Peter Ternstrom was inspired by the movie, “Return of the Jedi”. The scene in which Luke and Leia take to hover-bikes on a high-speed chase left a great impression on him. He co-founded the Swedish firm “Jetson” with Tomasz Patan. His company has released a video of a prototype of a personal flying machine, the “Jetson ONE”. The video has got more than 12 Million views on Youtube in about four weeks. This machine looks like a large drone with its multiple spinning rotors. It can be seen in the video how it is made to blow up dust in a desert area having a helmeted pilot sitting in the center. Actually, it is an electrical Vertical Takeoff and Landing vehicle, known as eVTOL. This vehicle has a capacity of just one passenger, the pilot.
As the vehicle is small in size, they have to keep their price tag small but there is another advantage for the companies selling such vehicles. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says that ultra-light vehicles, that weigh less than 254 lbs and have a maximum speed of 55 kts can be flown without a pilot’s certificate.
Ternstrom is slightly more cautious than he is legally required to be. The first Jetson ONE will sell in 2023, but Ternstrom mentions that he wants the first buyers to be the people who are already in possession of the pilot’s certificate. He further mentions that these people will be the “Ambassadors” for the brand. Moreover, those who buy one, for $92,000 will also get a two-day training course in Italy.
The Jetson ONE provides 20 minutes of flight time on a fully charged battery. But Mr. Ternstrom predicts that the duration will increase to 30 minutes in a couple of years. As far as safety is concerned, this drone is built with creased zones around the pilot. It is done to cushion the impact of a low-attitude crash. The pilots can be prompted to land immediately in situations when the vehicle can be able to continue its flight after losing one of its propellers. Moreover, installed software will attempt to prevent dangerous situations. For example, the software can slow down the vehicle at the point of landing. But Ternstrom has a belief that some cautious measures are still there for safety. So he says that the first owners must have some flying experience.
In the UK, none of the eVTOLs are currently certified to fly. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) expects that the first flights could begin in the next five years. Another company of US, “Opener” will also soon bring its air-based vehicle, carrying a single person known as BlackFly to the market. In this case “safety” is the first priority according to a spokeswoman for the firm. Another firm, Tetra has developed its eVTOL, named “Tetra Mark 5” which uses a combination of rotors and fixed wings. It also carries a single person but it is quite heavy. It comes as a kit-aircraft, so must be assembled by a new owner. So, it can be sold without having to get full aircraft certification. Many other firms are going for full aircraft certification which is quite a long process.
All of these vehicles require many test flights. “We know that most aircraft accidents are caused by the user. Hopefully, the manufacturers will put into place certain safeguards in the system to limit the ability for a user to put the aircraft in an unsafe operating condition,” says Darrell Swanson, director of Swanson Aviation Consultancy. These vehicles will get themselves into people’s hands quickly because of their small sizes. But if these aircraft are to play a role in improving urban mobility for city populations, they will have to carry more passengers.
According to Mr.Ternstrom, it is for having fun. Practically everyone has had that thrilling dream where they can fly.”This thing makes that dream possible,” he says. “It’s just awesome. I love it.”