Singapore students build personal flying machine

A team of eight engineering students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have built a personal flying machine, dubbed ‘Snowstorm’.

It could only be demonstrated by flying it indoors, due to Singapore’s legal requirements for personal aerial vehicles.

Resembling a giant drone, ‘Snowstorm’ comprises of motors, propellers and landing gears set within a hexagonal frame and can be controlled by the person sitting in it, or remotely.

It’s environmentally-friendly too, as the three rechargeable lithium batteries get their energy from solar power.

Joerg Weigl, who came up with the idea and is one of the supervisors of the project, said he wanted ‘Snowstorm’ to help people realize their dreams of flying.

“Because flying is now a community. People can now fly with a jetliner, but the feeling of flying got lost on the way. So ‘Snowstorm’ is our multi-copter where you can get the feeling of flying back, the feeling of flying to anybody who wants to fly,” he said.

The team said the current prototype can technically bear the load of a single person up to 70 kilograms for a flight time of about five minutes and for safety, the seat is installed with a five-point harness that secures the pilot to the center of the machine.

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However, a dummy, which is a few times lighter than a human being, was visibly easier to control.

Team member, student Wang Yuyao admitted that ‘Snowstorm’ is still a work in progress.

“The next step is, from an electrical standpoint, it’s definitely to have more fail-safes, better stability and easier control for the pilot, and from the mechanical side of the staff, it’s definitely more structural stability as well as maybe even more power. We can always add more motors to lift a heavier person,” he said.

Rather than a mode of transportation, the team said the flying machine will be more for personal recreational use.

Weigl said he could see it being commercialized some years down the road.

“As soon as you make it stable and possible as a fun activity, a fun activity is what people want and if people want this, it’s a product and as soon as it’s a product, it’s a commercial market (product). That’s very simple and it’s a commercial market (product) that doesn’t pollute the environment, so that is a nice thing,” he said.

The personal flying machine was built over a one-year period.