NUS students build electric-powered personal aircraft


Those who dream of piloting their own aircraft - without professional training - may be able to do so in future with an electric-powered machine designed and built in Singapore.

Called Snowstorm, the aircraft was the brainchild of eight third-year engineering students from the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Intended for personal recreational use in large indoor spaces, it can carry a single person weighing up to 70 kg for a flight time of up to five minutes, and may be controlled by the pilot with a hand-held remote.

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, it is still inside the plane and they 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 from aluminium beams, carbon fibre plates and tubes with Kevlar ropes, and the pilot's seat is right in the middle of the craft. 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 passenger at an event to show it on Wednesday (Dec 2).

The project was done as part of FrogWorks, a collaboration between the NUS Faculty of Engineering's Design-Centric Programme and the University Scholars Programme.

"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, who is 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," he said.