If the amount of bars and duty-free liquor stores in airports are any indication, there are a lot of people who are afraid of flying. For those who aren’t, there are a couple of new ways to travel by air that are might make you consider downing a high-priced, watered-down Bloody Mary first. An engineer has developed a way to ride on a board towed behind a plane, while a Chinese company has developed a drone big enough to carry a person. Drinks anyone?
Aaron Wypyszynski, founder of Alabama-based Wyp Aviation, says a cloud-surfing bear in the Disney animated series TaleSpin inspired him to combine the thrills of wakeboarding, skydiving and wingsuit flying into one airborne adrenaline rush called a WingBoard. (Should you trust a guy inspired by a cartoon bear?) The WingBoard rider holds a split towline that’s also connected to the board so he or she can stand on the board instead of balancing on it.
As demonstrated in a recent 40% scale model test with a dummy rider, the WingBoard has wheels so it can be pulled like a glider to take off – it looks like the parachute on the test boarder’s back is for landing. It appears 70 mph is an optimal speed for stability and barrel rolls. Provided the FAA approves everything, the WingBoard is expected to be available in 2017 at a price of $10,000 – that doesn’t include the plane, pilot and Bloody Marys.
At the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the drone company EHang (they couldn’t come up with a better name?) unveiled what it called the world’s first ‘Autonomous Aerial Vehicle’ (quadcopter drone) for transporting people.
The all-electric Model 184 has room for just one passenger (and hopefully a big airsickness bag) and no controls for that person to take over. The EHang 184 is designed for short (up to 10 mile) flights at 60 mph. To ride in it, the passenger enters their destination in a smartphone app, sits back and rides (there’s a cupholder for a Bloody Mary).
The company says there will be a manned command center and in-drone backup systems to take over for any equipment failures and the passenger can use their smartphone to halt the flight and hover – apparently until help arrives with a really big drone catcher.
While the company sees the 184 as a driverless private flying vehicle, it has obvious military applications, especially for rescue operations. It expects to build and man the command center this year in China – where there are less regulations from a pesky FAA.
Would you fly on a WingBoard? Would you ride in a pilotless flying drone? How many Bloody Marys would each flight take?