Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Global War... ning


What's my view of eVTOL development and the electrification of our homes and cars? I view it as a concerted global effort at rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, and Earth the Titanic. Moral of the story, Titanic's still there on the sea-bed, surviving its passengers. Or in conclusion, we're fucked.

Well I'm not personally, having like most people I imagine viewed the current state of affairs as a sort of pool-party that we'll all be paying for later once we wake up. By way of illustration, what connects the two traffic jams above? One is a China-funded effort in Kenya to expand the use of airliners and cars in and around Nairobi and the other is people in Louisiana trying to escape the knock-on effect.

I emerged from university having learned nothing except maybe the feeling that Hitler had it right about the uselessness of academics, despite having got it wrong about all else. One thing I do recall however from a glancing study of Geology and Geography is that unlike our modern selves, the world is decidedly binary: it flips from one state to another by a series of positive feedback loops if we piss it off sufficiently.

Which we've done. I imagine that realistically we would have to forego the use of cars, aeroplanes and the internet right now to have even a hope of averting a hell-hole of a future, and that's not going to happen, for as the Taliban have shown we lack the moral authority and our politicians are all exemplars of its lack.

How's it connect to Istanbul here? Well it's where Dan Brown's book Inferno ends, whose anti-hero an academic who intends to release a pathogen because his opinion is that the world is doomed by over-population... pointing out as he goes that the Great Plague which eliminated half of Europe invigorated its culture and led to a renaissance and scientific method that improved our lot in the long run. (He wrote this prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, incidentally. Perhaps that's where they got the idea?).

Which brings us back to oil, and the fact three of Exxon's retired scientists explained how the oil business itself knew of the global-warming effects of using hydrocarbons as far back as the 1960s. One explained he'd always believed over-population was at the root of the problem, or specifically our over-consumption... its high-priest a brat on YouTube opening endless boxes of toys.

Our billionaire astronauts believe the solution lies in exporting civilisation beyond the planet... like having to rebuild the Titanic from within the rowing-boat you escaped on.

Fear not, however, lighter arrangements of deck-chair due here soon...

p.s. probably sounds really bad, but I've always wanted to experience a hurricane.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Back to the Future

Although an 'H' configuration is quite amenable, there's been much to commend this layout as the literal basis for renewed work on the prototype, which promises a return to my GoFly challenge roots viz. accommodation box, no matter how tight the confines and with which to contain an upright operator equipped with a quadcopter above and below.

What you see is very much what you'll get (except it'll be scaled a little to support an adult, although this should lift a mannekin based upon past flight experience). With Rome not having been built in a day, the lower quadcopter layout that this represents is dedicated to lift alone, or 'collective' in helicopter parlance. That way it is decidedly easier to configure, requiring only a conventional transmitter and receiver.

We're (who am I kidding, "I'm") betting the farm on this working out of the box so long as the upper quad proves to be independently stable. Can't be sure of course, though nothing ventured as ever is nothing gained and I shall furnish the website accordingly so that anyone can join in. This one I've posted as a technical disclosure, not least as the UK Patent Office rather cocked up my last design submission and 'cause it's free.

It's also something I can do myself: the philosophy from henceforth being if it cannot be done by a suitably-trained chimpanzee then it shouldn't be done at all. I have from time to time emailed YouTubers to see if they'd be interested in a 'collab' as the young are wont to say, but never get a reply. The last I contacted is managed by an agency in LA, who doubtless screen the spoilt brat's correspondence. Emails are so trite a form of communication nowadays ~ a little like saying 'hello' to a stranger in the street ~ it's no surprise that they rarely occasion a rejoinder.

Fuck you tubers anyway, however.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Red Bull (-shit)


Double-whammy. The lack-of-social-security system emails to say "You're out the UK, fuck you, you're not getting the £100 each month while building your loser drone." That said, my jobs mentor was the best. I think at that level we and they are like infantry on either side of World War One, swapping Christmas gifts across the trenches against the wishes of the common enemy in the form of their respective governments.

