Our Prototypes column introduces new vehicle concepts and presents visuals from designers who illustrate the ideas. Some of them will be extensions of existing concepts, others will be new, some will be production ready, and others really far-fetched.
The Solexa is a personal flying vehicle (PFV) concept that uses a fuel cell to power six motorized fans. With an autonomy of 20 minutes, it could be used to travel across the city, explore the backcountry, conduct surveillance or even be used as a recreational vehicle.
A few months ago, I was contacted by Pete Bitar from AirBuoyant. We started discussing a PFV, and I sent him a few sketches of my Vexil concept. Pete is currently working on several flying prototypes and he suggested inverting the design of the Vexil to increase stability, amongst other things. His input helped Sebastian Campos Möller and me give birth to the Solexa concept.
How it works
The Solexa would be powered by six electric motors, each driving a rotor. In case of emergency, the Solexa could still be able to land safely by using only three of its six fans.
Instead of ion-lithium batteries, the vehicle would use a compact fuel cell and high octane gasoline as fuel. Because gasoline stores around 25 times more specific energy than ion-lithium batteries, it would make sense to use fuel cells until battery technology improves. With a 200-pound payload, the Solexa could remain aloft for 20 minutes.
Most of the flying would be done by the Solexa’s onboard computer. The pilot would simply decide where he wanted to go by choosing a destination from a list. The Solexa would rise to a pre-set altitude (max 30 metres), set a flight path, and transmit its location in real time to low altitude air traffic control.
I imagine if we allow drones to roam over our heads, cities will soon need to develop computerized air traffic systems to monitor and control each flight. You will likely need a license too. Of course, the Solexa would feature an override mode in case the pilot needed to change its flight course rapidly.
What it’s used for
The Solexa could become the flying car we all have been dreaming about. It’s not to big and could transport humans around the city at low altitude. Some people would probably use them all the time like air taxis. Because they are small, they would not be used in windy conditions, but nevertheless you could still hop on one on a clear day and travel a few kilometres to skip downtown traffic.
The Solexa concept was developed in collaboration with Sebastian Campos Möller, an award-winning industrial designer from Mexico. Möller graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design and specializes in 3D and concept development for human-centered products. He also produced the concept images for the Vexil laser recharged drone and the Paragon powersport kit for teenagers.
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