John_Cillis

Been following this for some time

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I did not know where to place this post, it's not a video I made and I did not think it appropriate to place it there.  These aircraft are the wave of the future.  Unlike, the Moller Aircar, the Ehang 184 looks like it might fill a practical need, especially with the coming breakthru that Samsung has made on Lithium batteries.  Brushless electric motors, which evolved out of the RC hobby, are very powerful. The electric motor on my old Radian RC glider was so powerful it could do two things--get the glider to over 500 feet high in less than a minute, and when run in my living room, the prop blast blew the curtains off the curtain rods, a prop of only six inches, actually a bit less!  So I thought I would share this and see what our hobby thinks:

 

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Might be okay for an experimental aircraft, but an issue is certification for a production craft carrying passengers. Llithium ion and lithium metal batteries are already somewhat problematic for aircraft in this regard. Having them on a drone or RC aeroplane is one thing, but some of those batteries are expressly forbidden on passenger aircraft and even only allowed to be carried in very small numbers on cargo aircraft when specially packaged. The ones which are allowed on passenger aircraft often have to be carried in the passenger cabin specifically because they might catch fire and such a fire can be tackled by the cabin crew instead of relying on systems in a hold to fight such a blaze where the fire suppressants might not easily reach the source of a fire.

The rules on this are due to get even tighter in December of this year, with changes to the hazard classification for lithium batteries on the way (currently Class 9, miscellaneous) to a more specific class because they are acknowledged to be fairly substantial risk to aircraft and one of the reasons why cargo pilots often draw bigger wages than passenger airliner crews.

B787 Dreamliner certification and design was problematic for Boeing because of it using batteries which  caught fire, necessitating them to enclosed in heavy flame resistant casings. Solving problems such as those can be extremely expensive, as Boeing discovered, having to undertake some major rethinks on its 787 because of that, so it would certainly be a unwelcome prospect for an aircraft manufacturer without the kind of cash flow and political pull Boeing enjoys.

 A concern for me personally would be the consequences of a motor failure, which would presumably be fairly disastrous on a quad rotor layout with no way to autorotate as with a more traditional chopper configuration. If this and risks of fire from the batteries could be demonstrably shown to be on par with the safety levels of more conventional aircraft, I would think it is an exciting prospect, but given how many people are complete idiots with drones and the current moves to make such things more tightly licensed, I can’t see this becoming an ‘everyman’ craft even if it were inexpensive.

Edited by Chock

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6 minutes ago, Chock said:

Might be okay for an experimental aircraft, but an issue is certification for a production craft carrying passengers. Llithium ion and lithium metal batteries are already somewhat problematic for aircraft in this regard. Having them on a drone or RC aeroplane is one thing, but some of those batteries are expressly forbidden on passenger aircraft and even only allowed to be carried in very small numbers on cargo aircraft when specially packaged. The ones which are allowed on passenger aircraft often have to be carried in the passenger cabin specifically because they might catch fire and such a fire can be tackled by the cabin crew instead of relying on systems in a hold to fight such a blaze where the fire suppressants might not easily reach the source of a fire.

The rules on this are due to get even tighter in December of this year, with changes to the hazard classification for lithium batteries on the way (currently Class 9, miscellaneous) to a more specific class because they are acknowledged to be fairly substantial risk to aircraft and one of the reasons why cargo pilots often draw bigger wages than passenger airliner crews.

B787 Dreamliner certification and design was problematic for Boeing because of it using batteries which  caught fire, necessitating them to enclosed in heavy flame resistant casings. Solving problems such as those can be extremely expensive, as Boeing discovered, having to undertake some major rethinks on its 787 because of that, so it would certainly be a unwelcome prospect for an aircraft manufacturer without the kind of cash flow and political pull Boeing enjoys.

 A concern for me personally would be the consequences of a motor failure, which would presumably be fairly disastrous on a quad rotor layout with no way to autorotate as with a more traditional chopper configuration. If this and risks of fire from the batteries could be demonstrably shown to be on par with the safety levels of more conventional aircraft, I would think it is an exciting prospect, but given how many people are complete idiots with drones and the current moves to make such things more tightly licensed, I can’t see this becoming an ‘everyman’ craft even if it were inexpensive.

Hey, Chocks back. Good news. Been worried about ya buddy!

