Friday, January 27, 2023
Thursday, January 26, 2023
Wednesday, January 25, 2023
The patent agent in Turkey presents an annual bill by way of a subscription, which is a good opportunity I feel for abandoning the process altogether. Boosted by a pandemic examiners here ~ as in the UK and US ~ have yet to come back with a response to the request for a search. In a way this is good, as it allows me to present myself as a "Prof Pat Pending".
Nonetheless I agree with James Dyson's views on the inadequacy of the patent system when it comes to assisting individuals or small firms in getting an idea off the ground. It has become (and especially so in the 21st century) simply the means for corporate cartels and monopolies to tighten a stranglehold on the commodities of everyday life.
In retrospect the design registration system makes for an altogether better record for any product development, and although Duncan Bannatyne said on "Dragon's Den" that designs are easily circumvented by minor variations, so too are most patents; such that a system developed in Jacobean England to advance technological progress does as much nowadays to stifle it.
In the interim I'm looking at crowdfunding. A review of Kickstarter rules says that they do not accept either heavily regulated or dangerous activities, which to my mind rules out aviation at the get-go. I put it to them in accordance with advice on the website, and I get a boiler-plate reply of no real use, albeit from a Titus Muchiri who does have a great name: African apparently, meaning "settler of arguments".
Great name for a guy in support at Kickstarter. Worked myself for Wang Computers for a while in London, whose own support program was called "Wangcare".
A name that might not ~ we suggested ~ go over quite so well in the UK?
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
Monday, January 23, 2023
Pendulous stability as it relates to drones appears to be a myth if the valuable opinion of Tom Stanton is taken into account at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYHCP3-mpxk is to be believed. Conventional aerodynamics however have always regarded helicopters as being stable for precisely this reason, whether true or not, though the difference between the two types of aircraft is as much a reflection of the fact that a main-rotor has considerably more leverage I suspect. Tom Stanton's video suggests that drones with a decidedly low C of G are set to struggle... a view I've heard from various sources involved in real-world experimentation with drones.
Most of those involved in building drones, in fact, evolved from an interest in RC helis and in fact many of them prefer the latter as a flying machine given the limitations of drones at least in so far as flying people around is concerned. Nonetheless the fact that eVTOLs will succeed and displace or at least supplement the helicopter ~ to the extent they will far outnumber them ~ is inevitable in the way that electric motors will inevitably replace combustion engines in cars.
Before the expense of launching a working prototype (even at scale) therefore, it may be worth reviewing the options... one of which appears above. Prototypes are ideally an exercise in step-change where they start as the simplest and lightest embodiment and accrue the more practical accoutrements only later on. The automobile is as good an exemplar as any, in fact, having started out as an open-topped horseless carriage.
Accordingly the planform on the right provides the same leverage in flight, although it reduces the dimensions of the airframe by a third at the same time. It will tho' involve the centre-section in being reduced to an eight-inch square containing the mannekin instead of a twelve-inch, although I think this is workable in the first instance. At full scale it represents a four-pillared outline of sixteen inches, ample for supporting my own frame at the outset for instance.
Rather than adding motors to the drone up top, therefore, it would suggest re-visiting the previous solution I've implemented in past experiments to address an insufficient leverage around the centre of mass viz. replication of the same airframe around foot-level as well as above head height ~ in fact at the earliest stages of development this solution was only abandoned because it pitched the overall dimensions of a people-carrying drone outside the allowable constraints of the GoFly competition back when.
A temporary setback, but then nothing worthwhile in life ever comes easy.
Thursday, January 19, 2023
TRANSPORTS OF DELIGHT
In truth, whereas the child is considered father to the man there would be nothing that might hint at my own future beside a leaning toward transport in all of its forms; and it is conceivable that my attempts at designing boats and VTOL aircraft derive from missing out on careers featuring either. And in truth, I enjoy driving articulated trucks in view of the fact it doesn’t need to be done at the exclusion of all else… although there are any number of hauliers out there that are happy to arrange your life that way. And besides, didn’t Mike Davis combine trucking and meat-packing with academic treatises on his home town of Los Angeles or the condition of both working classes and environment?
