A Snowstorm from Singapore: NUS students build electric-powered indoor flying machine and hope to commercialise it

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 December, 2015, 12:47pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 December, 2015, 5:07pm

A team of eight undergraduate students from Singapore have built an personal flying machine for indoor use dubbed Snowstorm that can carry a passenger weighing up to 70 kilogrammes for about five minutes.

Built with the goal of servicing a new industry - recreational indoor flying - the drone-like device can take off vertically and is powered by electricity, making it more environmentally friendly.

“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,” said Joerg Wiegl, one of the supervisors of the students from the National University of Singapore (NUS).

“Snowstorm shows that a personal flying machine is a very real possibility, primarily as a means to fulfill our dreams of flying within a recreational setting,” he added.

WATCH: The Snowstorm gets taken for a test flight

The students chose to design the Snowstorm for indoor rather than outdoor use because operating in such a controlled environment - sans, for example, real snowstorms - made building it simpler and cheaper, he said.

But it may still be a year or two before the device is optimised and ready for reproduction, Wiegl added.

The machine is controlled by the pilot, but someone on the ground can override the controls to land it as an extra safety precaution.

Wang Yuyao, an electrical engineering student who helped to build the Snowstorm, said the team was working on making it easier to operate.

“We want to simplify the controls so that no experience is required to fly the Snowstorm,” Wang told the South China Morning Post.

“Recent advances in motors and battery technology have made it possible for us to literally take to the skies,” said associate professor Martin Henz, who also supervised the project.

“The NUS team will continue to fine-tune Snowstorm, working on mechanical safety measures, propeller and motor configurations, and control software and hardware to achieve the high levels of safety, simplicity and performance required for recreational use by the general public,” he added.