Personalised flying machines may soon become a reality

Ansel Misfeldt was determined to make his childhood dream airborne

One of Ansel Misfeldt’s flying prototypes undergoing testing.

One of Ansel Misfeldt’s flying prototypes undergoing testing.

 

Ever just wanted to have an extra five minutes in bed and wish that somehow you could cut the time you waste on the daily commute? Well that’s exactly what inspired Ansel Misfeldt to make it his mission to create a flying machine.

“The inspiration, the genesis, for me was way back when I was in eighth grade and I wanted to be able to fly to school in the mornings so I could sleep in an extra five minutes and from there it just stuck in the back of my mind.”

Misfeldt is now founder of Flyt Aerospace, specialising in vertical take off and landing aircraft in California. “At the end of the day it’s a large drone, specifically a drone big enough to fly a person and by drone I mean a multirotor vehicle, something that uses many propellers to generate lift and to control and stabilise it for flight.”

Waiting until he went to college to study business, Misfeldt returned to childhood dream and started to slowly make it a reality.

The new one we are building is actually designed for efficiency so it gets anywhere between 20-30 minutes of flight time

“I always wondered could that thing be built. I taught myself aeronautical engineering on the side and did the math and the math said there was no reason that this couldn’t fly if you can find the right parts.

“The idea around why I wanted to do this wasn’t around wanting to fly, per say, it was I like to work on very difficult and challenging problems and people had been working on the problem of vertical take off and landing flight for a very long time.

“All the technology pieces happened to be coalescing at the same time so why not go and work on it? It’s a worthy challenge to spend your time on and I think that there is a terrific business to be made there.”

Successful prototype

It hasn’t all been plain sailing and as you’d imagine with a project of this scale there has been a lot of trial and error.

“So many things went wrong in the process, I’ve started to lose track [of the prototypes] over all these years. When I first started out I started working on a gas powered one that used two experimental German aircraft engines, essentially bolted onto a steal frame, that worked as aircraft propellers for a small plane and that worked less than well!

“It could get off the ground but it wasn’t controllable so we switched over to some kind of large electric motors to replace the very heavy gas motors with a lot of batteries and now it was a little bit better but still had the same issues.”

It was at this point that Misfeldt thought about dusting off his CV and settling onto a more stable work environment but something told him to give it another few weeks and within that time he’d built his first prototype that could successfully be flown around inside an aircraft hanger.

“We got to the same point where we said well , we built this, we don’t know how useful this is, is there really very much that can be done with this? Maybe it’s time now, that we actually have this working, to stop and do something else .

“I had a guy reach out from Nicaragua who was very passionate and said ‘no you can’t stop now you are so much further ahead than all these other people I’m tracking around the world why in the world would you stop surely there must be something else you can do?’ ”

Using the technology for transportation wasn’t really a factor at this stage, the current batteries do not last long enough to consider this as a commuter model, so they set about thinking of a better use case for their product.

We see the long-term transportation potential to be able to fly across a river or to be able to fly directly from your home into work everyday

“We said recreation entertainment is a good place to start, why don’t we try building a hover bike, and in two weeks we built a hover bike. About 80 hours of work and about $70 of new steel and built it and the first time we tried to make it fly it flew better than anything we’d ever seen before.”

Flyt Aerospace are now working on funding for their latest model of the hover bike and took prototype number seven to Webit Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria recently to start their campaign for investment.

“That one was designed not to be terribly efficient but to answer the question of how small can we build one of these that still flies a person – we’ve seen lots of other companies building things that are very large, our question was how small can we make it? It’s not designed to be efficient – it gets about 10-12 minutes on a full set of batteries, the new one we are building is actually designed for efficiency so it gets anywhere between 20-30 minutes of flight time, our current estimation on normal electric batteries alone.

“We view the first use case as really hover bike rentals at resorts so when you’re on vacation in Hawaii, or any number of places next to the ocean, you could rent one of these for an hour. One of the employees there would actually guide you on how to safely operate this, making sure you can you know how to take off and fly it around safely – you have a kind of racecourse marked with buoys out over the water that would allow you to race around for a lap time to compare with your friends and other guests so that anyone can get the experience of flying.”

Misfeldt with Webit Festival founder Plamen Russev.
Misfeldt with Webit Festival founder Plamen Russev.

Long-term potential

This is of course the hopes for the immediate use of the hover bike and what Flyt Aerospace are looking for investment to develop right now but the longer term plans could actually see Misfeldt realise his boyhood dreams of flying to school, or now a days work.

“We see the long-term transportation potential to be able to fly across a river or to be able to fly directly from your home into work everyday. We think that being able to take off and land in your driveway and to be able to do it quietly and safely enough is really the long term goal but we also see that as being ten years out.

“There are a number of people that tell you that this is closer than you think, that it will be here in five years. I’ve heard that long enough to know that it’s probably closer to ten years just from a regulatory perspective to be able to figure everything from insurance to how do you mange air traffic, there’s so many pieces that go into this.”

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