A friend from university days, the only one in fact with whom I remain in touch, has a book optioned by Amazon Studios which he and his partner wrote in semi-retirement, and which I probably cannot link due confidentiality. He reports that when they were invited to a book launch in New York, the benefits (sic) office in Walthamstow were put out, because that affected his search for shelf-stacking jobs.

The answer is UBI, or universal basic income... like a grand a month for everyone to do with whatever they like instead of throwing trillions at failing military ventures, failing banks, failing airlines, fraudulent furloughs or the nest of vipers that are politicians or the City of London.

Which brings me to the whammy's second half, or Transport Secretary Grant Shapps re-imposition of a travel ban to and from Turkey. A country going full-on for nation-building as fast as the UK is trying to dismantle theirs (and I'd vote for independence for Scotland, because like the Welsh there a nice people who deserve it), and as part of that their heavily-subsidised airline has the world's best route network; which the UK government likely views as a global super-spreader in itself.

The guy was once my local MP ~ I left, he didn't ~ and got my vote early on because he was the only one to come anywhere near my house, which in those days didn't involve being chased with a stick. Reviewing his Wiki however he seems to be a poly-educated photocopier salesman who prospered off the back of get-rich-quick schemes whilst editing out the bad parts of his own entry at the same time as transferring them to the bios of others... allegedly.

As a consequence he's ideal cabinet material, the Tories only ever numbering toffs or spivs amongst their ranks. Was introduced once to Kenneth Baker (Thatcher's Minister for Technology) at a trade show in order to demo a secure signature system that I had developed along with the British Technology Group. His only question was, "And it's all about job creation is it (beam at cameras)?" to which I nearly replied, "Yeah, hit this key here and the jobs will come out of the printer over there." until such time that I remembered he was paying for it, albeit indirectly.

Accordingly Grant, I shall be there with the rest of them as-and-when you're bottom needs kissing in order to fast-track that development grant. And he looks the part too, now the UK and US look unlikely ever to elect a baldy again unless Kamala Harris goes down with a lymphoma (Ed. Who's the lymphoma?). I mean, Benjamin Franklin didn't leave us any better off, did he? And what if those little aliens take over? Whose going to ask them if they could wear a hairpiece?

But turning to those vertically-challenged like me (in more ways than one), more news from the Far East on the growth of multicopters. Reviewing the week's eVTOL news round-up, electrical flying machines fall into one of five camps:

(1)    Aircraft that attract investment (Wisk, Joby, Lilium)

(2)    CGI renders that attract investment (Vertical)

(3)    CGI renders that don't (Vimana)

(4)    Drones on steroids (eHang)

(5)    Also rans (Teledrone)

The above are representative samples and the situation is fluid to the extent that fully half of venture capital nowadays is already into electrical aviation. Looking however at category (4), not only are 'flying cars' emerging principally from China based on their existing leadership in drone technology, but this is also where personal air vehicles (PAVs) lie. These too continue to proliferate apace, like the one seen above:


This one is nothing new by any means, having been pioneered in 2015 by a Canadian:


And whilst Jeff Elkins' 'airboards' have flown farther and longer prior, there are two things of note from this video. Firstly that flight-testing is wholly unregulated in the least well-off nations to their credit and benefit ~ as in China and the US who each know a good thing when they see it ~ and secondly sponsors like Red Bull are hovering in the background. Which is another flow of cash eastward, I guess, ably sponsored by Europe's regulators.

I contacted Red Bull way back in London to see if they were interested in this stuff, and apparently they had too many other projects to support. Admittedly, given this was London and not Subic Bay, they might have had a point... but probably not.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Okay Man


Guy's still in the eVTOL game, albeit in the form of his corporation. Jeff Bezos worries Amazon might not outlast the thirty years expected of companies in our EVERYTHING NOW! generation.

