A made-in-Singapore personal aircraft

Snowstorm, carrying NUS chemical engineering student Zheng Xiaowen, taking off during a test flight at the university yesterday. The aircraft, which took a year to build, can carry an individual weighing up to 70kg for about five minutes, and can ris
Snowstorm, carrying NUS chemical engineering student Zheng Xiaowen, taking off during a test flight at the university yesterday. The aircraft, which took a year to build, can carry an individual weighing up to 70kg for about five minutes, and can rise 1.5m to 2m above the ground. The team intends to develop Snowstorm for commercialisation.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

The brainchild of engineering students, Snowstorm is meant for recreational use and can be controlled by pilot with a remote

Aspiring pilots with no professional training may soon be able to take to the air in an electric-powered aircraft designed and built in Singapore.

Snowstorm is the brainchild of eight third-year engineering students from the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Intended for recreational use in a large indoor space, it can carry a single person weighing up to 70kg for a flight time of about five minutes, and is controlled by the pilot with a handheld remote. It can go about 1.5m to 2m above the ground.

Taking around a year to build, it was named for its hexagonal shape, resembling a snowflake, and the strong winds generated from its 24 propellers, each driven by a motor. It can take off and land vertically and is powered by three independent rechargeable lithium batteries.

"Although most people are able to fly now, they are still inside the plane and do not experience the true sense of flight. We wanted to create something that allowed us to do so safely," said Mr Wang Yuyao, 23, an electrical engineering student and member of the team that built Snowstorm.

Its frame is made of aluminium beams, carbon fibre plates and tubes with Kevlar ropes, and the pilot's seat is in the middle. To absorb shock when landing, its six legs are fitted with PVC balls. For safety, it also has a separate switch to allow people on the ground to land the machine if the pilot loses control.

While the aircraft prototype was tested using dummies, it took off with its first pilot, 21-year-old NUS student Zheng Xiaowen, at an event yesterday.

This project was carried out as part of FrogWorks, a collaboration between the NUS Faculty of Engineering's Design-Centric Programme and the University Scholars Programme. FrogWorks focuses on the design and construction of green technology. The team intends to continue developing Snowstorm for commercialisation.

"The recreational sector is not recognised as an area where green innovation can make an impact on our environmental footprint," said Associate Professor Martin Henz, one of the project's supervisors.

"We shouldn't stop with transport and industries, but look at our leisure activities as well. We can become completely green."

See a video of Snowstorm, the electric-powered personal aircraft

designed and built by NUS students: http://str.sg/ZDQZ

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2015, with the headline 'A made-in-S'pore personal aircraft'. Print Edition | Subscribe