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Sci-Fi Technology

British Start-Up Tests Flying Saucers 65

Sabre Runner writes to mention that a new British start-up, Aesir, has acquired the assets of a defunct drone company and is working on evolving a working model from several prototypes of "flying saucer" drones. "Aesir's first prototype, named 'Embler' [...] demonstrates the so-called 'Coanda effect,' where air speeds up as it 'sticks' to a curved surface. Aesir's drones take advantage of the Coanda effect to direct air down, away from the drone, boosting lift. Aesir doesn't appear to have any paying customers yet — and is reportedly bankrolled by a single investor."
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British Start-Up Tests Flying Saucers

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  • by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @05:40PM (#28902621)
    Aesir doesn't appear to have any paying customers yet -- and is reportedly bankrolled by a single investor

    CSG [google.com]?
  • reportedly bankrolled by a single investor

    ...until he's finally extradited to the US.

  • So assuming it's for real, how do they cancel the spin?
    • So assuming it's for real, how do they cancel the spin?

      Contra-rotating fans.

    • by jcr ( 53032 )

      how do they cancel the spin?

      Note the vanes on the side of the vehicle. They're taking some of the force of the air flowing downward to create a countervailing torque.

      In theory, you could do the same kind of thing with a helicopter, but stator vanes to cancel the torque effect would be terribly unwieldy compared to a tail rotor.


  • I For one Say farewell to the aliens new overlords.
  • Sigh (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kell Bengal ( 711123 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @06:00PM (#28902809)
    I see a lot of these sorts of start-ups - people who design a VTOL UAV using some fancy lift generation device. Entecho entecho.com.au immediately springs to mind (if only because a friend works there). What these people aren't getting is that the problem with VTOL UAVs isn't the form of the lift production, it's the energy density of its power source. Think about it, the power needed to lift a mass is inversely proportional to the square root of the rotor area - that is, the more area, the less power. Things like this use a much smaller area to accelerate air than an equivalently sized helicopter rotor. Yes, they can bump into things, but their flight time will be slashed.

    It's hard to make a more efficient rotor, and it's hard to make a duct light weight at large enough sizes to compete on power. So, unless I'm missing something these guys are using the same petrol/kerosine/lipo power sources as everyone else, except with higher power consumption. It's the same problem quadrotors and jet VTOLs have - they simply can't compete with helicopters on hover efficiency.

    That's bad news for startups, though, because the helicopter space is already crowded with heavy hitters like Sikorski and the like.

    Where does this leave UAVs? It leaves us with incremental improvements (my PhD involved making freaky aeroelastic UAV rotors that were fiercly optimised for the hover regime, just to squeeze out more flight time) with no real long-term flight performance in sight.

    Why do these start-ups appear and disappear so quickly? Because they're trying to 'solve' a hard laws-of-physics style problem that isn't bounded by UAV technology, but rather power technology.

    YIAAUHETYVM (Yes I Am A UAV Helicopter Engineer, Thank You Very Much)

    • Remember Steorn [steorn.com]? Looks like they're still in business, but they haven't file many news blurbs lately. In July they made some kind of stink about their independent testing process being "insanely great" (Steve Jobism by me, not them), but not a whole lot since they started in 2006.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Ah. I see that I got caught up in Steorn's doublespeak. If you read the wikipedia article on the company what actually happened was that they finally showed the technology to some independent scientists who were completely unimpressed with what they were shown. In other words; Orbo does not work.
    • by Twinbee ( 767046 )

      Quick question you're probably more qualified to answer than most: If CPU speed were no object (and I really mean infinite speed), would it be fairly trivial to simulate the trillions of air particles, and craft materials to design the optimal blade mechanism and craft design for lifting efficiency?

      In other words, do we know everything about how air interacts with itself and other (solid) objects? And it's just running the simulation which is the bottleneck (too slow on current CPUs)?

      • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Kell Bengal ( 711123 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @07:09PM (#28903565)
        Yes and no. We understand a lot about how fluids work in idealised cases. We know a lot about how individual molecules of air work. We know a lot about how turbulent flow works on a probablistic scale.

        What we don't know well is how to estimate unsteady fluid flows with no a priori global knowledge of fluid conditions (same problem the climate modelers have on a much smaller scale). If we knew where every molecule was, how much energy it had and what the forces acting on them were at initial conditions I think we could do a pretty decent job working out what blade profile would work best for that condition; but it's a trick question because conditions can change dramatically across the flight envelope of a helicopter.

        As I understand it, aerodynamics design these days is mostly simulation anyway. Blade design is still an art as much of a science, requiring careful consideration of trade-offs involved. I do not believe we're going to see any revolutionary performance gains until a truly novel lift device is invented (ie. something that doesn't use air as a working fluid).

      • Yes, but your assumption (CPU speed is no object) is ridiculous.
      • On a side note, I do love how this post was massively bashed by people taking it entirely out of context. That post had actually nothing at all to do with computer science, all he was asking was simply: is the limit of accuracy for calculating such things the speed of our calculators or the data we have to put into them.

