Monday, December 30, 2019


After wrestling with how to support the drone overhead in a way that I could live with throughout 2020, since just after midnight on the 27th I have had a solution. It will involve reducing the size of the airframe seen above, which you will recall included a seat and a two-pack of batteries stored beneath.

This will also reduce its weight, which I was never happy with. I had guessed for the FAA that it was around 15 kilos and it turns out I was spot on... 15.40 kilos in fact, or precisely 34 pounds. I figure I can practically halve that and still produce a working solution.

The optimism of mis-spent youth?

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Baubles

I make a Christmas sojourn down the Welsh borders again to check on developments with the powered rig that will sit atop the 'phone-box' styled flight compartment ~ principally how the software and hardware hang together and spin those propellers. There remains debate as to whether it is worth persevering with the unconventional array of rotors seen here, but from my point of view there are good reasons for doing so. A conventional X-8 configuration would be more of an 'off-the-shelf' solution, but then I've never considered myself as overly conventional. Season's Greetings!

Saturday, December 21, 2019


First time all eight props have been spun up, and it's music to my ears...

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

In the Lap of the Quads

A third round trip to Somerset to retrieve the motor-head, which I subsequently drop at a firm more used to designing and building heavy-lift drones for industrial use.

The question is whether the quads should be split top-and-bottom of the phone-box shaped airframe, or joined like this octocopter and fitted to the dome.

Pros and cons to each so it's a best-guess as to which may prove responsive enough in flight to cope with real-world conditions, and not least to gusts.

Drone manufacturers tend to get overly exercised by this, not least I feel because nowadays people expect everything to work 'out of the box'. Nonetheless everything we consider to be a technical marvel was decidedly unreliable at the outset and remained so for some time. The Wright Flyer was not the most gust-responsive airplane and thirty years later airliners like the Dragon Rapide still had a landing 'cross-wind limitation' of just seven m.p.h.

Indeed, that was why all of the earliest hardened airfields had an X or even * arrangement of runways, whereas now none of them do (and I speak as someone who has used Heathrow's long-defunct cross-wind runway). It's been said that people overestimate progress in the shorter term and underestimate it in the longer.

There is every reason to expect the state-of-the-art Volocopter to be flying passengers rather sooner than the original helicopters did and altogether more safely, and no reason why a 'flying kiosk' not unlike a set of rotors appended to a phone-box might not do so too, sooner or later.

So I leave the equipment in the hands of the gods in order to see whether the octo above is literally a flying concern, and whether it will remain so when furnished with a passenger-compartment slung beneath.

In the meantime we've elected for the octocopter be be configured as an X-8, with the pairs of propellers down each side commanded jointly so that the whole thing operates as a giant quadcopter.

All speculation at this stage, and as the Boeing 707 test-pilot remarked, 'A single test-flight is worth a thousand speculations'.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Four Square

Sense of trepidation as the top-end of the flying phone-box is readied for first flight...

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

E-Street Furniture

Wheel the box out of the hangar for the first time, resplendent in Post Office Red.

It doesn't look quite as much yet like the classic K8 design of old, but will do once I've added the base and dome beside the trim around the window-frames.

It's also light, but as ever, not as light as I'd like... but that's aircraft for you.

Building has, as ever, been the inspiration for each conceptual step and putting this together at these dimensions (eventually 1500 x 500 x 500 mm all told) I realised that (a) it can seat an adult like a wing-chair bu also (b) it might also fly a child stood upright.

Effectively therefore it's a 66% scale working prototype that may yet fly a child-sized dummy and which might also form the basis for a booth around two foot square and six foot six tall equipped with larger motors and 36- or 40-inch propellers.

With a minor stood inside, too, there remains the option to fit one quad at the base and one at the top, as originally envisaged in the draft application for the GoFly Challenge.

Nonetheless we shall run with the modular octo-copter up top for the time being, as it makes the control-laws more straightforward beside parking the propellers in the safest location.

Rotors have always been up there on the helicopter and it is no surprise that the Volocopter has followed suit. Bear in mind its prototype ~ not that long ago ~ featured a pilot sat upon an exercise ball surrounded by a forest of rotors.

What they have produced now looks the part, and looking the part is essential for selling the concept of urban air mobility (UAM) to the public.

I wondered today whether Mercedes and Audi raced in silver because of a reluctance to add much on the way of paint to alloy bodywork for fear of adding weight. As it is I've let five tins of spray-paint loose on this airframe because it has to make a point:

Where once you'd have phoned from here, you'll now be teleported instead.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Its a phone-box, Jim...

... but not as we know it.

I continue construction of the airframe and in doing so, decide that:

(a) it could be lighter, and

(b) the battery compartment could be a separate module.

But that's the benefit of hindsight, and after all my dear, tomorrow's another day.