The world is bent on creating VTOL drones powerful enough to carry people from one place to another. From China’s eHang’s plan for VTOL air taxis in Dubai to Jetpack Aviation’s upcoming prototypes or from eVolo’s Volocopter to Uber’s Elevate whitepaper; these designs have been coming in thick and fast.
While these plans are incredibly elaborate, a rather simple yet impressive Sky-Hopper is here which is the brainchild of a small team from the Netherlands. Their rather unglamorous, boxy airframe is nothing more than a few bars of lightweight, hollow aluminum struts with a small seat in the middle. Nonetheless, its value lies in its power and stability to be able to carry a human being without a hitch.
The drone uses 16 DC props arranged in a grid, with each prop placed around the 18-20 inch range. The pilot can maneuver the drone using a remote control transmitter that is similar to any other multi-copter controller. The Dutch team says that the drone is a result of several months testing on their tethered system in the backyard.
The latest video released by Sky-Hopper shows an untethered, manned flight with the design creator Peter Dobber handling the sticks. The prototype may seem very sketchy in the video. However, the fact that just a handful of such projects have ever been able to lift somebody off the ground safely makes it a rare and laudable feat.
The team now looks to build on the model and look to give a more traditional helicopter shape with accessories like an enclosed cabin, landing skids and detachable arms to support the motors. This model’s small-scale prototype will be flying off next month, which will entail six props on six arms and a carved body.
While the project in itself is impressive, these manned drones are not feasible unless a side market of accessories like ejecting seats, parachutes, and emergency low-altitude landing systems are made to ensure pilot’s safety.
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