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Students build electrically powered recreational flying machine

05 December 2015

A team of eight engineering students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have successfully built Singapore’s first personal flying machine.

Photo courtesy of the National University of Singapore
Photo courtesy of the National University of Singapore

Dubbed 'Snowstorm', the aircraft comprises an assembly of electric motors, propellers and inflated landing gear set within a hexagonal frame. It is capable of vertical take-off and landing that can be controlled by a single person seated within the frame.

The personal flying machine was built over a one-year period, under the auspices of FrogWorks, a collaboration between NUS Faculty of Engineering’s Design-Centric Programme (DCP) and the University Scholars Programme (USP).

FrogWorks engages students in the study, design and construction of clean leisure craft, a rapidly growing segment of green technology. Previous FrogWorks projects include the conversion of a sport motorcycle and a yacht from petrol to electric propulsion.

In its current prototype, the personal flying machine can bear the load of a single person up to 70kg for a flight time of about five minutes.

Some 24 2.2kW motors each drive a propeller of 76cm diameter. The hexagonal frame is made up of anodised aluminium beams, carbon fibre plates and tubes with Kevlar ropes. The pilot seat is positioned at the centre of the machine, its weight supported by six landing gear legs, the bottom of each of which is an inflated ball that adsorbs shock when landing. Three independent rechargeable lithium battery sets provide a total power of 52.8kW.

Snowstorm provides a variety of automated flight modes familiar to operators of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), including altitude hold, loiter and position modes. For safety, the team has also included a separate switch that can be controlled from the ground to end the flight and bring the machine to a safe landing, should the pilot lose control of the machine.

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