it is relatively easy to fly, especially in contrast to classic Helicopters.

Now if someone can clone a manned F27-C Stryker! (1)

DRAGONWEEZEL (125809) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909308)

That would be amazing (though loud...). Flying R/C has got to be the most amazing Hobby ever.

Re:Now if someone can clone a manned F27-C Stryker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914102)

Meh... I'd actually be much more impressed if somebody built a manned version of a 3D-aerobatic and inverted flight capable helicopter with collective capable of going into the negative range like the TRex. Now that would take some real engineering know-how.

Meatgrinder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37909422)

Meatgrinder included

F'IN AWESOME! (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909442)

I always wondered if this was possible. I thought the main problem would be sluggishness due to the increased mass of the props, but dividing the load among many smaller props helps to reduce this problem. But now it works! SWEET! And the increased number of props means better redundancy so more engines can fail without it dropping out of the sky.

Now it looks like they need more power. No need to be green at this stage, try hooking up a Rotax/micro-turbine generator to get some more juice and see how it goes! If I had the money I'd totally be trying this stuff. With an explosively deployed chute this sort of craft could be quite safe.

Flying car tiem? :D

Re:F'IN AWESOME! (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909900)

And the increased number of props means better redundancy so more engines can fail without it dropping out of the sky.

Electric motors don't fail that often, but it does help against the blade failure problem.

After that you'd have to worry about battery/power failure :).

Re:F'IN AWESOME! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37911450)

"Now it looks like they need more power. No need to be green at this stage, try hooking up a Rotax/micro-turbine generator to get some more juice and see how it goes! "

No. Electricity is better. You can land anywhere and find an outlet, but landing and finding jet fuel is a bit more difficult. Plus this probably uses less electricity than an electric car since the weight is almost nothing. No four seats, no stereo, no trunk, no glass, no doors, no.... anything. Just motors, batteries and driver. It would be like an electric go-kart. Bet it could recharge on 120v in a few hours compared to the 20+ hours electric cars take to get ~80 miles.

Re:F'IN AWESOME! (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911560)

You know this needs to lift itself into the air right? It's not an airship, it's more like a small helicopter. It surely uses at least as much as an electric compact car would under heavy acceleration. The other problem is range. For now gasoline is still way more space & weight-efficient than any kind of battery at this scale.

F-16 (2)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909464)

Every time i see one of these amateur fly-by-wire setups, i think of the F-16 development. One of the main show stoppers in the F-16 was the fact that the software would get confused when crossing the equator. It would flip the plane upside down fast enough to kill the pilot and then happily fly upside down until it ran out of fuel. Other little things like it would allow for wheels up while sitting on the tarmac, or allowing a bomb to come off the rack while inverted. Automation in flying is hard, and quite honestly you have to be prepared to lose pilots. http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/3.44.html [ncl.ac.uk]

Re:F-16 (1)

zill (1690130) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909716)

Fortunately that F-16 bug was caught and fixed during simulation. [ncl.ac.uk]

Re:F-16 (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910064)

Yes i knew i should have added 'in simulation' to the equator flip bug. The other bugs I mentioned were found out the hard way.

Re:F-16 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37911862)

My old boss came from the F-16 software validation group, and (supposedly) he got to see first hand what happens when you don't really know what the signal coming from your WOW sensor is, and are asked to validate software. The simulated setup passed all tests, the actual landing gear retracted, and the plane crashed to the ground.

He went into great detail about the whole thing, so I don't think it was FOD:)

Re:F-16 (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910322)

Nope. If you follow the right process while developing -- like the team that did shuttle's software -- you won't have such problems.

WTF (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913992)

The shuttle? The US space shuttle? Which couldn't be launched in late December because the computer couldn't cope with year end roll over? Because the programmers didn't think the shuttle would ever be in orbit over the New Year? Seriously? A problem that existed since Mercury, was repeated on the shuttle and wasn't fixed until 2007? That's your standard of excellence?

El Reg [theregister.co.uk]

MSNBC [msn.com] "The shuttle computers were never envisioned to fly through a year-end changeover"

Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] "Historically, the Shuttle was not launched if its flight would run from December to January (a year-end rollover or YERO). Its flight software, designed in the 1970s, was not designed for this, and would require the orbiter's computers be reset through a change of year, which could cause a glitch while in orbit. In 2007, NASA engineers devised a solution so Shuttle flights could cross the year-end boundary"

Re:WTF (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914238)

That's just silly, every single article you link to. The specs for the code were such that there would be no year-end-crossing missions, that's all there is to it. This has nothing to do with when was the flight software designed in. It simply wasn't in the specs back then, and there was no funding to change it any time earlier than when they did actually change the specs and implemented it. You're providing a straw man for an argument. Space Shuttle's flight software was probably the best engineered piece of software there ever was. See here [fastcompany.com] . Or we can cite Feynman [fotuva.org] , who had quite low bullshit threshold and would not be impressed if there was nothing to be impressed about:

The software is checked very carefully in a bottom-up fashion. First, each new line of code is checked, then sections of code or modules with special functions are verified. The scope is increased step by step until the new changes are incorporated into a complete system and checked. This complete output is considered the final product, newly released. But completely independently there is an independent verification group, that takes an adversary attitude to the software development group, and tests and verifies the software as if it were a customer of the delivered product. There is additional verification in using the new programs in simulators, etc. A discovery of an error during verification testing is considered very serious, and its origin studied very carefully to avoid such mistakes in the future. Such unexpected errors have been found only about six times in all the programming and program changing (for new or altered payloads) that has been done. The principle that is followed is that all the verification is not an aspect of program safety, it is merely a test of that safety, in a non-catastrophic verification. Flight safety is to be judged solely on how well the programs do in the verification tests. A failure here generates considerable concern.

To summarize then, the computer software checking system and attitude is of the highest quality. There appears to be no process of gradually fooling oneself while degrading standards so characteristic of the Solid Rocket Booster or Space Shuttle Main Engine safety systems. To be sure, there have been recent suggestions by management to curtail such elaborate and expensive tests as being unnecessary at this late date in Shuttle history. This must be resisted for it does not appreciate the mutual subtle influences, and sources of error generated by even small changes of one part of a program on another. There are perpetual requests for changes as new payloads and new demands and modifications are suggested by the users. Changes are expensive because they require extensive testing. The proper way to save money is to curtail the number of requested changes, not the quality of testing for each.

One might add that the elaborate system could be very much improved by more modern hardware and programming techniques. Any outside competition would have all the advantages of starting over, and whether that is a good idea for NASA now should be carefully considered.

(emphasis mine)

Re:F-16 (1)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910882)

OpenPilot takes care of a lot of the control of these things. The firmware is already completely open. It is being tested in many vehicles all over the world.

The hardware is supposed to be released as open source fairly soon. As of now, they are limiting production to ensure proper testing...

http://www.openpilot.org/ [openpilot.org]

Re:F-16 (1)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913738)

or allowing a bomb to come off the rack while inverted

This is not necessarily a mistake: one of the methods for low-level delivery of a nuclear bomb while still giving the airplane time to get out of the blast radius is to release the bomb while performing a tight Immelmann loop. This has the effect of throwing the bomb upwards, and unless you've got perfect timing on the bomb release, releases the bomb when the aircraft is partially inverted.

Re:F-16 (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921758)

IN the example given, the bomb came off the rack, bent the wing and rolled off. But your comment did give me a funny image of a plane chucking a nuclear football.

Don't worry... (1)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909482)

They played rasta musika during the epilogue. No need to send in the predator drones.

human blender (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37909644)

If that thing takes a nose-dive and he goes face first into one of those blades....

Package delivery! (1)

Commontwist (2452418) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910090)

Rework the design so that instead of a pilot you have a circular ring in the center that can allow the craft to float over a prepared object (or person?) and, using some kind of servo, attach it to the craft to be delivered to a hard-to-reach area. With GPS the craft can auto-release at a designated location and height.

Be neat to auto-guide the craft to a location, deliver an object, then return to base for recharging. Then reverse the path to return the object (or person's new location?) back.

Re:Package delivery! (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910450)

Be neat to auto-guide the craft to a location, deliver an object, then return to base for recharging.

Your 'object' sounds exactly like a bomb or missile. I know you were thinking FedEx, but it's not really any different than a Predator.

Re:Package delivery! (1)

Commontwist (2452418) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911166)

Was thinking more like live cargo, military or private, or medical supplies.

Private: Drop of a hiker somewhere normally inaccessible by foot, they wander around, then they get picked up at a prearranged time.

Military: Paratrooper or other grunt gets airlifted from boat, flies low to avoid radar, auto-ejected at a certain point, and craft returns. If clearing big enough then possible pickup of grunt/trooper possible as well.

Medical: Can lift off and drop off needed medical assistance that normally too heavy to luge around when doctor pages.

Re:Package delivery! (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915198)

Was thinking more like live cargo, military or private, or medical supplies.

None of this is any different from a current helicopter

Private: Drop of a hiker somewhere normally inaccessible by foot, they wander around, then they get picked up at a prearranged time.

Heliskiing

Military: Paratrooper or other grunt gets airlifted from boat, flies low to avoid radar, auto-ejected at a certain point, and craft returns. If clearing big enough then possible pickup of grunt/trooper possible as well.

Standard military ops

Medical: Can lift off and drop off needed medical assistance that normally too heavy to luge around when doctor pages.

Coast Guard or oil platform ops.

The Navy and Army already have near term small helicopter UAV's. Retrofit that same control system into a Blackhawk, and there ya go.

