Imagine a world where you could hop into your own mini-helicopter and take to the skies with no need for a pilot’s license, skipping the busy roads and arriving at your destination in pure style. Wouldn’t that be neat? Thanks to a European Government funded project called myCopter, this dream could become a reality.
The idea was conjured up back in 2007 by Heinrich H. Bülthoff of the Max Planck Institute in Germany after a European Union report sought novel ideas to improve the transport system in Europe. Currently, six institutions in Europe are collaborating on the venture which is still in very early stages. Having said that, the initial phase of the project, which involves setting up experimental platforms and designing certain aspects of the control system, is nearing completion.
Growing congestion problems, which are only predicted to worsen in coming years, served as motivation for this project. The idea is to develop a personal air transport system (PATS) that is both environmentally friendly and financially viable. The vehicles would be used at low altitude and would be designed in such a way that they could be operated by people with no prior flying experience. Furthermore, because they wouldn’t be operating high enough to interfere with current air traffic regimens they would not require ground-based air traffic control.
Danny Hakim, a New York Times journalist, jumped at the opportunity to give the simulator a test at Liverpool University’s Center for Engineering Dynamics. He describes his experience in a recent piece: “I don’t know how to fly and I’m not even a very enthusiastic driver, but I took off easily enough from what looked like a field surrounded by six houses in the English countryside. Then I followed a virtual aerial highway stretching out before me by flying through a series of purple squares spread across the simulated skyline.”
Researchers at this institution worked with former military test pilots in order to come up with a system that is easy to operate by individuals with no flying experience. They’re now using simulators to see how people fare in controlling the virtual vehicle.
MyCopter still has a long way to go yet- they need to work out a system that will prevent people from crashing into each other and the kind of infrastructure that would be needed if the project becomes a reality.
According to The New York Times, while it is still early days the team hopes to enter a second phase soon which would involve collaborating with private companies in order to come up with potential designs for the helicopters