Monday, May 5, 2008

Another Flighty Invention

A couple days ago, a Mexican (yes, Mexican) aerospace company announced designs for a new strap-on helicopter backpack:

From the article:

Technologia Aeroespacial Mexicana (TAM), the company behind the Libelula strap-on helicopter, explains on its Web site how the device is powered by two hydrogen fuel canisters. Tiny rockets at the tips of the helicopter´s rotor blades take the place of a tail rotor, a component which couldn´t be safely attached to a human body. According to the company, the Libelula would be the lightest helicopter in the world, so light that it could be strapped to a person´s body with a carbon fiber corset.

Wow. Nifty. Gee whiz…. Yawn.

Several times a year, some enterprising inventor comes out with yet another far-out but over-played transportation device that, like its predecessors, is too expensive, too unsafe, often untried, and simply not marketable. Take, for instance, the most recent car that can turn into either a boat or a submarine (the sQuba car), or yet another flying car concept that was announced not so long ago.

Yeah, it's neat, but even if the Libelula helicopter backpack works (and it is still just a concept, I will remind you), it's really just a novelty. Hell, it would take some convincing just to get me to travel by motorcycle (four wheels is a LOT safer than two!). Getting me to strap a hydrogen fuel tank to my back, then take off with a loud engine and whirling blades just inches from my sensitive little head, is a whole other thing. Hey, while you're at it, let's make it even more unsafe and add some potentially-explosive rockets to the blades. Oh, I guess there already are.

It's an interesting commentary on the workings of the world that most people have trouble understanding how to hook up their stereo systems or operate their digital cameras, but we'll give any schmuck a license to drive a half-ton SUV at ramming speed down the freeway. I don't trust most drivers to keep me from becoming one with their hoods, so it should be no surprise that giving them a helmet with a couple of spinning 3-foot, potentially-decapitating blades and explosive rockets and hydrogen fuel isn't a concept I endorse. Call me snobby, but I'd like to keep folks on the ground and leave the flying to licensed pilots.

As for the personal-helicopter idea, I'll leave you with a link to a video of someone who has already built a similar contraption:

Here's another one:

Yes, you, too, can experience the miracle of flight with the new Libelula helicopter backpack, able to leap tall buildings and border walls with a single bound. Just watch out for those power lines, amigos, or those blades will be chopping more than air.

Addendum: For a slightly less explosive and death-defying option, consider the "Mosquito" personal helicopter:

Image taken from HERE.


Tantalus Prime said...

On Mythbusters, they attempted building such a device (different design, but basically a personal backpack aviation device) and came to the conclusion that it might be possible, but it would be pushing the limits of available technology (in terms of weight/lift ratios). And Jamie pointed out that the biggest drawback of such devices is the lack of a safety backup (i.e. a parachute).

If someone really wanted a personal flying machine for short distances, they could use ultralights. They require little take off space, do not require a pilot's license, and have a built in safety device (in that they are basically hanggliders with a motor; so in case of motor failure, glide to safety). And they are relatively cheap and readily available.

Anonymous said...

Pretty cool blog you've got here. Thanx for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to them. BTW, why don't you change design :).