As autumn beckoned in 2022, though, I finally had the leisure to consider whether building a personal air vehicle retained any traction in my daily affairs. Was it not Solomon who had said that as as the dog returned to its vomit, so the fool returned to his folly. Bit harsh, that one, and I prefer the one about all progress having always depended upon the unreasonable.
It might then be a time to revert to first principles, and these had been to build a form of transporter in the shape of an upright booth. Originally and in view of the weight of what is involved in producing sufficient lift, I envisaged this booth being surrounded by an airframe sat at ground-level initially for fear of it toppling over. Subsequently it would power itself up into the overhead, where it would engage with the overhang of the booth so as to elevate it skyward. This notion would fall at the first hurdle when you looked into the detail, for drones are controlled by a computerised flight-controller that ideally sits at the centre, where my airframe had to include a void that enabled the accommodation to take centre-stage. Beside this successive build showed that this centre-section was where the structure derived much of its strength.
One get-around featured instead of a booth merely a set of four tubes that allowed the drone to rise whilst including only a hole at each corner. It allowed the flight-controller to remain centred, though it would mean a passenger boarding once rotors were turning up top. In terms of rigidity it could also be made to support a considerable weight were it braced around half-way up, where it effectively halved the length of each tubular column. Nonetheless, a rigid space-frame still knocked it into a cocked hat and especially so when reinforced in the same way. It also helped secure the operator whilst providing both an armrest and a deck upon which to mount flight-controls in the form of sidesticks. Whilst in its original form it had been made of a single piece that could be pulled upward like a pair of underpants (and you won’t find that in the Airbus lexicon), eventually it proved both to be more snug and more practical if split fore and aft.
Above all, however, it rendered the vehicle altogether more purposeful in both my own eyes and more importantly, those of potential purchasers. A sure sign too that there was interest out there was when I posted ‘how-to’ on the blog instead of opinionated fare that frankly few of us would be interested in. Without windows and without some form of restraint the box also looked like something people might step out of at a great height had they seen the latest gas bill… might that be my killer app? All in all, as I assembled it step-by-step during the closing months of 2022 it appeared to be an altogether better proposition than the one with the same form of drone fitted with a seat above instead.
In ergonomic terms too it held out better prospects, for the moment you introduce a seat you have to consider shapes and sizes accordingly and there were even books out there that listed average dimensions from among the general population. Thus it was that Jetson did list a target size around which their own vehicle had been designed: five feet ten inches, as I recall? This is less of an issue however where only manual controls are required, which only go to show what sort of a sea-change the electrification of flight would prove to be. For among the most complex part of designing every airliner is how the seating might be arranged on the flight-deck in order that pilot and co-pilot are able to reach every possible control that they might need to… not least the rudder-pedals, which had been fitted to aeroplanes from around the get-go.
Thus were the ‘drone was concerned where it could be fitted up top, it meant that the booth might be broadly configured to both the shape and size of an individual whilst still retaining a standardised means of connection (you can tell I’ve long drafted patent specifications) between the modular ‘drone and phone’. This was especially so as regards the height of each of us, where for example my elbows rest at a height of a metre such that a box two metres high would be suitable ~ “Suits you, Sir!” ~ when considering that the batteries would be stored in its roof-space.
There was also a good deal of latitude when it came to the dimensions of the box determined by the distance at which each upright were fixed. Although I had tinkered with rectangular outlines (because we are generally wider than we are deep), the brand called for a square ‘phone-booth’ and not least in order to emulate my booth of choice in the shape of the General Post Office’s magnificent K8. I had even considered buying one of these to mount in the garden, but settled for taking pictures of such wherever they might still be encountered. Note to fellow boxers: there remains one in the village of Ingleton. For what I had noticed early on, and which went to show that there was no substitute for experimental builds, was that we could actually slip sideways into a much narrower gauge of box than we might imagine. You needed to be careful including your child in such experiments, incidentally, for fear of being viewed as the kind of Victorian gentlemen who’d send them up chimneys in days of yore. Even where I was concerned myself, though, I figured I could be squeezed amongst four pillars spaced as little as a foot apart and still be suspended from a giant drone in my dreams.