Charles Kaman lived to ninety-one besides inventing the Ovation guitar of my teens, along with the inter-meshing helicopters and much else besides.

Don't build them like that any more... men, that is.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Reboot


Been given the chance here (without the option to do otherwise because of the travel restrictions due the recurring nightmare that is the Covid-19 pandemic) to review the situation, as Ron Moody was wont to do. These are as follows:

(a)    a design for a surface-skimmer that might be literally be electrified.

(b)    a patent application for a tilting wing that might extend the range of eVTOLs.

(c)    a patent application for a unique means of launching a tail-sitting aeroplane.

(d)    sticking to the knitting.

As ever in aviation multiple-choice questions, the answer is most likely to be (d). Ever wonder why, incidentally? Well if the correct option was invariably the first or second, then the exam would be over that much quicker and they'd have to have thought of so many more questions, wouldn't they?

Actually it will look more like a cross between what appears above in patent form and what was built and subsequently tested, looking more like this:


But let's start at the very beginning, because it's a very good place to start. Ever since the days I'd sit in the now-defunct science reference library in Holborn avidly leafing through the equally-defunct Jane's Surface Skimmers, I've had a secret vice in the form of a passion for what are known to most of us (and who do I think I'm kidding except myself) as 'ekranoplans'. Foremost requirement for experimentation with which however is a large body of water... people on the Everglades don't know they're born.

Common to (a) in many ways however is (b), in that experiments rarely come cheap or easy. It's no excuse not to endeavour, but you have to recognise that while Edison prospered mightily by it, the countless likes of Tesla, Brunel and Trevithick came to an altogether stickier end. In other words, it costs in more ways than one, which is why like training for the Olympics most people take a pass on it.

Like all of my inventions, which I view as fondly as children, I like (b) a lot however and see only Vimana out there (https://vimana.global/vtolaav) using anything similar. Take a look at the video however and see if you don't agree with me that the bulk of eVTOLs out there are powered by little more than hot air? Anyway I emailed the (Bulgarian and Russian inventors) and they've yet to get back to me, so what I shall likely do is roll it over for twelve months and then decide: in IP trade they're called 'submarine patents'  because they bite you just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water.

Ditto (c), although whilst the propeller plus free-wing combination used in (b) could be controlled by stock drone avionics, it requires the control-surfaces used by airplanes. These are things I ran a mile from at school, settling instead for whirling Airfix models around my head instead. Although all the SPACs out there are currently funding what in many cases are mere pictures of extended-range eVTOL types sporting fixed wings and traditional controls, to all intents and purposes multicopters remain the vehicles of choice for the cheapest and shortest-range options... of which there will be many.

(d) is therefore the Weetabix with hot milk that you keep coming back to. Although I'd visions of being 'teleported' in lookalike phone-boxes with helis above and below, this was scotched early on by being too big to meet the rules of the GoFly challenge. This has to be credited for advancing the art, and in fact has recently been extended into 2022, way beyond the original remit and a reflection on how hard vertical flight can be. Plus, the above design still fits the criteria and may yet make an appearance however and wherever that may be.

But I can attest to the fact, having built one and stood in it, that it's ergonomically the most comfortable option, is one-size-fits-all and can be escaped with a parachute. It needs improving from the standpoint of construction, undercarriage, means of entry and protection from its uppermost quad... but all of these I know now how to address.

More importantly, beside meeting the terms of the original patent it is different from every other air vehicle out there, and as such is inspiring (inspiration being what I get up each day for). It was probably YouTube's HeroFlyer that made me watch and think "I want one of those..." that inspired me to work at it for so long as I have, and so long as I will. Talking to Morty we decided that ~ like Lilienthal ~ he likely died in its pursuit.

Of course he (she or they) might actually be a dummy, but if that's so then the editing is as nifty as the flying machine. If you're watching in the office ~ as you should if you've any sense ~ then do mute it prior:


Finally though, we all put a lot into it... it's in our DNA.

