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Entecho's Hoverpod: the 3-seat, skirt-steered, 75mph VTOL flying saucer

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May 4, 2009

The Entecho hoverpod

The Entecho hoverpod

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May 4, 2009 We continue to be optimistic about the future of personal flight - and from flying cars to coaxial flying platforms, ion-powered jetpacks and more recreational solutions, plenty of innovative designs are striving for viability. We haven't seen anything like this one before though - Australia's Entecho has come up with an operating prototype of a sort of cylindrical fan-forced flying saucer, steered by directing the downward airflow through a flexible skirt that allows easy directional control. The blades are not exposed and move reasonably slowly, it's stable in flight and the system is remarkably simple from a mechanical point of view. It's also quite simple to fly using a joystick controller. Totally VTOL and with a small footprint, perhaps the Entecho Hoverpod might deliver as a practical and affordable personal flight solution.

Entecho CEO Kim Schlunke is no stranger to out-there startups - he worked with Ralph Sarich on his revolutionary but ultimately doomed orbital engine in the 1970s and 80s, and more recently has been working on direct in-cylinder fuel/compressed air systems for two-stroke motors that can reduce fuel consumption and emissions by as much as 35%.

This latest venture is equally fascinating but perhaps more ambitious. Entecho's core IP is an odd enclosed-rotor flight technology that requires a disc-shaped aircraft with passengers or payload in the center. Yep, pretty much your classic flying saucer.

How it flies

Air is drawn into a ring of vents on the upper side of the aircraft, then forced downward through the rotors, which spin inside the shell of the aircraft. The resulting pressure differential lifts the aircraft off the ground and delivers effective VTOL capability with good hovering stability, even in crosswinds.

At the bottom of the craft is a flexible skirt which is controlled by releasing or pulling in a ring around the bottom of it. This directs the flow of air, and makes for a very simple and reportedly intuitive 360-degree steering process via a joystick. We're not sure how yaw will be controlled.

Top speed should be around 120kmh, and an initial range of 3km will improve through development.

Safety

The ducting that surrounds the inner pod, housing the rotating blades, is largely hollow, meaning that in the event of a crash, it will act as an enhanced crumple zone. The low blade speeds - around a fifth the speed of a conventional rotorcraft - help reduce both safety and environmental issues found in other rotorcraft.

We're not sure how the Entecho craft would fare in an engine-off emergency landing situation, but the initial plans for the manned Hoverpod would indicate that it's not going to be zooming around at high altitude anyway.

Models

Entecho are building two models using the enclosed rotor technology. The first is the small, 11 pounds (5kg) unmanned Mupod, which can be used for a variety of UAV applications and measures 3 feet (60cm) in diameter. Entecho have already demonstrated a flying prototype of the Mupod.

The larger Hoverpod is a manned version with up to 3 seats. It's 5 feet (2.7m) in diameter and limited to fly 5 feet (1.5m) above ground - this doesn't make it the flying car everyone's holding out for, but it's a significant improvement on, for example, the standard hovercraft - and opens up a much wider range of passable terrains.

Entecho have also recently developed an attitudinal tilting system that allows the Hoverpod to tilt and develop translational g-forces in any direction, which should make it even more fun to fly as a recreational vehicle.

While the Hoverpod has been in development for several years, it's unclear whether Entecho have had a manned test flight of a prototype yet - but it's clearly in the pipeline.

A limited altitude of 1.5 metres won't satisfy our flying car desires just yet, but Entecho see the Hoverpod as more of a recreational vehicle to start with - and it's certainly capable of a broader range of terrains than a hovercraft. Would the same design reliably work at higher altitudes and speeds? We'll have to wait and see.

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade.   All articles by Loz Blain
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7 Comments

As an ex-pilot, private, bush flying, floats and wheels, IFR rated, with about four thousand hours as pilot in command I must state: Amateurs should not fly.

Consider the wide-spread carnage and social cost of automobile availability. Flying is a high skill, a little like playing the violin. No matter how well educated flyers are, they must put in scheduled hours of practice. Even the most experienced professional pilots know this and will take check rides when the least bit rusty.

Forget the regulations, there are moments in flying which demand this very high skill, particularly in weather (which, in truth, is not predictable). This applies to all flying: private, commercial, flying saucers, helicopters even magic carpets.

curmudgin
4th May, 2009 @ 11:27 am PDT

Curmudgin, some of us happen to love vehicles that demand skill and attention. :)

Loz
4th May, 2009 @ 04:09 pm PDT

I agree curmudgin

Still going to be difficult to stop people from trying.

1.5 metres hi at 120 kmph. How do you change direction fast enough to avoid hitting, i don't know, a person who jumps out in front of you?

All we can do is laugh really at all these obviously talented individuals fighting between each other for the title of 'most disastrous and objectively pointless energy black hole in the name of 50's style futurism'.

hughmama
4th May, 2009 @ 07:05 pm PDT

Curmudgin - How do you think you got to be a pilot? From the legacy left to you by years of aviation pioneers; amateurs all.

Stop being a typical stick-in-the-mud MODERN pilot who is more concerned with rules, flight plans and regulations than in having any actual FUN flying. Modern pilots are about as free-spirited as accountants.

Home-made, experimental flying vehicles should be encouraged!

Xolin
4th May, 2009 @ 09:25 pm PDT

Xolin, is your brain switched on? "rules, flight plans and regulations" are all designed for one reason, keeping the occupants of the aircraft alive. Being dead isnt much fun. If you disagree may I recommend the airline Garuda? They dont like rules and regs either, thats why so many of their passengers havent made it to their intended destinations over the years and why their pilots are in jail, they were just trying to have some FUN.

johnson81
6th May, 2009 @ 12:34 am PDT

I dont get it - its just a hovercraft - not only that its a hover craft that seems to be impossible to get into easily. sure the height is impressive, but its not clear how it will achieve that 120km top speed given that its just using the skirt to propel it forward. the 3k range makes it pretty impractical for anything other than tearing around a paddock, and the fuel economy is definitely rubbish.

fluffy bunny
7th May, 2009 @ 09:34 am PDT

I had this same design back in 1990. I applaud their efforts, (as I was never able to get funding), To fly would be a REAL improvement. There are already hovercraft out performing this and has been for a long time. Moeler ??? spelling? Was onto the right idea long ago. Perhaps close to 40 years ago. Still, if they can achieve high speed, altitude, and relative fuel economy in a saucer shape, I'll be glad to see it.

Facebook User
14th December, 2009 @ 01:17 pm PST
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