The Human Drone
HDP03 One-seat octoquad
The HDP03 is the latest prototype, being slightly lighter than its predecessor and having a lower CG. Construction began in late January 2021, set to be the first HDP to safely transport a real human. Therefore, in addition to redundancy in hardware components and fail-safe software procedures, its seat is surrounded by wire mesh and plexiglass to protect the pilot against an eventual disintegration of the propellers in case of an accident.
During 3 months, the vehicle performed several flights in order to obtain the best possible configuration for the control parameters, while carrying a weight of 80 kg to simulate the loading of a person. On June 12, 2021, the weight was replaced by an actual crew member, and the first hovering flight was completed successfully.
HDP02 One-seat octoquad
To increase the specific power, we decided to build the HDP02 as an octoquad, which handles 4 pairs of motors rotating in opposite directions. In addition to more power, it was possible to reduce the size and mass of the structure, since only two beams were needed to support the eight motors.
In addition to having better maneuverability when compared to the previous model, improvements were made to the control software, ensuring more responsive and efficient self-corrections during flights.
The HDP02 flew until the end of January 2021, bringing us valuable knowledge and experience, which lighted our way towards the goal of having safe human flight in an aircraft of this type. We realized that the next step was ready to start, which would be the prototype in which we would finally fly with the intended safety.
HDP01 One-seat hexacopter
This was the first full-scale HDP to carry a payload equivalent to the weight of a human. Through computer simulations and results confirmed by the reduced models, we built this hexacopter. The first flight was successfully made in August 2020, thus following a series of tests, from which we got a lot of lessons learned in all aspects of the project.
Despite flying very well, after two months we concluded that we needed more specific power in order to increase flight safety, as the stable operating range was just above the ideal limit of 70% of maximum power. Thus, we made a new project, deciding to build the next prototype as an octocopter.
Flight Panel & Ground Station
We have developed a web-based Flight Panel to provide the pilot with information to help him control the aircraft during the flight. To achieve this, we installed a webserver on-board and connected it to a wired tablet in front of the pilot. The real-time information is obtained from the flight controller via the Mavlink 2 protocol and translated to the interface by the software we developed.
An onboard access point allows for the broadcasting of the same interface to other clients, allowing flight monitoring to be performed by people on the ground.
Once we had settled that the first Human Drone Project prototype would be a hexacopter, we decided to make scale models. Despite the difference in size, the design concept of small drones is similar to that of the eVTOL aircraft we planned to build. This step was very important for us to learn the fundamentals of this type of project, especially those that are started from scratch (not kits!).
During 7 months we learned a lot about these fundamentals and made 3 small drones to improve the programming of their control systems. We considered the mission accomplished once we achieved excellent results in self-stabilization and even programming acrobatic maneuvers.
We were ready for the next step. It was at this moment that the experience in our professions helped. After all, a single seat eVTOL is much more than simply a hobby-drone in amplified scale!