The half-scale prototype in view featured a foot-square outline, and this raised the question as to whether its occupant could comfortably stand with their upper limbs inside the box, or hanging without. The only way to tell was to secure a child-sized mannekin that had articulated arms, and a sweep of the ‘net proved these to be as rare as unicorns in a post-pandemic world that had disrupted supply chains everywhere. I managed to find one such, however, and it would eventually show that whilst it might be squeezed into the box like a sardine, it would be rather more comfortable with its forearms resting outside of the box with a pair of sidesticks to hand. In the event with the articulated type looking somewhat heavy for the choice of motor I envisaged, I would also travel to what can only be called Britain’s largest mannekin graveyard… but that’s another story. (Standing child-sized rigid mannekins were easier again to locate than seated, though I had to confess I’d looked up so many online that I feared a visit from the Vice Squad.)
The new mannekin stood proudly a metre tall, as it seemed to be a fairly standard measurement. This meant happily that it would fit inside a box constructed of metre-long tubular sections, a relief in itself in view of the fact that was the measure that they came in as well. This was only though because the tube-connectors that terminated each of the uprights added a couple of inches to the interior volume. It raised the question of where to include the sizeable battery-packs, and in the end I would settle for doing so in the loft space of each booth. It meant that such an area would have to be added in future builds, but the advantage of the modular design was that both box and drone could be modified wholly independently of each other. More importantly the TELEDRONE logo could appear in the sides fitted at the upper end of the booth, which would surround the battery-bay as those at the lower end did in order to form the foot-well.
The lighter of the two mannekins ~ by dint of rigid fibreglass arms instead of wooden ~ was used as well as the articulated version in the studio shots, but at the time of writing it is the articulated type that will form the phenotype to the design’s genotype: it was nonetheless looking like no mannekin would appear in flight-testing at the outset in view of the paucity of power from the motors that had been selected. I was comfortable with the prospect not least because we had flown both the drone in its current form, as well as a drone with an underslung accommodation box. At the same time if you looked at the history of aircraft design it has been one of manufacturers desperate for engines that produced more power in order to get the proposed outline off the ground.
The decision then to include an upright operator was proving to be sound; looking further afield it appeared too that one thing electrification offered to VTOL designers was the freedom to decide where and how to include that operator. Almost invariably those alternative designs out there mounted people atop drones, for the very obvious reason that it was easier to pitch what were increasingly massive drones at floor level and then let the pilot clamber on top. The laurels of victory I considered would go to those able to conceive of ways to reverse the arrangement. This was not least because having learned aerobatics at the very earliest stage of learning to fly, I preferred the idea of the vehicle remaining upright in the event of a power-off and hands-off freewill. This was something not every eVTOL was assured of, especially if it were the case that the pilot up top were the heaviest aspect of the ensemble, whilst the draggiest part in the form of its feathers viz. propellers were beneath: think of the way a dart settles under gravity.
Why though not follow the alternative any number of projects had adopted, as gad the car before them, with a support at each corner albeit a motor instead of a wheel? To a great extent though this ‘flying car’ configuration was neither novel and nor indeed did it require a great leap of imagination, in so far as drones (and especially racing versions) were universally configured along he same lines. It may yet be that such a layout evolves to become as standard a layout as had the four-wheeled car prior, yet I was unconvinced that this would be the case. Principally this was because, whilst it was true that the main-rotor helicopter dominated the market it would never yet supplant three other successful variants in the shape of the Chinook, Kamov or Kaman. It might yet be that a distributed array of electrical propellers would eventually render each of these configurations extinct in the way that mainframe computers would be overcome by a multiplicity of distributed processing power in the shape of smartphones.
