This is Sort of Cool

I guess.  It’s an electric milti-copter.  It has one thing going for it that a number of flying machines don’t have– it’s actually gotten off the ground with a human aboard.  I don’t know what it has to offer that a regular helicopter or auto-gyro doesn’t.  Maybe it’s the power transmission system being electrical wires instead of drive shafts and belts.  I immediately though of a hybrid (gas/electric) system, and they talk about that on their web site.  Great as batteries have become, they’re still no match for gasoline.

Still, the main obstacle to wide-spread (affordable) personal aircraft is the FAA and similar, tax-payer-funded authoritarian gangs.  Note that one of the benefits to the multi-copter sited is the fact that it can be flown as an ultra-light– it gets past a lot of the aviation regs.  In a free market we’d all have viable, affordable options for our own aircraft right now.  Poor college kids would have them, as easily as they now have old beat-up cars.

I suppose that would scare the pee out of the authoritarian cowards, so maybe it could be said that we have our current, restrictive system as a means of avoiding the embarrassment for certain people who would soil themselves in public, falling into the fetal position and sucking their thumbs, or simply getting angry and losing control that way.  Frankly, I’d kind of like to see that.  Not in that it would be pleasant, mind you, but it would indicate that we’re on the right track.  In a society where cowards are given any notice other than to receive our contempt, or where cowards actually run things, there will be much impediment to real progress.

HT to the Blaze

6 thoughts on “This is Sort of Cool

  1. I don’t know what it has to offer that a regular helicopter or auto-gyro doesn’t.

    Well, I’m not an aerospace engineer, but I suspect that they’re just simpler to build both in hardware and in software. That’s probably why I first saw them being driven by Arduino type boards.

    With a traditional helicopter you’ve got a rotor to control stability in the rear and a main rotor up top that’s pivoting on a number of axis. Forward, back, tilt left and tilt right. Works OK with the human brain being the pilot of these things, and I’m sure software can do it, but the math has got to be harder. I honestly can’t visualize it, but I have no experience flying a helicopter outside of some basic flight sim software where I always fail miserably.

    But a multi-copter is easier to figure out. Take a simple quad-copter. If you want to pitch forward just fire up to the rear prop to go faster than the others. When the gyro reaches the desired pitch you’re there. Then you just balance power to the rear and forward prop to maintain that. Lateral direction works the same way. Of course, since you’ve really got nothing that indicates front/back/left/right on such a design it’s all the same no matter what direction you really want to move. As you scale it up to 6 or 8 props you gain that much more control over your direction but that complicates controls to the point (I think) where you absolutely need a computer to balance everything out… which is why they’re a perfect match for a hobby project. The software isn’t too complicated, the construction is easier because you just have to mount props on motors and get it well balanced. There’s no need for something like a stepper motor to control pitch, you just spin up variable speed motors to control that.

  2. Lyle,

    The thing to remember is that Hybrid Drives are HEAVY. In addition to your primary mover, you also have the weight of the Generator and the actual Drive Motors. If you were to replace the Electric Drive Motors with IC Engines, they would weigh about what the Electrics do, and the same weight in fuel would power you much longer than what batteries would. It’s interesting but electrics are always going to be extremely range limited unless a major breakthrough is made in battery tech.

  3. “I suppose that would scare the pee out of the authoritarian cowards”

    I’m not an authoritarian coward, but the idea of a sky full of these things scares the pee out of me.

    “Still, the main obstacle to wide-spread (affordable) personal aircraft is the FAA and similar, tax-payer-funded authoritarian gangs.”

    I’m going to go ahead and disagree with you there:
    The average person can’t keep their car in their own lane. Giving them a third dimension to play with is a recipe for carnage. Just look at general aviation safety records, then realize these are people truly committed to flying. A fender bender on the ground can be fixed with a trip to the body shop. A fender bender at several hundred or thousand feet is a trip to the morgue. Individual (& wide-spread) air transport won’t be viable until it can be automated and the human taken out of the equation. Of course, that will also take the joy out of flying. For that to happen, someone will have to set the inter vehicle com standards, for better or worse, that will probably be the FAA. The other option is to let industry set them, but that would end up like web-standards: a mash up of half baked ‘standards’ that leads to something that ‘mostly’ works. A 404 is fine if you’re just looking for a bit of midget pron, but it’s a very different situation if you’re low on fuel, and your LZ comes up ‘404’…

    Most people envision personal air transport as the sci-fi fantasy version, I think the truth will look more like the hover-taxi chase scene from ‘The Fifth Element’.