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Rich man's toy... there are several similar concepts under development, my favourite is the Airbus Popup at the end of this clip:

 

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30 minutes ago, WingZ said:

Rich man's toy... there are several similar concepts under development, my favourite is the Airbus Popup at the end of this clip:

 

Yes, the Airbus design is very cool.  The question will be whether any of these can be mass produced, and whether our current air traffic control system can handle them.  I probably see these as maybe being popular with airline pilots who choose to live in suburbia and then choose to commute to a major airport for their flight duty.  I do not see many home users having them, with the possible exception of John Travolta and Harrison Ford, who like anything that flies....  Me, I prefer my car to the airport, I like to know what I am leaving on the ground so I am sure to return to it when headed home.....

John

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2 hours ago, Cactus521 said:

 The question will be whether any of these can be mass produced, and whether our current air traffic control system can handle them.  ... I do not see many home users having them

I'm sure Airbus could make them - if there's a market. I do not foresee them being let loose on an unsuspecting ATC system, they will surely be autonomous and subject to localised corridor control. So anyone with the required folding money can use it (and not necessarily own it, either). Or perhaps own the car and pay for the aerial pickup? 

Edited by WingZ

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Despite my dislike and distrust for much of the new technology these days, John,  I LOVE IT!

Naysayers take note:

In 1895, Thomas Edison was quoted in the New York World, saying "It is apparent to me the possibilities of the aeroplane, which two or three years ago were thought to hold the solution to the flying machine problem, have been exhausted, and that we must turn elsewhere."

Less than 10 years later, the brothers defied one of the most intelligent men in the United States, if not the world, made two flights from level ground.

I predict these will find a niche somewhere in the aviation world.

Noel

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It's not so much 'naysaying' that the technology won't work or be taken up.  The tech is amazing and a natural extension of droning.  But the idea of every new money i-diot with some cash filling the skies with these is bound to end badly.  The roads are enough testament to that.

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Erich, you are assuming these are going to be family cars clogging the airways.  Not at all.

After thinking about them after my last post I came up with lots of uses for them apart from being a family car.

I see these as tools for law enforcement and first responders as a much less expensive vehicle to purchase and maintain than a helicopter.  

I see them as useful tools for wildlife studies.  For several years I was a volunteer at the Bitter Lake Wildlife refuge.  over 20,000 Sandhill cranes.  Once a week at sunrise we would count them as they took off for farmer's fields in the area to feed off the leavings of the corn harvests.  The biologists would have liked to know where they went but had neither the manpower nor the time to investigate where they went and what they were feeding on.  These vehicles could have easily followed the flocks to see where they went.  They could also find and count the birds in off-refuge ponds and lakes.

Biologists could more easily track and find tagged wildlife with radio monitors.

Ski resorts could use them to survey dangerous avalanche areas and drop small grenades to start them instead of having to guess where the danger spots are from the road where they fire recoiless rifles at them to start them off.

Foresters could use them to survey post fire forest damage much more economically than using helicopters.

Television stations could afford deploy several of them to various parts of cities to report on commuter traffic.

Right now drones with cameras are being used for various tasks.  But a man in such a vehicle with a camera would be much more efficient at getting the photos he wants eyeballing the scene in person as opposed to viewing it on a monitor.

Fishing guides could use one to bring a customer to remote parts of a river or lake or hunting guides taking customers to a shooting blind and picking them up for a trip back to the lodge at dinner time.

Ranchers could use them to more easily find cattle and direct cowboys during roundup time.

These are just off the top of my head.

I think there are endless uses for them apart from being personal vehicles.

And I imagine some would be purchased as the next generation ultra-lights with altitude restrictions.

As for a personal  or club aircraft along the lines of a Cessna 152 or 172 why not?

Noel

 

Edited by birdguy
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I see it's time for my usual naysayer comment on this idea. 

The thing that will kill widespread adoption of the "dream" these companies are selling, is the noise pollution.

Every promotional video, from every company working on this concept, either buries the rotor sound completely with music or mixes it way in the background under the music track. There's a reason why they do this, instead of just showing what they sound like in the videos at full (normalized) volume in the clip.

Have you ever heard a camera drone? I had a small one fly over my house a few weeks ago. I'm a block away from a town parade route, so I assume it was getting a camera angle on the parade. I was sitting outside on our deck reading a book, and it was incredibly annoying to have this thing flying something like 500 ft. over my house. It sounded like someone had kicked a hornet's nest. I could hear it coming, a city block away before it arrived. If I had a slingshot handy...

