Over the past few years, some people have taken drones from small almost toy devices for carrying a cameras to mini aircraft that are capable carrying a single person.
The Ehang 184 created a huge buzz when it was debuted at CES 2016. They claim it is the world’s first fully autonomous helicopter drone.
The Ehang 184 is a 200Kg, eight-rotor aircraft which the company claims it is able to lift a single 100kg person, up 500 metres into the air and fly them at up to 100Kmph to any point on Google Maps, avoiding objects automatically and safely handling take-off and landing all without the need for any piloting skills from the person being carried.
The range is as far as it could fly with the 23 minutes of flight time afforded by the batteries which a recharge time of 2 hours.
Ehang is keen to point out that in the event of the drone experiencing problems, human pilots housed in custom built “command centres” will be able to take over and guide you to safety.
In the Netherlands, Thorstin Crijns the man behind Quadro UAS, has been developing an autonomous drone aircraft and has been featured on news and TV programs around Europe.
Quadro UAS is primarily a one-man operation and Thorstin started out as a software engineer and gained experience whilst working and a company making Unmanned Aerial Systems and drones. However, he realized that he need to more experience in other technical areas like mechanical stress calculations and circuit design. And has spent a lot of time gaining these new skills in order to make his prototype aircraft.
The Aero-X from Los Angeles firm Aerofex Inc is a two man low altitude flying vehicle that is sort of a drone but not a drone and a sort of a flying All Terrain Vehicle.
One of the major differences between this and the other electrically powered drone type craft is that this is much simpler and uses no electronic stability control systems. It is designed to be ridden much like a motorbike but can also be used as an unmanned vehicle to do agricultural duties like crop spraying or surveying for example.
The idea is not a new one and is based on a design from over 50 years ago. The PA-59K flying jeep or Airgeep was created by Frank N. Piasecki, founder of the Piasecki Helicopter and aircraft Corporation.
The Airgeep was the winner of a US army completion to make a low flying vehicle capable of traveling over land or water a bit like a hover craft but being able to fly over trees and larger obstacles, it also had speed of up to 75 mph.
The Flike or Flying Bike is an electrically powered tricopter drone designed by the Hungarian Bay Zoltan Ltd, a state owned non profit applied research institute in Hungary.
The idea of the Flike was Originally conceived in the summer of 2014, when a magazine article appeared that said drones are OK as small craft but would not be able to carry the weight a person.
This gave them the idea to make a drone that could carry a person and in the space of a year they took the idea from the drawing board to their first manned flight.
The German made Volocopter blurs the lines between a drone and a helicopter and is aimed at those who want the flying experience of the helicopter but without the high costs and long training time involved.
The layout of the Volocopter is similar to a helicopter with all the rotors fixed in a grid above the main cabin and is similar in size to the swept area of a normal helicopter rotor.
The difference between a helicopter is that the Volocopter has 18 electrically powered rotors which means there in much more built in redundancy, you could lose a couple of the rotors and still be able to fly.
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