Anderson, Indiana, April 7, 2015: In a clear area of a defense contractor’s factory in the Indianapolis suburb of Anderson, the noise grew, the dust blew, and the first purpose-built man-carrying quadcopter lifted off from its platform of shipping pallets, volunteer Stephen West aboard as Pete Bitar ran the controls, a few yards distant.
“It was just the proof of the concept, a very short flight” said inventor Bitar, President of AirBuoyant LLC, manufacturer of the VertiPod®. “But it was exciting, doing something that’s never been done before, with a design for production.”
The VertiPod IV tested here is a “mule,” with a lot of structure you won’t see in the production unit, which should be making demonstration flights at the big Oshkosh airshow in July. For example, the blue cage won’t be part of the package – just light legs to support the 120-pound machine as the pilot or passenger straps into the harness. The production machine will be a Hexacopter – six motors, six props, and more batteries; it will have a payload of 250 pounds. And it will be designed to fit into a big wheeled “suitcase,” making Professor Gadget green with envy.
Flight time for a gross weight operation is in single-digit minutes for now, but extended flights are projected, dependent on the tradeoffs among battery quantity, payload, and the flight profile.
This machine will be versatile, as it can be flown from the harness or from another location; it can also be programmed to fly a fully-autonomous route, like a high-line “hobby drone.”
That means the VertiPod can be flown as an FAA-defined Part 103 Ultralight Vehicle, by anyone who is competent – no pilot’s license or formal training is required. It can also be used in any number of pickup and delivery modes – delivering ammo and picking up a wounded soldier, for instance, or rescuing a person who has fallen through the ice.
Price for the VertiPod Hex will be $23,950, for the first 1000 customers.