Now scale that up to something with powerful enough rotors to lift two adults, and listen to what it sounds like.

Nobody is going to tolerate these things flying anywhere close to "everyday" life activities. Especially if they're seen as toys for the wealthy. Forget about city parking lots, forget about use in the suburbs. Forget about anywhere with a noise ordinance in place.

They might get used for isolated-enough landing pads like rooftops in Manhattan. Or remote rural areas, or for flying billionaires to their yacht at ritzy resort locations. I don't see it for "everyday" use though. Not until someone invents dead quiet anti-gravity motors to lift the things.

Okay, that was my rant for the month on this topic. See 'ya next month. 😉

Edited by Paraffin
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Weather is going to be an issue that you can't simply engineer around.

With a car you can battle threw a thunderstorm you've stupidly driven into. In a plane (or human carrying drone), you likely die. It takes real thought, preparation, and decision making to decide if a flight is safe, especially anything over 50nm. That's part of why the FAA requires certification. Winds will also be a big issue with takeoff and landings with these things trying to squeeze into small spaces.

Lastly, thinking the FAA is going to allow these things with uncertified pilots into the national airspace is crazy. That means they'll remain only a few hundred feet off the ground and noise pollution will be a show stopper. The first time someone kills themselves in one, the companies will be sued out of existence. Ever wonder why a Cessna 172 costs $400k these days and most manufacturers are not producing light GA anymore? Litigation costs are a big chunk of it.

Eventually, these issues will be worked out, but it won't be anytime soon.

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Noise didn't kill helicopters and nobody said these things were going to be flown by non-rated pilots.  The Piper Cherokee 180 I flew my kids from Utah to California an improvement over the J-3 Cub.  I can see these finding a niche in general aviation too,  More versatile than a Cessna 172 but not a replacement for it.

I listed six uses in my reply where they don't infringe on commercial air space and for which no current flying machine is practical except maybe the Super Cubs used by bush pilots.  

Come to think of it they would be improved bush aircraft able to get to places where even current bush planes can't go.

Just widen the horizons of your mind.  Imagine what can be done as opposed to what can't be done.

Noel

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6 hours ago, birdguy said:

Noise didn't kill helicopters and nobody said these things were going to be flown by non-rated pilots.

No, that's exactly how these things are being promoted, as something flown outside the currently regulated envelope for helicopters, by non-rated pilots.

Here's the Airbus version, the "Vahana" that made a test flight recently:

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/02/airbus-vahana-flying-car-has-flown-for-the-first-time.html

"The VTOL is being developed at "A³," the Silicon Valley outpost of Airbus. The explicit aim is to provide commuters with a self-piloted craft that is cost-comparable to using a car or a train."

The Ehang AAV in the OP is the same concept.

I'm not saying it won't find a use that might replace helicopters in some areas. But the noise pollution, ATC restrictions, and other factors will keep them firmly in the lane that helicopters operate in now, and not the dream of everyone having a personal flying car that these outfits are scamming their investors with.

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14 hours ago, Paraffin said:

"The VTOL is being developed at "A³," the Silicon Valley outpost of Airbus. The explicit aim is to provide commuters with a self-piloted craft that is cost-comparable to using a car or a train."

Well I have to agree with you Paraffin that's just plain silly.

Many commuters in any large city have trouble navigating a two dimensional environment much less a three dimensional environment.  

Thousands of them in the air over Los Angeles during rush hour would be a disaster.

Last year Los Angeles experienced 55,360 traffic accidents in a two dimensional environment.  That comes out to over 150 accidents a day.

Swap even 10% of the cars for VTOLs in a three dimensional environment and those numbers jump dramatically.  And just about every VTOL accident would be fatal.

But that does not mean there are plenty of other uses for them to be practical.  Perhaps A3 should redefine the missions for these craft.

When I lived in Denver hang gliders used to launch off Lookout Mountain on the West.  It was on the approach to Denver's old Stapleton Airport.  Sometimes an airline pilot on approach to Stapleton from the west would report, "I have a hang glider at my altitude."  The never caused any mishaps but turn them into VTOLs and multiply the number by 100 and you have a major problem.

Noel

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