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Claimed by its developers a ‘manned drone’, a new type of personal aircraft has successfully passed its first test flight in June.
Australian company CopterPack claims that the device has only two rotor blades that may lift an adult off the ground. Each rotor has a diameter of about 90 cm. An integrated autopilot can lift its pilot up to 15 meters in the air.
The rotors are connected via carbon fiber tubes to a rigid backpack to which the batteries are attached.
Stable flight is achieved by rotating the rotors to direct its thrust, unlike drones with quadcopters, which change the speed of each propeller.
Since the device is powered by a lithium-ion battery, it does not provide the operator with extended flight in the air.
Little other details have been released regarding the technical specifications.
One of CopterPack’s main concerns is the security of their new jet packs.
Where drones with four or more rotors are able to self-stabilize and achieve control authority simply by varying their speeds, this two-rotor arrangement does it by twisting its rotors to vector the thrust.
Since the rotor blades are not covered, there is no room for error. The pilot actually risks his life, hoping that the rotor support arms do not fail mid-flight or a bird does not cross his way.
The Australians are still considering how to solve this problem as well as how to install more powerful batteries.
In construction, CopterPacks are closer to the New Zealand-built Martin jetpack than the JetCat turbine-powered devices flown by the big four personal flight pioneers – Yves Rossy, David Mayman, Franky Zapata, Richard Browning and that have been in development over the last 10 years.
The business of VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) systems has blown up in recent years, and especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This includes jet packs and even flying ‘motorcycles’, both manned and unmanned aircraft, as well as autopilot systems.
Amid the Covid-19 crisis, the global market for VTOL autonomous vehicles has reached an estimated at $4.4 billion this year and is projected to reach $15.6 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 19.6% through 2027, according to a report by Research and Markets. Of that, $9 billion will be the military market.
It has been 55 years since the concept of a jet suit first captured the world’s imagination when the late Sean Connery strapped on a Bell Aerosystems Rocket Belt and took off from a chateau roof to evade enemy agents in the opening sequence of the James Bond movie “Thunderball.”