Feeds

'Personal Air Vehicle' VTOL jump-copter in key flight test

Whirly, winged wonder-craft gets automated controls

The next step in data security

What's better, VTOL or road driving? DARPA wants both, of course

The CarterCopter concept for a 2+2 set PAV. Credit: Carter Aviation

The ultimate plan

Having finished its journey, the SR/C craft can make a vertical landing in the same way as an autogyro (or a normal helicopter which has suffered an engine failure): as it descends to meet the Earth, the pilot pulls in more pitch and the kinetic energy of the falling aircraft is dumped into the rotor disc allowing a gentle set-down.

Carter has built and tested jump-copter aircraft before, but they seemed to lack one major PAV attribute: that of being easy to fly. Even experienced ex-military test pilots have suffered mishaps at the controls of Carter craft in previous years. According to the company, this has been addressed in the new PAV:

Most systems have been automated with new computer controls, greatly reducing the pilot workload.

Test pilot Larry Neal adds: "This aircraft is unbelievably fun to fly."

At the moment the PAV is being tested for low-speed and vertical-takeoff and landing operations. Once this phase of trials is complete, its wings will be attached and flights at higher speeds making use of the rotor-slowing tech will be carried out.

Apart from the economic-incentive deal with Wichita Falls, Carter Aviation sold the rights to use its technology in unmanned aircraft in 2009 to successful robocraft operation AAI in 2009 for an undisclosed sum. The firm is also part of a team contending to build a flying VTOL offroad vehicle for famous Pentagon crazytechbureau DARPA under the Transformer TX project. If that effort proves successful, a turbine-engined jumpcopter with folding wings and rotors, equipped with robust wheels and transmission allowing offroad driving on the ground, would be built for the US Marines.

As for the more normal 2+2 PAV now flying in Texas, it seems to have many of the attributes of our long-desired flying car: it is potentially fairly quiet, it can take off and land vertically, and it needn't be a lot more expensive than a regular light aircraft. Now with automated controls, it might be possible for people other than highly-trained professional pilots to fly it. It is expected to make a jump liftoff with full fuel and 1,000lb of payload, and cruise at better than 200mph.

On the downside, it can't be driven on the road, a useful option for dealing with bad weather and making the journeys to and from airstrips or helipads. The PAV's wings and rotors can't fold, either, meaning that its owner needs a 45-foot-wide space to park it.

It could be that ground-drivable but non-VTOL designs like the Terrafugia Transition (now being redesigned following initial flight tests) will prove more popular – or that neither design philosophy is viable, and PAVs/flying cars remain as far off as ever. It's encouraging to see some progress being made, however. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.