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Drones are becoming personal flying machines

We succeeded in making an aircraft for personal use. But do you know what will happen in the end? Humans can ride on drones with horns.

When Peter Ternström was a kid in Sweden, Peter Ternström wanted to build a sci-fi style flying machine. In 1983, he watched five times"Return of the Jedi"And dream of riding a hovercraft through the forest of Endor. But as a bright young nerd, he quickly realized that hovering a vehicle was impossible.

"No propulsion system would work," he recalled with a sigh. Of course, people have been trying to make personal flight devices for decades - most notably jetpacks. But jetpack physics is a nightmare. Strap an explosive fuel tank to your body and try not to burn your legs? Not really personal mobilityScalablesolution.

So Ternström put aside his youthful dreams and went on to become an internet millionaire by building an online learning platform and the Swedish version of Mailchimp. Flying cars, that won't happen.

Except the technology is developing in an interesting way. While Ternström was doing these web companies, a different kind of flying technology was emerging that didn't have the problems of jetpacks: drones.

When they first became mainstream in the '00s, drones were toys, rickety and difficult to fly, and their batteries drained within minutes. But as demand from hobbyists and hobbyists grew, so did the quality of the parts. Motors got better and batteries got more durable. Tilt sensors became cheap and high-quality, and open-source coders wrote software that made drones self-stabilizing so they were easy to fly with zero training.

In 2012, Ternström met an old friend who had been building drones to carry cameras for Hollywood film productions. Ternström took some pictures with him, and as he watched the drones fly around, Ternström started thinking: Well, why not make a veryBigWhat about a drone, put a seat on it, and then carry a person?

So he and his partner did it. They founded Jetson, and the company is now selling its first honest hovering private jet model: the Jetson ONE, a $92,000 unit made from lightweight aluminum and carbon fiber, eight drone propellers and dozens of made of batteries. In the video, Ternström zips down the Italian countryside about 6 feet above the ground, looking eerily like the Endor accelerator he once dreamed of.

"Flying it was an extremely ecstatic experience," he told me. "All the bird DNA you collect from millions of years ago comes up and goes, 'Wow, wait, I've done this before!'" he said, adding that his company has 320 pre-orders and he aims to start deliveries by the end of 2023 . Buyers are mostly "well-known people from California." I wouldn't say 'Mark Zuckerberg,' but, you know, going around that circle. "

Ternström was one of the first to sell a drone-like vehicle, but he's not alone. Dozens of companies around the world are now building "electric vertical take-off and landing" (eVTOL) vehicles. Their goal is to bring in vehicles and gradually improve them to fly from city centers to airports within 10 years—because, unlike planes, they don't need runways, and the software guidance is so extensive that pilots require little or no skills. (Some of these companies aim to have their vehicles piloted remotely, or fly autonomously.) Some models move the propellers sideways while flying, so they cruise the aircraft.

Science fiction illustrations have long depicted people navigating cities in small flying machines. Now, those golden age pilots may finally be here — "they're just big drones," says Chris Anderson, COO of longtime drone pioneer and chief operating officer of eVTOL company Kittyhawk (and former editor-in-chief of WIRED).

Consider this a lesson in innovation: big breakthroughs don't always come from what you expect.

We often think that the greatest innovations come from the brilliant minds gathered in a lab or company — Apple's designers making smartphones, OpenAI's experts at coding GPT-3, Tesla engineers building a truly elegant electric car. But just as often, perhaps more often, innovation is the result of hobbyists tinkering with what seems silly or a toy. exactlybecauseThese environments are low-risk, and hackers and hobbyists can gradually improve the core technology until they are suddenly ready to do more ambitious things.

The drone car experiment failed in this way. Jeff Elkins, an electrical engineer and founder of Dragon Air, built his own flying device in 2011 by placing drone propellers on a platform. You stand on it, grab a few poles, and lean on it to steer it. "While it doesn't sound intuitive, it's actually a great way to fly," he told me. His test pilot had completed a flight of up to 20 minutes.

The idea of a human piloting a flying car might seem crazy — we're bad enough drivers in 2D. Adding a third seems tounwise. But Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter said years of software innovations that made drones easy to fly have automated much of the difficulty in flying.

"Our first test pilot, on his first flight, his comment was, 'This is the most boring maiden flight ever,'" Reuters told me. You don't have to worry about staying steady or reacting to sudden gusts of wind; the software takes care of that. You just use the joystick-like controls to point where you want to go. "You don't need any driving skills," he said.

Building an aircraft out of drone parts has other advantages, namely safety through redundancy: a single propeller can fail while others continue to operate. ifrealSomething went wrong? Several companies have installed ballistic parachutes in their machines. Lift Aircraft's HEXA is a flying machine that executives say pops so fast that it can rescue passengers from as low as 40 feet. The Jetson ONE also has a ballistic parachute, though Ternström says you have to be at least 100 feet in the air to really save you. He expects most Jetson ONE riders to stick to the ground, and in the event of an accident, you're not saved by a parachute, but by a roll cage.

"You will break an arm. It will be painful, but you will not die," Ternström said.

So: Sci-fi aircraft can be built. But will they really change the way we travel? It's a different question because it's not about technology, it's about regulation - which is bound to be much slower.

Currently, the only driverless cars that can be legally driven are lightweight and can be called "ultra-lightweight." (Jetson ONE, HEXA, and Jeff Elkins' aircraft all count.) With ultralights, you don't even need a pilot's license, although they can't fly over crowded areas. So the first driverless cars were basically for a ride.

For now, whatever. Many companies, such as Kitty Hawk, Volocopter or China's EHang, are already building larger passenger vehicles -- some of which fly fully autonomously -- with the aim of creating all-around air taxis that will allow us to fly around cities . Note that it would take the FAA a decade or more to approve these, assuming they ever did. But at the same time, one thing is clear: drones have grown up — into something very unexpected.

Why choose Zhenhe:

  • We have creative and rich photography experience: when operating the aerial camera, Zhenhe always has two people to ensure the best picture during the flight, but not neglect the flight safety
  • We are efficient: most of our cases are completed and sent to clients within 48 hours
  • All drones are insured, and all pilots have a certificate from the Civil Aviation Administration

About Zhenhe:

The core values are: integration, integrity, professionalism, innovation, and thinking about problems from the perspective of customers, thinking about the possible reactions of users and audiences, and delivering the most complete solutions after continuous adjustment.

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