A rechargeable, battery-powered personal flying machine has been developed by engineering students at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Dubbed Snowstorm, the vehicle took one year to develop and took its name from its hexagonal appearance which resembles a snowflake.
Snowstorm is fitted with 24 motors that are all attached to propellers, which receive 52.8kW of power from three rechargeable lithium batteries.
The flight control system can be piloted automatically in a similar fashion to unmanned aerial vehicles as well as manual control by the pilot.
The pilot is strapped to a five-point harness while inflated gym balls are incorporated into the six landing gear legs to cushion the impact of landing.
The frame is made of aluminium beams, carbon fibre plates and tubes tied with Kevlar ropes.
“We constantly had to balance and consider trade-offs between the types of materials, their characteristics and weight,” said engineering student Shawn Sim. In some cases, the team even 3D-printed parts to have a customised and optimal fit, he added.
The electric-powered aircraft is capable of vertical take-off and landing like a helicopter and can be controlled by a single person weighing up to 70kg seated within the vehicle. The vehicle currently has a flight time of about five minutes.
In addition, the batteries were designed to function independently in the event that any should malfunction, while a switch to end the flight and land the craft safely can be operated from the ground if the pilot is incapacitated.
Rather than an alternative mode of transportation, the prototype is intended for personal recreation use in large indoor spaces.
“A common trope in popular science fiction is the projection of humans flying on our own - think The Jetsons or even Back to the Future. NUS’ Snowstorm shows that a personal flying machine is a very real possibility,” said Dr Joerg Weigl, lecturer at the NUS.
Although Snowstorm has already successfully completed its first flight, the team intends to continue to fine-tune the vehicle’s software, safety, and propeller and motor configurations.
A jetpack that is claimed to be the world's first practical and commercial unit recently undertook its first flight in China.