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Robotics The Military Transportation Idle

Hobby Inspired Electric Multicopter Makes Manned Flight 104

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-want-me-to-fly-in-what-now? dept.
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."
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Hobby Inspired Electric Multicopter Makes Manned Flight

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  • Publish the plans please!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      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...

      • by stooo (2202012)

        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)

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

      • 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
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Migraineman (632203)
          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 d
        • 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 t
    • by arisvega (1414195)
      Great invention, and great music on the video!
  • ...is what'cha call it!
    • 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!!"

  • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @12:59PM (#37909260)

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

    • I'm pretty sure Cuisinart is a French brand.
    • 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 innovatio

      • by blair1q (305137)

        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.

        • 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

          • by blair1q (305137)

            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

  • Damn that's economical!
    • by zAPPzAPP (1207370)

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

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

    • Damn that's economical!

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

      • 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
        • 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.

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

  • 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 goe

    • by TheLink (130905)

      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 :).

  • by spire3661 (1038968) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @01:13PM (#37909464) Journal
    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]
    • by zill (1690130)
      Fortunately that F-16 bug was caught and fixed during simulation. [ncl.ac.uk]
      • 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.
    • by tibit (1762298)

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

      • 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 la

        • by tibit (1762298)

          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

    • by Bios_Hakr (68586)

      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]

    • by Carnildo (712617)

      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.

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

    • 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.
      • 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

        • 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.

          Standar
          • Didn't know most helicopters could fly back themselves. Sorry.

          • 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.

            Hmm: think again: A normal current helicopter with some hundred moving parts around the head- and the tail rotors under heavy load and wear should be better than 16 moving parts running smoothly on ball bearings? The only critical part here is the flight control software, everything else is damn simple technology, compared to any existing heli design. It also already contains redundancy, 4 out of 16 motors are allowed to fail...

  • 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.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      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.

    • by serbanp (139486)

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

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

  • Best use of a Swiss Ball, ever.

  • Fantastisch!
  • by MattGWU (86623)

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

  • by AJWM (19027)

    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

  • Love the Hippity Hop [wikipedia.org] landing cushion.
  • That's nice. Mass production now, please!
  • That's cool and all, but I want one of these:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Pulpit [wikipedia.org]

  • 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.

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