To the founders of this community, I’d like to suggest, with all your experience now with drone technology, the next logical step is an ultralight (FAR part 103) manned VTOL drone (not autonomous). There are a lot of garage types coming up with impressive stuff all over the world. I would say you guys with this community would have an excellent chance to come up with a good, safe design. I could pretty much guarantee that if you produced kits for a personal manned drone you’d sell every single one of them! I’d do it myself but I don’t have the expertise by myself to pull it off, but I think you do.
Anyway, just dreamin’!
These are tough to get around:
(1) Weighs less than 254 pounds empty weight, excluding floats and safety devices which are intended for deployment in a potentially catastrophic situation;
(2) Has a fuel capacity not exceeding 5 U.S. gallons;
(3) Is not capable of more than 55 knots calibrated airspeed at full power in level flight; and
(4) Has a power-off stall speed which does not exceed 24 knots calibrated airspeed.
(although the last one is easy, because for power-off, you just drop straight down…)
Your suggestion is great but there are other facets of the story to be taken into consideration. Some people’s idea of using such a machine is not to stay under power all the time - they want a 2mn ride to the lift and continue without it - even 30 seconds would be sufficient enough to do the job where the compression zone is not accessible from an elevation and must be reached from the bottom before benching up in thermal, dynamic or thermal/dynamic lift. Though great for many aspiring pilots, duration is not necessary the goal for everyone. Here’s a mail from a PG pilot two days ago after seeing the OpenPPG, and he was not the only one thinking that way: "Sounds like a lot of fun and my main objective would be to have a super light device to get me to a first thermal. ". Others see it as a PG self- retrieval device in case the pilot looses lift after flying XC in the boonies, or to assist him to reach the next thermal ahead. The latter option would limit the windows of flying opportunities because the average Joe would not be cut for mid-day thermal flying, especially when the air is very active. There would be limitations - early morning, ususally before 9/9:30AM in four season countries when the thermal activity starts kicking in, and an hour or so before Sunset when the heat is released gently from the ground and will not send the pilot ballistic into the skies. A soft-wing apparatus is much more prone to profile deformation and collapses than a fixed wing aircraft such as a hang glider. Paul’s machine will be able to meet two different types of pilots requirements, the powered ones and the free-flying ones which is great. I could also see certified schools branching toward teaching a new hybrid sport category, PPG thermaling for beginners where it has not been possible until today because of the weight of the average PPG + gas with a 55/70lbs hooking weight and having to deal with the torque. I do not think that any PPG school out there is teaching PPG thermaling so far - there is no rating for it as far as I know. There are PPG pilots thermaling, but they are the exception rather than the norm. Some will want to do Acro and be looking for light machines to bring them back up after each run down. Being able to stop the electric motors immediately and starting it without having the mess around with a pull start or electric starter is a great advantage. An electric starter (more weight, more parts to maintain and having to deal with + a lipo pack to recharge, etc…
The USHGA (United States Hang Gliding Paragliding Association) counts powered flights as flights when at idle or motor off I believe to reach the minimum number of flights required for a certification so, Paul’s machine, is kind of the ideal tool. Even with 4 Bonkas it is still below the average weight of a PPG with a half tank of gas;-) Yes, it is a bit of a struggle now trying to get the idea of not using heavy stinky gas machines, but someone’s got to brake the eggs to make the omelette so that the next generations of e-Pilots won’t have to deal with the issues we are experiencing while keeping the idea of free-flying intact.
Ready to go - Bonka included
Google the “blackfly ultralight” or www.opener.aero
Exactly! That’s one perfect example of a part 103 electric VTOL just coming to market. They said it will cost about as much as an SUV. I say with this group, something more basic, but functional, could be done for a quarter that cost. To address the points above, yes there are severe limitations because of battery energy density, yes you can’t glide around with the motors turned off, no you can’t pack it a suitcase… But manned VTOL drones are quickly becoming the hottest trend in aviation thanks to Uber and others. There will always be a market for PPG and there will always be a market for VTOL, and they will never overlap. But being able to take off vertically and hover are very sought after capabilities. I’m just sayin’ I’d support an effort to come up with a reasonably priced and reasonably capable solution.