Monday, August 23, 2021

The Last Word


Of the 112 patents published in the US by Nikolai Tesla, the last related to VTOL and was filed over twenty years prior to his death, begging the question of what happened in his final decades. Ironic though to think of how profitably the inventor of AC motors might have applied them to his own aerial efforts in the form of eVTOL a century on.

Reviewing the contents of the Vertical Flight Society eVTOL database it is interesting to see that the combined efforts of humankind don't come close to the output of the likes of Tesla and Da Vinci in the field, a sideline for each in between supplying siege-engines for Medici or electricity for Americans.

Two things struck me during the review of the VFS database, however. Firstly that it appears to be foremost a gallery of computer-rendered artwork rather than actual flying-machines and secondly that my own work is probably viewed by most, perhaps rightly, as something of a joke.

A joke which therefore requires something of a re-think.

The patent describes a tilt-wing aircraft, a technology trialed in the more adventurous 1950s, -60s and -70s which nonetheless awaited current (!) developments to regain its promise and not least by the efforts of https://www.dufour.aero

Thursday, August 19, 2021

This Time It's Personal (i)


SITREP: Am sat in a holiday home on the Marmara Sea, not so much from choice as it being the one chance to see my nine-year-old son, and, lacking much else to do I turn to my blog. I had wanted to take him to a shooting-range, though the weapons are a shadow of those he is used to on the Playstation's Fortnite. At this though he achieves the status of Victor Royale (victor ludorum in my day) on a fairly regular basis, having shot or disposed of ninety-nine other players by one means or another. Figured then it may be worthwhile him taking on his old man (Fortnite PB #47 after hiding in a toilet) at the real thing. I last tried it at university, principally because it was right across the road from the accommodation. Though I did nearly revisit same whilst in Atlanta on a business-jet course with a younger co-pilot, who was delighted to be in the USA for the first time if only for the "guns n' titties".

I've never been much of a beach person anyway, or at least not after teenage years, and the best holidays I recall were those in which I drifted lazily on a lilo or later in a fibreglass canoe. I can only picture myself on each at a particular point and place in time, and I figure such snapshots are the sort that make up the reel as you fall from a block of flats, God not having the time to screen the full length version. One is in said canoe on Loch Linnhe, staring at its inky depths from which plumes rose vertiginously from as a result of tidal floes. Another is on the inflatable upon an Austrian see, upon which the sun ever shone. I Googled the hotel we used yesterday evening, a splendid monument to the era before the sun n' sand flights that have since fucked us all over. It looked like the Grand Hotel Budapest of the movie, and its residents were part and parcel... ageing diamond-dealers and so forth of the kind that litter Agatha Christies.

Whilst here the most constructive thing that I have done, quite literally, is to revisit an outline I had a decade ago for a flying boat made like so much of my creations from template drawn from a stock sheet of ply or foam. I like it a lot, but the one thing you learn rapidly about innovation is that it is never easy... the idea worth a dollar, the product ten and the factory a hundred as they used to say until Jeff Bezos altered it to say that good intentions build nothing, while mechanisms do. And he should know. But the legendary TV personality (himself of noble Austrian extraction as I recall) Bob Symes, long since dead, used to say that inventors most often succeeded with things they went back to. I met him once, Horatio.

And after all, God loves a dryer doesn't he?

Unspellchecked version: God loves a tryer doesn't he?

(One thing I've been meaning to pitch to a publisher, and yet may, is a series of spell-checked novels contains sentences like "As Jane Eyre entered the study unbidden, her master looked up from his writing-desk, a penis in hand."

Accordingly, I cannot let this thing go, this electrical helicopter. Yes, Solomon said a fool returns to his folly as a dog to his vomit, but that was before drones wasn't it? And didn't Linus Torvalds say that life was nothing without a project? And how half the world's internet servers run on his Linux, none run on the Book of Solomon?