A further advantage lay in the fact that a modular solution might prove as resilient, in so far as a vehicles like the Jetson or Blackfly was a unitary construct like the car that could not take up less space by being separated into principal components and hung from the garage wall, for instance. Finally however I felt that the TELEDRONE might occupy its unique ecosphere from the point of view that its appearance was at once familiar (except to the very youngest, for whom it might appear to be a relic of TV repeats from Star Trek or Doctor Who), and at the same time readily connected to its layout viz. pilot suspended from drone. A final reason for not having abandoned the branding too, was that my father brought us up upon the earnings of a telephone engineer. Were then my son to inherit the mantle of TELEDRONE engineer, things might be viewed as having come the full circle.
|Forty kilos up.|
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
It was around this time ~ during February of 2022 in the interregnum between the HGV classroom course and driver training in Ancoats ~ I felt it was time to donate at least a portion of the body of my art to posterity, by way of one museum or another. We have seen how the Hiller Museum in Silicon Valley had just missed out on the prototype that we’d travelled there with, not least because of the effort that would be involved in flying it back with us. Stripped of its essentials like something of an organ donor, therefore, it was passed on to a member of another of the teams at the GoFly Challenge and now as a consequence hangs from the ceiling of a warehouse in Los Angeles. It could be that if this were all to take off, the guy might have the equivalent of the original Mac hanging up there and readily saleable on eBay. And if so, good luck to him I say!
For the two-third scale prototype that had successfully flown during the previous December I elected to donate it to the Helicopter Museum in Weston-super-Mare in the south of England. This private collection begun effectively by just one man who’d been associated with the industry for many years was by then the foremost collection of rotary-winged craft in the world, and included the original helicopter built by an Austrian by the name of Raoul Hefner. He had exported his skills to the UK, Austrians no doubt feeling like most others at the time that there would be little use for such things. The one which most impressed me however was the Whirlwind from Queen Elisabeth’s ‘Royal Flight’, which he’d acquired for the princely sum of around fifty thousand pounds.
When you consider that a twin-turbine helicopter of this sort would cost many millions of dollars to replace and yet this one ~ resplendent in Royal colours ~ had been knocked down to a bargain-basement level. Thing though about helicopters, like many other forms of transport, is that they tend to evolve to ever higher stakes and are thus prohibitively costly to run and maintain once removed from their habitual domain. It was a reason that I liked the reductio ad absurdum of personal air vehicles, now that they could be put together by dummies like me. Until recently they had been just to difficult for anyone but the decided enthusiast to contemplate, chiefly because the only option for powering them was the internal combustion engine… and one as often as not derived from elsewhere (like lawn-mowers). It was thus like, for instance, trying to build a car from scratch, instead of simply referring to the classified ads and buying a used one.
In truth then it would be a lot easier to assemble a collection of helicopters than you might have thought. Not a few of them had been used on film-sets, having come to the end of their natural life. And what use would a studio have for them thereafter, given they took up rather mores shelf-space than an R2D2. One form of transport that always appealed to me from the point of view of being lived-out was the hot-air balloon, which have to be furloughed after a while because their fabric deteriorates under everyday UV radiation. There were lots of things you could do with a balloon I figured, as indeed you could with one of those giant cooling towers, by way of a last hurrah.
For my prototype’s last hurrah, however, it would be a life in perpetuity within the Helicopter Museum. The curator had ideally wanted something from Vertical Aerospace, but then beggars could not be choosers I figured. The important thing was, and here was a natural soul-mate of mine, there was an electrical revolution taking place in aviation that anyone visiting most museums would be wholly unaware of. This to a great extent is a British thing, we like nothing more than revelling in the past rather than contemplating a glorious future. It was the mistake that our short-tenured Prime Minister in the shape of Liz Truss had made… betting the farm on a techno-future in a country that relies for its well-being principally upon global financial corruption on the one hand, and buy-to-let renovations (and TV series to accompany them) on the other. We once revolutionised industry, but those doing so generally then upped sticks and moved their kids to the capital, where over successive generations they would invest in property and inflate the economy in order that they could enjoy a comfortable retirement, or that their off-spring would never be tasked with anything as materially constructive ever again.
One week later therefore I would visit another monument to a glorious aviation past, except located in the North of England. The irony is in all of this that in the UK it is a good deal easier to obtain funding for a museum than it is say for a personal air vehicle that some people at least view as a reasonable proposition, and that could be developed (if not certified) in a fraction of the time and budget associated with any other program. Prior to Liz Truss it was probably Boris Johnson who is PM best exemplified our ‘bull-dog’ spirit, but his principal adviser (and the architect of Brexit) viewed the country’s aircraft-carrier as a vainglorious piece of show-boating more likely to be sunk during the next asymmetric conflict than not… a sort of floating World Trade Center.
