Singapore students build personal flying machine

‘Snowstorm’ has 24 propellers, and can carry a pilot weighing up to 70kg for a flight time of five minutes.

A team of engineering students from Singapore University (NUS) has designed and built an electrically powered personal flying machine, capable of short flight times of around five minutes.

NUS students designed and built Snowstorm, an electric-powered personal flying machine. (Credit: NUS)
NUS students designed and built Snowstorm, an electric-powered personal flying machine. (Credit: NUS).

Known as Snowstorm, the aircraft consists of a hexagonal frame made from anodised aluminium beams, carbon fibre plates and tubes with Kevlar ropes. Lift is provided by 24 propellers each with a diameter of 76cm, powered by a 2.2kW motor. A pilot weighing up to 70kg sits in the centre of the vehicle, and six landing legs with inflatable balls at their base support it when touching down. Power comes from three independent lithium batteries that deliver a total output of 52.8kW

“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 Dr Joerg Weigl, from the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Engineering, one of two supervisors of the project.

“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.”

Snowstorm was designed and built over a period of two semesters. As well as the construction of the aluminium frame, the students designed the aircraft’s electronic control and stabilisation system, a pilot safety system, and an electric energy management and supply system that allows the batteries to operate independently.

“Designing and building Snowstorm was a great learning opportunity for us,” said Shawn Sim, a third year NUS engineering student.

“The toughest part of this engineering challenge was ensuring a good thrust to weight ratio to allow the craft to lift a person into the air. At every stage of our design, we constantly had to balance and consider trade-offs between the types of materials, their characteristics and weight. In some instances, we even 3D-printed parts, such as our landing gear mount, just so we can have a customised and optimal fit.”