At the moment I am stuck here, though as good a place as any to be stuck, in view of the Covid travel restrictions that debar me from a return to the UK without a ten-day imprisonment in an airport hotel in Manchester, from which you'd likely emerge with as robust a case of PTSD as you would from Guantanamo and not least for the cost. Casting about for alternatives there are few countries that do not permit entry, for at least the ten days interlude required, without excessive paperwork and endless Q-tips up the nose. And these are no ordinary Q-tips, but of a length which goes a long way toward clearing wax from the brain.

Absent from the list however is Mexico, where nonetheless cases of infection are rising at an extraordinary rate. As the USA requires a fourteen-day quarantine upon arrival, albeit at your chosen accommodation, I discover that this has been the means of choice of getting to America: fourteen days of trying to avoid being mugged or shot at by drug cartels. As a result of the loophole, air fares to Mexico City are a rewind to the era prior to no-frills travel. And anyway, the capitol is miles away from intended border crossing at Tijuana, a stone's throw from where I had intended to go around now, which was (and remains) San Diego.

Reason being, to visit Morty, of whom I know little or nothing about except that the offer of accommodation at his behest he offered for the duration. For all I know that could be a tent on the sidewalk, but needs must. We met, at the risk of sounding like a romance, on a YouTube commentary that featured footage of 'Hero Flyer'. This was a pseudonym for a guy who built an eight-motored electrical flying machine, which both Morty and I felty should long since have been put into production. Both he and it have disappeared without trace however, and the regrettable conclusion that the two of us came to was that the guy probably died in his contraption as most pilots did at the dawn of the original form of aviation a century prior. (That discounts balloons, which did the same for their authors a further century prior, by catching fire or climbing to previously-unknown heights were their literal basket-cases suffocated.)

Morty was and is a total novice at the 'Game of Drones' and called upon me in recent months firstly to see if I had one ready. Like everyone else I didn't, having relied at both school and university on night-before efforts and subsequently losing like a hare to the tortoises. Albeit a gifted hare: in one essay my degree was actually downgraded for suggesting that Germany might yet be unified. "Never going to happen, is it?" said the beardy from Leicester University called upon to adjudicate.

So fuck you Leicester, and fuck your university.

But after hours and hours of advising Morty how to build personal air vehicles with electrical motors and carbon-fibre propellers, he goes off to design one himself with the assistance of a fabricator who normally builds dune-buggies. They are getting no further than he would with my assistance, until such time as I advise hime to look for someone who knows how to do the software side and he finds a lady whom it appears he intends to keep for himself; females, brains and drones being a heady cocktail. And so I am, once more, left out in the cold and Alone Again naturally as Gilbert O'Sullivan.

So I forfend on San Diego, it looking as costly a remedy as any for itchy feet, however alluring the name sounds. When I was a child I used to think Welwyn Garden City was as cool a sounding place as any and was surprised to discover it was not actually in the USA... and even more surprised to find myself eventually eating cheese scones in its John Lewis store. San Diego has much the same allure ('lido' being another word which entranced me as a child with its imagined pleasures under endless sunshine), although I feel in my heart that once there I would rapidly tire of lotus-eating and want to move on if only because, as the Buddhist Alan Watts pointed out, wanting to be elsewhere is a symptom of the human condition that only meditation can cure.

For me then, this has to be finished our else I myself am finished: a relic of an earlier age when flying was for fun and not for fucking the world, a loser whose predictions end their lives as corner-table reminiscences in public houses, a man who has started so much including life and yet saw none of it to conclusion, let alone success?

