Published: 7:13 AM 10/3/2013
Written By Chris Thomas
THE futuristic Jetsons cartoon predicted flying saucer-like cars as a means of everyday travel by 2062—and a Perth company is helping to bring that vision to life.
Entecho is developing the YouFly vehicle, working with the University of WA School of Mechanical and Chemical Engineering to overcome various aerodynamic, stabilisation and noise challenges.
Company director Kim Schunkle says the ultimate aim is to create a user-friendly, low-cost device, the size of a car or smaller, that is inherently safe.
“Modern commuting is dominated by the issue of traffic congestion and the time wasted, fuel consumed and pollutants associated with it,” he says.
“No device could overcome this more dramatically than a form of airborne device that accesses travel in the third dimension.
“But this concept only becomes reasonable if the device is fully autonomous—the passenger gets in, dials the phone number of his destination and the craft does everything else such as takeoff, navigation, collision avoidance, optimum routing, locating a landing point and the landing itself.
“Two technologies have emerged that help to enable such a strategy; GPS guidance systems that can navigate and locate known entities, and cost-effective collision avoidance radar that can locate the unpredictable such as other craft, birds and new structures.”
UWA Winthrop Professor of Acoustics and Mechanical Engineering Jie Pan says the main aerodynamic challenge was to achieve reasonable lifting efficiency by optimising the craft’s rotor, duct and skirt.
“This was achieved by a parametric analysis of all major geometric variables in terms of their contribution to the efficiency by using computational fluid dynamics (CFD),” he says.
“A low speed pitch down was corrected using CFD to generate suitable undercraft geometry and a high speed pitch up was corrected using UWA wind tunnel tests, as well as CFD.
“Further improvements in lifting efficiency – as much as 20 per cent – and yaw control have also been achieved via optimal design.”
Noise levels presented a challenge but the YouFly team managed a 10-decibel reduction while the craft’s stability is one of its greatest strengths.
Mr Schunkle says motorised recreational products are the initial target market because the YouFly could replace many jet ski, snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle functions.
But it could also be used for farming, fishing, ski slope monitoring, rescue operations and ecotourism.
The first mainstream production is scheduled for late 2015.