Largest quadcopter – about them
The past couple of years have seen the number of drone hobbyists’ increase significantly. In addition, the competition among quadcopter manufacturers has produced a number of interesting models and additions (like FPV quads and GPS-equipped ones); all to the delight of quadcopter hobbyists worldwide.
Size-wise, we have seen Quadcopters ranging from the micro-sized models to relatively larger ones like the DJI S1000. This begs the following question: How big can we expect future hobbyist Quadcopters to get?
Problems of large quadcopters
First of all, it’s important to investigate why large human-piloted Quadcopters are not in use.
To find out why, one should realize that scaling up a quadcopter model to be similar to commonly used flying vehicles like Helicopters presents different challenges. The physics of aero-engineering are notably one of the main obstacles to producing a human piloted quadcopter.
Hobbyist Quadcopters function efficiently due to a combination of design, light materials used and small electric rotors that make them requires significantly less power to fly. Furthermore, as flying toys, the concern for the human pilot’s personal safety does not factor in meaningfully in the design process which makes scaling them up for human flying more complicated. In simpler terms, if a quadcopter were to be designed specifically to
carry pilots then it must follow international safety regulations and include fail-safe mechanisms which can incur significant costs and mechanical burden on the traditionally cheap and safe Quadcopters.
Moreover, it is not sure whether small electric rotors would be the ideal motors for large Quadcopters. Especially that large model will be much heavier and presumed to offer a modest carriage capacity at the very least.
The challengers that large Quadcopters present are also due to the fact that developing them requires dedicated research programs for everything from aero-technology and flying safety to composite engineering. Funding these vital and expensive research programs is not yet a priority for the quadcopter industry which can mean that manufacturers are not planning on releasing any large Quadcopters any soon. Of course, all it takes for the industry to be interested is for the market’s demand to increase.
Also worth mentioning is the problem of training and other bureaucratic impediments. As it now stands, there are no training programs for quadcopter pilots. Evidently, such programs would surface once large Quadcopters are commercially available but things like flying regulation, certifications and licensing are bound to complicate large Quadcopters more than the smaller ones.
It can be easy to assume that the advances in drone technology would allow them to scale enough to accommodate carrying human pilots effectively and cheaply. After all, one of the most attractive features of Quadcopters is the low cost with which you can manufacture and even acquire one. Thusly, hobbyists and manufacturers alike are seriously looking into how far the technology can be pushed and whether or not it can challenge the commercial aircraft industry. Likewise, car traffic and the astronomical costs of acquiring and maintaining helicopters are two additional factors bringing the question of large Quadcopters to imminence.
Unfortunately, it is too soon to determine whether human piloted Quadcopters would develop into such designs. Developing large Quadcopters requires the intersection of inter-disciplinary cooperation of various engineering and scientific fields.
Fortunately, human ingenuity and technological advances are bound to lead to such results. For example, the online RC products website HobbyKing organized a large initiative dubbed ”beerlift”, in which site users were encouraged to compete in deploying a quadcopter capable of lifting the heaviest amount of beer possible.
Although this initiative does not aim to build a human piloted large quadcopter, it challenges hobbyist to address some issues that manufacturing one would create.
Another notable example is that of the experimental E-Volo multirotor aircraft. The idea which started as a simple experimental prototype –seen in the video below—developed into a fully-fledged aviation company with its flagship multirotor E-Volo aircraft.
This project represents the revolutionary product that quadcopter enthusiasts have been waiting for. By taking the best of helicopters and Quadcopters, E-Volo is turning out to be an efficient and eco-friendly alternative for classical helicopters.
With 18 different rotors, E-Volo provides more redundancy against motor and flight-control failures. The vehicle is also emission-free in a time when aircraft-caused pollutions is gaining more publicity and the demand for more eco-friendly aircrafts is more urgent than ever.
Furthermore, the German company is closely working with the German government to make air legislation more accommodating for the upcoming wave of large Quadcopters while guaranteeing utmost safety and order.
To summarize, scaling up a quadcopter is deceptively difficult. On one hand, the simplicity that Quadcopters are known for becomes impossible to maintain as you scale a model up taking factors like safety mechanisms and pilot carriage capacity into consideration. Also, the quadcopter manufacturing industry is unlikely to pursue such projects in the near future due to the expensive R&D investments that have to be made in order to develop Large Human-piloted Quadcopters.