All of that said, however, I do love a good transport museum and this one was the sort that just put it out there for what it was. Whilst night-stopping at Teesside Airport as aircrew I had visited a local museum that contained what is practically the first steam locomotive anywhere in the world, and marvelled at material substitutions from a time when there would have been decidedly little choice: most notably the use of leather for seals, when even rubber would have been absent from the world and let alone plastic.
Another reason for having selected the South Yorks Aircraft Museum was that it was located in Doncaster, a place I’d travel to on a rail warrant before decanting to RAF Finningley for a weekend of flying training. It’s own airport had long gone, having been landscaped for the inevitable smorgasbord of duck-ponds, crap statuary and shopping centres. In one corner of what once had been, however, there remains the hangars and in them the museum’s collection… amongst them the back-up prototype to that left in amongst the inventory in Weston. This one to would hang from the rafters adjacent a parked Bell 47 of the sort I used to watch crop-spraying as a kid (and whose chemical exposure likely led to the current fixation with building a flying phone-box).
What needed to be done now, however, with these scale prototypes safely tucked up, was there scaling-up… at least in mock-up form for the essential look-and-feel prior to cutting metal. This required the exercise of imagination in itself. For motors I used a set of foam-planters from a flower-arranging website, for each battery a shrink-wrapped length of timber and for propellers the fascia-board you’d see on uPVC conservatories so beloved of the your neighbours and mine. Thus rendered it would be sufficient for studio shots for the PR push at least, but more importantly it would allow me to sit in it. Sat as it turned out on a £9 folding chair from IKEA, which I can recommend for its levity if not its crash-protection.
This would be an invaluable exercise, for it revealed if nothing else that all eVTOLs with propellers located on the underside are a potential death-trap requiring a relatively complicated ~ and heavy ~ form of protection for the inhabitant. Beside this, all else being equal in a power-off free-fall such aircraft would eventually fall to earth inverted, along with that same inhabitant. Above all, once scaled up to adult size it neither felt right sat with me sitting on it, nor looked right from the photo of me doing so from the visit to the studio. And one had to be ever wary of public perception, the C5 electrical three-wheeler having sunk the reputation of Sir Clive Sinclair. It was not so much the fact that it was powered by a washing-machine motor that would not have captivated the fans of Fast and Furious, say, but that you looked a bit silly whilst motoring along the road in it. This last aspect was only worsened by the addition of a flag-pole with a pennant atop it that the average motorist my spot prior to squashing it like road-kill. If anything, this made it look as much a moving target for golfers as a means of mobility.
Accordingly this meant ultimately that I would dismantle the mock-up and shift it to the recycling bin, in a way that say Van Gogh would periodically trash his paintings if not cut his ear off and send it to his beloved. (Tip to teenage readers, incidentally, a box of chocolates is altogether the better choice from either point of view.) In truth this left me in the Slough of Despond, and this from a man who survived office life in the Slough of Berkshire… and in fact whose office appeared had appeared in the opening frames of Ricky Gervais’ eponymous TV comedy. As a consequence, and to the detriment of a blog in our always-on world in which we all either thrive or die (and nothing in-between) on social media, very little would happen for many months afterward. At least drone-wise.
I’d walked out of the first trucking job ~ a sugar-rush experience which most of us only sensibly dream of ~ and landed a second, dropping food cages at branches of Tesco at what I considered to be a plain silly hour of day. This was an eye-opener in itself, as I came to realise that the entire logistics industry in the UK is staffed with cheap labour from Eastern European (and I mean cheap only in the fiduciary sense), along with bored old men like myself. I would leave there having been told, when delicately suggesting like Niles Crane to a large Irishman that he may have been parked in a Loading Bay, that I go fuck myself. I thanked him for his wise counsel, and never darkened Tesco’s door again.
|Mothercare to museum...|