This thing, with 16 motors introduces many more points of failure. Very cool, but practical? No. And definitely not useful for real world applications. Not yet, anyway.

Re:Package delivery! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914976)

Sure it is the Predator does not require you to sign for your "package".

A Couple of Thoughts (1)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910474)

First, while I agree with the human-in-a-blender comments above, I think a better analogy is running over a big rat with a gang mower.

Second, who cares? This is seriously cool and way safer than that dude flying his rocket pack across the Channel. Progress is not made by chickens.

Third, MAJOR props to the pilot for using the approved video gamer slouch seating posture appropriate to the controller.

Re:A Couple of Thoughts (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911158)

This is seriously cool and way safer than that dude flying his rocket pack across the Channel.

The infinite coolness of Yves Rossy's flights makes up for any unsafeness they may exhibit. Times about a billion.

This is toenail clipping compared with that.

Re:A Couple of Thoughts (1)

serbanp (139486) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912952)

The thingie he was using to control the meat grinder is a vanilla 2.4GHz TX, not a game console.

Mistitled (1)

ddd0004 (1984672) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910640)

Maybe: Record the Location of your Death with Homemade German Suicide Machine

Is that...? (1)

Fishbulb (32296) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910874)

Best use of a Swiss Ball, ever.

Re:Is that...? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911178)

Um, maybe second best.

(BT, DT)

Fantastic (1)

cyberthanasis12 (926691) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911150)

Fantastisch!

Think electric car (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37912026)

This thing won't use less electricity than an electric car so the battery for an hour flight will be about the same.

So ... the flying part will be $5,000 and the battery will be $20,000.

power rating per engine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37912802)

I'm curious...what's the rating of those engines? I bet there's some kind of equation for power in and thrust out for those rotors & motors, too.

Re:power rating per engine? (2)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913722)

Looks similar to a Great Planes 65cc 80-85-160 Brushless Outrunner Electric Motor [towerhobbies.com] . This particular motor is rated for 7500 W continuous, 8400 W surge. No, I didn't accidentally add a zero. Yes, approximately 10hp out of a motor that fits in a 3.5" cube. Outrunners are pretty damned amazing.

Note - to achieve this power level, you'll need to feed said motor with 125 amps at 30-50V. No small task there.

Ground Effect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37913614)

I realize that this was just an early test, but it appears this flyer may not have enough thrust to make it out of the ground effect zone. Any experts out there?

Plans? (1)

MattGWU (86623) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913952)

I assume the plans will be for sale in the rear couple pages of Popular Mechanics?

This is the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914662)

video I've seen where I'm certain the guys being filmed didn't request music, or maybe they did - the music is actually that bad. Maybe they wrote it too.

GEM (1)

AJWM (19027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915910)

In the video this thing never got out of ground effect -- although it did hover high in its ground effect -- so it may be more of a GEM (ground effect machine, aka hovercraft with no skirt) than a helicopter. Still cool, but of more-limited utility.

The mounting system for the motors and props seemed a bit funky. It's not clear what's holding the props onto the shafts, and the motors are bolted to the top of the airframe. Instinctively I'd prefer things the other way around, so that the forces are trying to squeeze it together rather than pull it apart, but if they've done the math and allow plenty of margin, it should be ok. (I figure each prop/motor shaft has got something like 16-20 pounds force pulling on it.)

As far as putting the CG above or below the plane of the rotors, it doesn't matter much -- the rotor plane is well spread out, and you get a gyro effect helping you. The Hiller VZ-1 Pawnee [wikipedia.org] , for example, had the pilot standing above a single ducted fan (actually, two contra-rotating rotors in the single duct). That never got much out of ground effect either.

Re:GEM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37922106)

In the video this thing never got out of ground effect -- although it did hover high in its ground effect -- so it may be more of a GEM (ground effect machine, aka hovercraft with no skirt) than a helicopter. Still cool, but of more-limited utility.

Uh I don't think you understand ground effect. It is in proportion to the length of the airfoil not the aircraft. The airfoils on this thing are those small prop blades.

Hippity-Hop (1)

kmoser (1469707) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916372)

Love the Hippity Hop [wikipedia.org] landing cushion.

Very nice video (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916514)

Make sure you watch it in 720p and pause a few times. It's very nicely made.

Cool hobby (1)

onezeta (2484494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916774)

That's nice. Mass production now, please!

This is seriously cool. (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37921182)

I wonder why they didn't mount one motor/rotor underneath one on top of the arm to minimize the footprint of the thing. DraganFlyer is doing that now.
Then, why couldn't you use even bigger motors and bigger props or are these the biggest brushless motors available? Or is it a question of rotor/armature mass that would slow down the response rate of speed changes.

Add a ballistic parachute and this thing would be seriously cool.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>