Over the past year, a team of 8 students, from various engineering backgrounds at the National University of Singapore (NUS), developed an electric-powered flying machine.
Dubbed the ‘Snowstorm’, the device is capable of vertical take-off and landing that can be controlled by a single person seated within it. The Snowstorm has made international headlines since it was built.
The project was driven by FrogWorks, a collaboration between NUS Faculty of Engineering’s Design-Centric Programme (DCP) and the University Scholars Programme (USP).
This project was supervised by Associate Professor Martin Henz of the School of Computing at NUS and Dr Joerg Weigl from the Faculty of Engineering,
Professor Henz said that the advances in power technology helped realise this ambitious project.
‘’Recent advances in motors and battery technology has made it possible for us to literally take to the skies,” he said.
Dr Weigl, on the other hand, sourced the inspiration of this project from the personal fantasy of being able fly, a popular idea in science fiction.
“A common trope in popular science fiction is the projection of humans flying on our own – think the Jetsons, or even Back to the Future. NUS’ Snowstorm shows that a personal flying machine is a very real possibility, primarily as a means to fulfil our dreams of flying within a recreational setting,” said Dr Joerg Weigl.
The current prototype allows the Snowstorm to bear the load of a single person up to 70kg for a flight time of about 5 minutes.
The team developed the craft’s electronic control and stabilisation system, a pilot safety system as well as an electric energy management and supply system. In this way, if any of the three lithium batteries that power the craft malfunction, the Snowstorm can still run normally.
The Snowstorm features 24 motors, each driving a propeller of 76cm diameter with 2.2kW of power. The batteries are rechargeable and provides a total power of 52.8kW.
The project represents a great learning opportunity for the students and yielded impressive results. It is still a work in progress however, with fine-tuning of performance and safety features currently being worked on.
The Snowstorm has garnered huge attention and excitement from the public and Professor Heinz is optimistic that the Snowstorm can soon be experienced by them.
‘’The NUS team will continue to fine-tune Snowstorm … to achieve the high levels of safety, simplicity and performance required for recreational use by the general public,” he said.