April 20, 2007 We’ve been following developments at Gress Aerospace
for several years now, as it has developed its unique control technology for advanced vertical take-off and landing platforms. If successful, the control technology greatly simplifies flying, offers increased stability and functionality and requires a much smaller footprint than a traditional helicopter, hence it has wide application in commercial, industrial, and consumer markets, particularly for transportation and surveillance. The technology allows 6-Axis orientation, and a much smaller platform size in VTOL aerial vehicles. During the past twelve months, Gress has successfully scaled its system from a 15%-scale platfrom to a 40%-scale platform, and now intends to press ahead with a 100%-scale platform, build and testing phase, during the next 36 months. Introduced within the three stage build plan will be a new hybrid power generation package allowing the vehicle increased endurance with minimal fuel consumption. Once unmanned flight has been demonstrated, Gress will target the manned light-aircraft industry with plans have for an automobile-sized single seat VTOL.
April 18, 2007 For more than 50 years, the media have been promising us the personal flight revolution; by 2000 we'd all be getting around in flying cars, cruising down the skyway then touching down, driving home and unloading the shopping. Sadly, most of us are still stuck down here in traffic, but one maverick aviator has successfully taken personal flight into his own hands with a road-registered, high-safety flying motorcycle.
April 12, 2007 When you're trying to design a more efficient airplane, where do you look for inspiration? Swiss inventor Koni Schafroth looked downward. Underwater, in fact. A scale model of his fuel cell-powered HyFish
project, modeled on the shape of the ocean's fastest swimmer, took flight for the first time earlier this month.
March 21, 2007 Paris saw the official launch of the WINDREAM ONE campaign this morning, a project headed up by Peggy Bouchet and Stéphane Rousson, sponsored by the Theolia
Group. This ambitious project intends to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a sail balloon driven by natural and renewable energy sources. The quest conjures up images of great aeronautical discoveries where the courage, perseverance and a slight dose of madness inhabiting the spirit of visionaries and adventurers opened up the skies for future generations.
February 6, 2007 We first wrote about AirScooter
two years ago, characterising the company’s low-cost, easy-to-fly, ultra-lightweight coaxial rotorcraft helicopter as “a helicopter for the home"
. Now the company is making headlines not just for its innovative helicopter but also for the helicopter’s powerplant – the AeroTwin four-stroke aircraft engine. The second U.S. patent granted for the engine includes 23 claims focusing on the innovative lightweight one-piece head/cylinder design and related circulation and cooling methods. The AeroTwin produces 65 hp at 4200 rpm, and has a smooth/flat torque curve ideal for a wide range of sport vehicles and military applications, filling the niche between high-end hobby craft and expensive military UAVs. The company’s hobby models have now been dropped to focus resources on the engine, UAV and AirScooter segments. The knowledge obtained from hobby development contributed to the design and performance of the Company’s six-foot coaxial G70 UAV.
January 19, 2007 Eclipse Aviation
delivered the world’s first very light jet (VLJ) customer aircraft
earlier this month, intent on clearing the waiting list of more than 2,500 aircraft. Given the company’s current facilities are designed to support the production of approximately 1,000 aircraft a year, it’s unlikely that joining the waiting list for the US$1.5 million Eclipse 500 will get you one this side of late 2009, but the market for very light jets seems to be getting a lot of attention and we suspect this is just the beginning of a whole new era of personal flight.
October 7, 2006 Exotic Thermo Engineering
(aka the Swiss Rocketman, Arnold Neracher) looks set to put rocketbelts seriously on the map in the near future when he unveils a rocketbelt that will fly for a full six minutes. Neracher recently set a record for rocketbelt flight duration when one of his designs flew for a full minute, more than double the traditional maximum, but earlier this week he confirmed that he is constructing a rocketbelt that will fly for six minutes. Neracher is currently testing the new machine under tethered flight conditions with pilot Yves Rossi but did not confirm whether the video posted on his site
was the machine he expected to fly for six minutes. A Swiss medical and chemical engineering consultant, Neracher has been working on rocket engines for two decades and even makes his own hydrogen peroxide fuel – it is his knowledge of exotic fuels which is believed to be the secret to the flight duration. His engines and advanced technologies have powered go-karts, bicycles (amazing video here
), dragsters, motorcycles and jet belts previously, but if Neracher achieves this goal, and we have no reason to doubt him as he generally hits his targets, the rocketbelt could finally achieve viability and would almost certainly find military application. Building a viable rocketbelt was first attempted by the German Army during WWII as the "Himmelsturmer" (Skystormer)
and the first working rocket belt was built by Bell for the U.S. Army in the 1950s.