    Put alternately; imagine a wal-mart parking lot full of multi-copters on black Friday…

  4. anon; you have regurgitated just about all the rationalizations for centralized political control and promoted the fears that we’ve all heard promoted all our lives. What is it that makes you apparently believe that a) I haven’t hear it all since I was a kid in the 1960s, or that b) just one more repetition added to the million or so I’ve already heard, will finally get that drivel to sink into my skull so I’ll start believing it again after believing it as a dumb kid and then rejecting it?

    “Put alternately; imagine a wal-mart parking lot full of multi-copters on black Friday…”

    If you don’t like it or are too afraid, don’t go there. It is then none of your business.

    See how easy that is? If you lack a scintilla of imagination or of understanding of how people solve problems on their own, then you can just opt out, dig a hole in the ground, stay out of other people’s way, and watch human progress from a distance.

  5. Lyle, I didn’t mean to draw your ire. I wouldn’t hang around this blog if I didn’t have libertarian tendencies. I just pointed out some pretty obvious problems with personal air transport and suggested that some sort of central authority just _might_ make the idea a little more workable. But we can forget that if you wish. Just toss it away, and imagine a libertarian future where none of that mattered. A world where anyone with the ingenuity and capitol can build and sell these things, and anyone with the cash (well, OK, not cash, because there’d be no central authority for a nasty fiat currency, but: anyone with the barter goods or whatever) can buy one and fly it… But let’s not forget air rights: Imagine, assuming that you have a ‘scintilla of imagination or of understanding’ of how people view their property rights, trying to patch together air passage agreements with every landowner whose property you wish to overfly on the way to wherever it is you’re going. Imagine what that would be like if you wanted to fly coast to coast…

    Kim du Toit wrote an essay about Libertarianism years ago that sort of touched on this conceptually. paraphrasing: his basic point (as I recall it) was that Libertarianism is a fine guiding ideology, but it isn’t really a practical basis for any kind of functional society. You are, of course, free to disagree.

    Also, to answer your questions: I now realize I won’t change your mind. Your mind is very clearly made up. So, I guess I’m speaking to fellow fans of this blog. I hope you’ll forgive me for using your ideas as a launching point for my own.

    Rob

  6. First, with regards to humans flying: I think we all are far more capable of flying than you make us out to be. Flying is more scary than driving, so most people who attempt it, will do so with greater caution…and those that don’t will just die, and serve as a warning for the rest of us.

    Second, with regards to why more of us don’t fly: it’s too expensive to learn how! And, once we do, it’s too expensive to maintain a vehicle. One of my grandpas built an ultralight–it was borderline, fairly good-sized, and barely fit in his workshop. He flew it once, and it crashed. He also lived in the middle of a small town–thus, if he wanted to fly it, he had to drive out to an open field. All this, for a tiny plane that probably wouldn’t fly great distances, at great speeds.

    Third, air space is no problem: a libertarian case was made that the concept that “owning the air” went up infinitely upward worked nicely when flight was impossible, but became nonsensical when flight became normal. But there’s another simple Common Law principle that applies just as well: you own the air you occupy. Thus, if you have a tree, or make a tower, or build a skyscraper, that air is yours–as is the air that is used to get to your landing pad (which, by the way, the Empire State Building has, for airships like the Hindingburg–my brain is too scrambled right now to remember the right term and name). You do NOT, however, own all that air above you, so anyone can use that air for whatever they please (so long as they follow yet another Common Law principle, that you cannot disturb the peace with excessive noise or pollution, for you were there first).

    In any case, I do not see anything that government does, that cannot have been accomplished with the use of a few basic Common Law principles, and a certain element of “Fear for your life”!

    All things considered, Lyle is most likely right: the excess of regulations has chocked out the possibility of personal flight, even more so than our physical limitations.

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