The hotel is no longer, incidentally. It was bought by an entrepreneurial philanthropist in 2015 and converted in a suitable bland-looking workspace for aspiring engineers. I'd apply to fabricate my people-carrying drone there, but am way above their age-grade.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Five Sheets to the Wind


Few posts ago discussed similarities betwixt Opener's successful Blackfly eVTOL and a flat-pack design of my own circa 2012 that was nonetheless never intended for free flight, for the simple reason I never imagined it capable thereof. What I did imagine it might be used for however is that itch ever to be scratched in the form of ground-effect flight.

With my foray into eVTOL I figured only transport geeks like self shared a dying hobby, but turns out not to be the case... kow-tow if you would to these guys:


Accordingly I've dusted off the ten-year old outline in parallel with the ongoing vertical work, because (a) it's fun whereas (b) VTOL will send you to an early grave long before the inevitable impact. Other reason being however that everything I've learned in the pursuit of the latter feeds into the former. As I've said before, nothing in life is wasted including an afternoon in Stevenage.

Cobbled this baby together from five quarter-sheets of foam and twenty pounds of ballast about where you'd sit ~ and it does look like it would amply support self at its full scale of eight feet by twelve. Thing being, electrical motors and propellers are a game-changer from the point of view of their economy and ease of application... plus I've got them sat in the workshop already.

Best thing too is that this works at whichever stage of development, whereas a human multicopter either flies or else kills you, as did most prototypical flying machines until the advent of simulated flight. Plus framed by the same shapes we've been used to since cavemen, it looks one dogs-bollocks of a stealth-machine.

The design is/was drawn from five stock sheets of ply (or laminated foam), two of which form planes pitched at thirty degrees, one the sides, another the fuselage sides and a final the top and underside thereof.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Primed Minister


You look at this and ask who'd want to live in a world whose leading nations might be ruled by the likes of these, and not least the one in the middle? I know someone who knows someone who knows one of the many subservient ladies-who-do at the public school* in question, who assures us that he was every bit as obnoxious and entitled as might be imagined... who'd have guessed?

N.B. A 'public school' in England is one from which the public is generally banned.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Tetra Re-Pak


Recognised the name from the GoFly comp, tho' not their latest iteration. Sympathetic  to their efforts in view of the fact they lent us an electric screwdriver at the event.

Meanwhile Pete Bitar ~ who afforded us a deal of assistance at the same time ~ shows how you can't keep a good man down, as they used to say.

If nothing else it illustrates how the drift toward assisting the cruise phase of eVTOLs with wings is a common trend.

For whereas multicopters can be viewed as inferior forms of helicopter, conventional efforts to combine VTOL with aerofoils were plagued with problems prior to electrics.

Above, Tetra's latest and original (inset) and likewise below alongside Pete Bitar.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Where's ARcopter?


Colugo's 'ARcopter' is a viable business stemming from a 2018 project when their first commercial test-flights took place. How the costs compare with the overall budget is speculative, but what is clear is that the EU funded 5/7ths of them by way of a grant. 

To a company in the Middle East. You couldn't make it up, and the way EU bureaucrats sprayed our tax revenues around like cow-shit helps to explain why the UK is no longer a part.

'FU' funding would be nearer the mark.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

New Slant

While on the subject of canted planes and trawling the archives or my 'empire of dirt' I see that around a year ago I considered offsetting upper and lower drones. Though I've been considering simple quads recently for hovering here and there, I honestly cannot see that in design terms it is worth doing anything less than fully-fledged multicopter. Staggering the upper plane offers ergonomic advantages in that, sitting upon the lower plane, the head height is not restricted as it would be whilst sitting in an upright box. 

Was a time I would have registered this as a design, though in retrospect I've done so for those iterations least worth protecting and overlooked those most so. My opinions have been canvassed from time to time by the UK Intellectual Property Office, or the Patent Office as was and I've suggested that it became something of a personal space for any individual's output.

For the one advantage it has is a longevity getting on for seven centuries, and much as we love Facebook and associated bollocks, I just don't see it lasting that long. Frankly though, that could be said about human civilisation.

(And that's an oxymoron if ever there was one.)