Synergy Illustration: Nick Kaloterakis. Images Source: PopSci.
PopSci reports on the 2013 Invention Awards; one of the winners was the Family Flier, a family-sized aircraft that will be mainly autopiloted by computer. One commenter on the article complained that the McGinnis plane resembles Charles Ligeti's Stratos, a similar small Australian craft (see here); nevertheless, this looks like an interesting American design:
COST TO DEVELOP
John McGinnis thinks ordinary families would rather skip the airport and fly themselves. So he is trying to reinvent the personal airplane with the help of his father, son, and a rotating crew of about two dozen volunteers. Unlike small aircraft today—which can cost more than a house—McGinnis says Synergy could be cheaper, quieter, and, at more than 40 mpg, three times as fuel-efficient.
McGinnis, a 47-year-old composite manufacturer, flew his first airplane in second grade. Perplexed by the inefficiencies of personal aircraft, he taught himself aeronautical engineering and fluid dynamics over two decades. One day, while perusing scientific studies at a desk in his daughters’ bedroom, he read a NASA researcher’s paper challenging a classic aerodynamic drag equation. McGinnis could see the possibilities. “I came out of the girls’ bedroom ranting like a madman to my wife,” he says. “‘Honey, you’re never going to believe this. I think I just solved a problem I’ve been working on since I was a little kid.’”
Synergy’s wings bend upward and into a box shape for minimum drag and maximum efficiency. The top half of each wing swoops behind the body to function as a tail while providing greater in-flight stability. The double-box tail design also makes gliding easier by counteracting tornado-like vortices at the wings’ tips. And instead of a front-mounted propeller, an impeller placed behind the bullet-shaped body quiets noise while adding thrust.
1) A 200hp turbodiesel engine expels heat below the impeller, adding thrust.
2) Large wings allow slower takeoffs and landings.
3) Box tails create airflow patterns that reduce drag and increase flight stability.
4) An autopilot computer can land Synergy at a nearby runway during an emergency; a ballistic parachute can also be deployed.
McGinnis works on Synergy in his father’s garage, where he uses CNC machines and custom molds to fabricate components and 3-D software to rapidly model new ideas. Family members serve among the core build crew, with McGinnis’s son, Kyle, second-in-command. A quarter-scale prototype made from fiberglass, carbon fiber, and Kevlar suggests that both the team’s manufacturing process and unusual wing configuration work. Using about $80,000 in crowdfunded cash, they hope to finish a full-scale, five-person aircraft this year. “I work on it 90 hours a week, with a few hours of sleep,” McGinnis says. “What drives me to do it is that no one else will.”
Scale Models: The McGinnis family—Pat, John, and Kyle—and pilot John Paul Noyes [front to back] stand in their Kalispell, Montana, workshop. Photo by Kali McGinnis.
One commenter on the PopSci article remarks that there are non-technological reasons why we do not all have small personal aircraft or flying cars:
[- Commenter's typos left in in the quotation.][T]he flying car isn't new. There have been many models of flying car and many developers of them. Why, you ask, haven't big companies like Boieng or Lockheed taken up the easy challenge? Because there is no way that your government is going to allow a flying population right now. The system is setup to charge you tax for roads and has spent a great deal of money on traffic lights. They also like to know that you can't just pile in your aircraft and fly to Cuba, Mexico or Canada. If the flying car materialized today, with full ability to hover without propellars, and was completely safe... they would never allow it. The biggest oponenets of this technology would be car companies as well. What happens to their normal car stock once the flying car is here? 100's of millions of four wheeled vehicles now useless.
To prepare for the flying car is nothing short of a transportation overhaul of FAA regulations and laws, state infrastructure on tracking flying vehicles, amd much, much more. Nothing in our lives is pointing to the fact that the government is going to allow us all to have personal flying aircraft or flying cars. Cops would all instantly have to switch to the same flying vehicles as well.
Flying car creators are going to be stuck in their garages, right where theyve been, for years to come. There is a reason that the big car companies and aeronatuics companies aren't developing personal flying vehicles, in spite of the fact that there is a TON of money in them from your average consumers. Deal with the poilitics people. At least acknowledge they exist. Fine line between naivety and paranoia but the laws behind flying, and airspace to fly in, are strictly governed right now and have no intention of making room for the flying car or cheap personal aircraft.
I will say that getting a cheap aircraft into the hands of the masses, will be key if it is ever to move in that direction. Licensing will be a force used to limit such personal aircraft growth, however