We can fly high. We can fly fast. But we cannot fly low and slow.
Imagine a vehicle that spends most of the time on the ground or within a couple of feet of the surface. (So it wouldn’t hurt too much if we crashed.) Then imagine that it could rise high enough to go over or around virtually any obstruction. Ten feet should do it. Flying platform or a flying carpet? There is no name yet coined. How about "AirScooter"? Flying low and slow has been a dream of men forever. Yet, it has not yet been done with any kind of safety. It is time we learn how.
This is a contest to reward mastery of airspace from the surface to ten feet up. The contest will be funded for at least five years so as make the efforts of competitors worthwhile. The rules will be specifically tailored to result in practical solutions. (See suggested contest rules a little farther on)
The Craig Vetter AirScooter Contest is intended to advance personal transportation and to spur industry. Mastery of travel just above the ground would significantly reduce the need for roads, bridges and their continued maintenance. We could get from A to B easier with less infrastructure. In short, when such a vehicle is developed, our way of life will be changed dramatically. Mankind wants this. Everyone believes this kind of personal transportation is inevitable. So lets do it now.
Once a year, a contest will be held in the USA where entrants will bring their machines to compete. Vehicles will be required to traverse a course that will take them through a variety of real situations including roadways, passing over cars, ditches, river beds, lakes and up and down steep hills - but never rising over 10 feet. Rules will insure practical and safe solutions, not just curiosities. We will set up a 501c3 nonprofit corporation to conduct the contest. A Board of Directors will be named to set rules, manage and be responsible for moneys, and to determine annual winners. Funding will probably come from a major corporation. I will need help.
Men have come close to the Dream in the past. Forty five years ago, under military contract, Stanley Hiller (http://www.hiller.org) built and flew his "Flying Platform" using (3) 44 hp Nelson engines. But when government funding ceased, development ceased. During the same era, privateer American inventor Igor Bensen sat between two 72 hp McCulloch engines and went up.
Bell and Aeropak built rocket belts that went up - but only for a few seconds. In the 60s, personal "ground effect" machines were toyed with. But, ground effect only exists very close to the ground. The ground effect will not do the job needed to win this contest.
Today, only a handful of adventurers keep the dream alive. USA’s Solotrek (http://www.solotrek.com) is building a promising looking 120 hp Hirth powered machine. In Israel, Aero-Design & Development (http://www.aero-marine.design-development.com) has resurrected Hiller’s Flying Platform design with what look like go kart engines.
Why has this type of flying not been done yet?
Good question. Three problems have hindered development of mastery of this airspace:
1: Small, inexpensive high powerto-weight engines have not been available.
2: The government has not funded the effort.
3: Nobody’s designs have been especially safe to be around.
Lets begin with the engine problem. From the successes, we can see that it takes about 120 hp to hover a man outside ground effect. Today, a number of inexpensive, amazingly powerful engines are available. 100 cc, 10 lb. go-kart motors easily generate 17-10 hp. Japanese motorcycles available to anyone with $8,000 produce over 100 hp. Cheap engines are no longer a problem.
Government funding: "No government funding" has meant "no development". I believe this is a project for the private sector and I will be counting on support from American industry to fund it.
Safety: Every machine that I know of would chop up its pilot or bystander in any mishap. Every contestant's machine must be absolutely benign to people. From the start, the rules require safety and performance to evolve simultaneously.
The elements for success exist today. More importantly, the necessary components can be in the hands of anyone who wants them. Digital controls, carbon fiber structure and cheap engines powerful enough to the job are easily available. Today, the Dream can be realized.
Proposed Rules: Craig Vetter AirScooter Contest
As of Oct 17, 2000
Don't even think about entering this contest without addressing the following:
All dangerous moving (or hot) components must be shielded so they cannot come into contact with anybody’s body parts (pilot or bystander). Specs will be written do clarify this. More than anything, this requirement will make low and slow flying AirScooters safe to be around.
The vehicle must have no “Dead Man zone”. Many vehicles, when the power fails, fall uncontrollably for a period of time before they can be slowed down for a safe landing. The concept of flying no higher than 10 feet above the surface effectively means that there is no "Dead Man Zone". An AirScooter contestant falling from 10 feet is not likely to be killed.
The vehicle must carry a 225 lb. man safely from ground level, vertically, up to 10 feet above the surface.
It must be capable of staying aloft, hovering, at least 15 minutes.
It must not incinerate the environs
It may have no connection with the ground or any other structure.
The course of the contest will be laid out to represent actual conditions, traversing riverbeds, lakes and bays and other unimproved terrain.
Points for determining the winner will be awarded for:
Being street legal, (meaning complying with the rules to legally justify a legitimate
vehicle license plate from the builders home state). This feature would allow AirScooters to travel on the roads in bad weather, further guaranteeing that we are developing useful vehicles.
FAR Part 103 compliant ( under 254 lb.. empty, etc. )
Ability to accelerate quickly.
Ability to stop quickly.
Extended hovering airtime
Not kicking up dust or water
Rules will be adjusted annually to make the resulting solutions ever more practical.
This will be a well funded operation. Vehicles might cost from $30,000 to $50,000 (or more) to build. To keep expenditures down, we will have a claiming rule*. Suggested prizes:
First Place: $100,000
2nd Place: $70,000
3rd Place: $40,000
*Claiming rule will allow anybody to claim the 1st place machine for - say - $50,000
Responsibilities of sanctioning body's Board:
Secure adequate insurance
Manage and be responsible for moneys
Arrange for contest location
Provide advertising and PR
Event name and logo
Promote the contest
Assemble digital film clips of previous promising attempts for general release
Generate imagery of suggested winning solutions to help inspire
Suggest how the results of this contest can change the world for the better
Arrange TV appearances
Maintain continuous legal counsel for:
Ownership & licensing of event materials
Promote their accomplishments
Set up and maintain a web page*:
With a chat room
With links to:
vendors of potential components
The sanctioning body
Maintain detailed archives of all contestants
So each year’s entrants may begin where last years left off.
* The web page will allow virtual teams to coalesce, shop for components and sponsors. Never has there been a contest like this before. Never could there have been a contest like this.å
Suggested solutions to get you thinking:
Multiple model airplane ducted fan units could do the job. Each model airplane unit has a net thrust of about 15 to 20 lbs. and costs about $600 each. $7,000 in model airplane engines might take you up.
Similarly shrouded go-kart engines would each produce about 50 lb.. of up thrust. At about $2500 each, $18,000 would take you up ten feet, out of ground effect.
Two McCulloch drone engines costing $5,000 total will take you up Bensen style.
Japanese motorcycle engines also come with wheels and a license plate. Very tempting.
Model turbojets of 30-70 pounds thrust are beginning to appear and offer great promise.
You can see that contestants can come from many groups. From model airplane builders, real airplane builders, go karters, and my favorite, motorcyclists. This is the kind of contest that college students can get behind. Five years of guaranteed funded contests makes the effort worth while. If you don't win this year, come back next year.
Certainly the above ideas are not the only ways. Non existing power plants may be developed: Hybrid pulse jet / Coanda effect air thrusters. Nano flutterers with microscopic wings. Just end up with something that is likely to advance our civilization... to make our world a better place.
There have been great contests in the past. In the 20s, the Schneider Cup advanced the development of seaplanes. In the 60s, President Kennedy's challenge put a man on the moon. In the 80s, Mr. Kramer spurred interest in human powered flight. This contest is different. This contest is designed to result in a kind of vehicle that can change the way we live.
Is there interest? E-mail me with your ideas. I do need help. Your comments and suggestions are appreciated.