Bell’s rocketbelt created mainstream awareness in the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball and raised expectations of consumer versions when it was used in the opening ceremony of the 1984 Olympics. But 50 years after the Bell Rocket Belt was built, only a handful of people have flown a one, only one commercial version is available (at US$250,000) and only two companies (here and here) have successfully commercialised demonstrations. Neracher will change all that if he can achieve six minutes of powered flight. Gizmag’s Billy Paul recently attended the First Annual Rocketbelt Convention at the Niagara Falls Aerospace Museum in New York, USA. Read his report here
September 29, 2006 Last weekend Gizmag’s Billy Paul
attended the First Annual Rocketbelt Convention
at the Niagara Falls Aerospace Museum in New York, USA. Yes folks, you read it right, we said rocketbelt as in jet-pack, Buck Rogers, James Bond, the 1984 Olympics and Lost in Space. Believe it or not, these devices have been around for more than four decades with the first untethered flight performed on April 20, 1961 by Harold “Hal” Graham. During the inaugural flight, Graham flew the Bell rocketbelt a not-so-astounding distance of approximately 100 feet while only a few inches off the ground. Perhaps the anticlimactic nature of this device is the central reason that we are not all flying to work using rocketbelts. Nonetheless, enthusiasts and Bell Aerospace (or just Bell depending on the year) employees from all over the globe flew to New York on boring and very un-James-Bond-like commercial jets in order to attend this rather enigmatic event.
August 13, 2006 Vaporware is software or hardware which is announced but fails to materialise. The term implies unwarranted optimism … that development is too early to support responsible statements about its completion date or even feasibility.
The rocket belt is perhaps then, the world’s longest gestation vapourware, first entering the public consciousness in the 1920s through the newspaper-syndicated Buck Rogers scifi comic strip, and first attempted by the German Army during WWII as the Himmelsturmer (Skystormer). The first working rocket belt was built by Bell for the U.S. Army
in the 1950s. It created mainstream awareness in the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball and raised expectations of consumer versions when it was used in the opening ceremony of the 1984 Olympics. But 50 years after the Bell Rocket Belt was built, only a handful of people have flown a rocketbelt, only one commercial version is available (at US$250,000
) and only two companies (here
) have successfully commercialised demonstrations. All that might change soon as a number of people have rocket belts under development and next month (September 23-24), there’s to be a Rocketbelt Convention at Niagara Aerospace Museum in New York
which is to be attended by all the major players in the fledgling industry. Organised by Peter Gijsberts, the head of the Airwalker Society and curator of the most comprehensive and up-to-date rocketbelt information website
, the RocketBelt Convention
is compulsory attendance for all would-be Buck Rogers.
An interesting new flying car is being launched this week at Oshkosh. The Transition is a Personal Air Vehicle (PAV) designed to make general aviation more practical for personal transportation. From start-up company Terrafugi, the Transition drives like a car on public roads and can transition into an aircraft at the nearest airport by lowering its 27-foot wings and taking off. As an aircraft it has a top speed of 130mph, a range of 500 miles and can carry a payload of 430 pounds. One stop gives you over a thousand miles of range inside eight hours. Then you land and fold up the wings and you’re back on the road. As Terrafugia Chief Operating Officer Anna Mracek explains, deposits are being taken at Oshkosh, “our anticipated purchase price is $148k, and a deposit of 5% of that anticipated price will secure your place in line, but not guarantee that exact price.” The Transition delivers 30 mpg in either car or plane mode and promises a true integrated roadable aircraft at an economically compelling price. A prototype is being constructed and deliveries will start in 2009. The Transition will be capable of driving at normal highway speeds, flying at speeds that approach the light sport aircraft limit, and park in a standard garage. The CEO and CTO of Terrafugia is Carl Dietrich – note that name as he’s been incredibly impressive in everything he’s ever attempted and this is an ambitious play. Carl will receive his PhD from MIT in Aeronautics and Astronautics this year. Carl received both his SB and SM degrees from the same department, winning all four out of four design competitions available to him then the golden globe for entrepreneurs, the prestigious $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize which annually recognizes one student for outstanding innovations.