        Mod +1 fail at most commenters on this

      • If on the other hand you had infinite time and money, you could use genetic algorithmns, rapid prototyping, and a whole lot of robotics to do thousands of real-life tests until you have a close-to unbeatable design. Might take a year or two, dpending on the parrallellism, but hey, how cool would it be?

        I do agree simulating in stead of prototyping would be nicer, but if we don't know if the sim is correct... :-)

    • Well, all you are saying is true, but this doesnt mean these devices wont have applications http://urbanaero.com/Frame-whatsnew.htm [urbanaero.com] Perfect craft for med evac duties. It provides capabilities that regular helicopters just cant do. Short flight time is just one constraint that they'll accept for these mission profiles.
      • I'm curious as to what this does that a Robinson can't. If your reply includes "operate in closely spaced urban canyons" then my immediate responses is to call bullshit on it - the problems of operating in enclosed spaces is aerodynamic, not the safety of spinning blades.

        With such small rotors the X-hawk will be recirculating its wake like nobody's business - that means more and more power has to be put into the thing to get off the ground. This is why you never try to fly a helicopter down into enclosed

  • If nothing else, maybe they can appeal to the RC hobby community.

  • Oh! (Score:3, Funny)

    by actionbastard ( 1206160 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @06:07PM (#28902897)
    It's only a model [youtube.com].
  • Let me be the first to say, I for one welcome our new flying saucer overlords. =P
  • Some title - quick parsing of it threw up an uncaught exception in the brain.
  • So what? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    How does this differ from the Moller Aerobot?

  • Echo from 2007 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by codegen ( 103601 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @06:31PM (#28903163) Journal
    Looks a lot like:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-447317/The-flying-saucer-snapped-US-army.html;jsessionid=646AE8D297BA42F4A5BDDD6223D5FA58 [dailymail.co.uk]
    from the slashdot story back in 2007:
    http://science.slashdot.org/story/07/04/09/1723218/Combined-Hovercraft-and-Helicopter?art_pos=4 [slashdot.org]
    In fact, the 'first' prototype looks like the prototype from 2007 (even the same yellow body!!)
  • Hell does this video cry out loud *fake*. And even bad fake. The composing sucks. Guess every beginner at composing could do better work.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Alright, Ahmadinejad. Give up the nukes, or we send in the Flying Roombas of Death to clean house.

  • by IonOtter ( 629215 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @09:44PM (#28904863) Homepage

    Aesir doesn't appear to have any paying customers yet â" and is reportedly bankrolled by a single investor.

    John Bigboote
    CEO/CFO Yoyodyne Corporation Intl
    1938 Yoyodyne Way, Lot 49
    San Narciso, CA 92129-3064

  • My world was a spinning jumble of images, burned into the core of my mind. Valkyr was bad news, sending you sky-high for a psychedelic ride on flying saucers.

    Aesir was the darling of the stock market, but I knew the saucer stink would stick to those at the top. I'd pay them a visit, and bring their flying saucer crashing back to earth.

    • by Vastad ( 1299101 )

      Ha! So I wasn't the only one who immediately thought of Max Payne.

      I did not however, remember a weirdly appropriate quote from the game. Well done sir.

      • > I did not however, remember a weirdly appropriate quote from the game. Well done sir.

        Sorry to disappoint, but that was not a remembered quote, but one I invented for the circumstances.

  • Actually, we Brits have been building the world's flying saucers since the 1950s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Bedstead [wikipedia.org]

    There were always rumours about something based on this flying around, near London, in the late 1950s. I remember our neighbours calling us into the garden to watch something that, by then, was distinguishable in deep detail.
  • by thepainguy ( 1436453 ) <thepainguy@gmail.com> on Saturday August 01, 2009 @11:49AM (#28909137) Homepage
    The point of the Coanda effect is NOT that the flow speeds up. Rather, and as Wikipedia correctly points out, the point of the Coanda effect is that the flow stays attached to the curved surface, which allows you to redirect it...

    The CoandÄf effect is the tendency of a fluid jet to stay attached to an adjacent curved surface of a specific radius. The principle was named after Romanian aerodynamics pioneer Henri CoandÄf, who was the first to recognize the practical application of the phenomenon in aircraft development.

    FYI, the Coanda effect is what makes leafless gutter systems work. It allows the water to turn the corner and enter the gutter while the leaves shoot over the side.
    • Here's a link to a YouTube video that shows a STOL (Short TakeOff and Landing) aicraft called the QSRA that could takeoff from and land on an aircraft carrier without the use of arresting gear and catapults through the use of the Coanda effect.

  • I've seen some RC Coanda models before. The concept is very interesting, but unfortunately any attempted design based on the principle runs into a lot of problems. The main issue I've seen with the RC models is slow turning, and very steep listing to either side on turns.

    I know virtually nothing about aeronautics, but I've only just finished reading about how apparently this idea was studied for close to 20 years by people who are experts, and in the end they couldn't produce a working craft out of it. T

  • I've wanted one of these things since the 1970s, but I could never sell quite enough subscriptions to Grit magazine or American Seed packets to earn one.

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!