Volocopter reveals its first commercial autonomous flying taxi

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Norway’s first battery-powered plane crashed into a lake

Norway's first battery-powered airplane crashed into a lake yesterday, Reuters reports. While no one was harmed in the crash, the incident could be a set back for the country, which hopes to electrify all domestic flights by 2040.

British Airways is offering VR entertainment on flights

British Airways is set to trial VR entertainment on select first class flights from London Heathrow to New York JFK. From now until the end of the year, customers on these flights will have their own 3D cinema in the sky, and will be able to watch a...

Amazon’s Latest Prime Air Delivery Drone Revealed

Amazon has been working on delivery by drone for a while now. And now the world’s largest online retailer has revealed its latest drone variant. The newly-revealed Amazon Prime Air delivery drone flies using a similar approach to VTOL aircraft, taking off and landing vertically, but orienting itself horizontally once airborne.

The new drone has thermal and depth cameras, sonar, and onboard computers with machine learning, to navigate and detect hazards. It has six degrees of freedom where most quadcopters have four, allowing it to be more stable and deal with high wind conditions. They upped the safety too, as the rotors are fully shrouded. These shrouds also double as wings in forward flight.

The goal is to produce a fully-electric drone that flies up to 15 miles, delivering packages under 5 pounds in just under 30 minutes. Interestingly, 75-90 percent of individually-purchased items fall within this weight limit, so most items can be shipped in this way. Of course, multiple items pose more of a challenge.

We don’t know when we will see this drone in action over our neightborhoods, but it brings Amazon a step closer to drone delivery. The company says we will see it in the “coming months.” Hopefully, we don’t have to wait very long for Amazon Prime drone delivery.

[via Mike Shouts]

This Bird-like Drone Has Wings and Legs, and Jumps to Take off

Generally speaking, drones have either vertical takeoff capabilities or they need a runway. However, a South African startup has a better way. Their solution is to add some legs to their drone. The Passerine Sparrow Jumper has fixed wings and legs and feet for takeoff and landing. It also uses over-wing engines for thrust.

Those over-wing engines create what’s called a blown wing, where the engine exhaust passes over the top of the wing and over a portion of the wing flaps. The forced high-speed air passing over the wings and flaps generates a lot of lift; two or three times the lift of a conventional wing. This also means it can take off and land over a much shorter distance than conventional planes, and can fly much more slowly before it stalls.

However, blown wings in this scale may not be able to create the lift necessary for takeoff. That’s where the legs come in. They are spring-loaded and engineered to create enough energy required for takeoff. They spring the drone up and forward then retract when in the air. During landings, they act as shock absorbers, so no runway is required at all.

The aircraft is still in the very early prototyping stages, so it’s not ready to perform all of its tricks quite yet. However, you can see how the liftoff might work in the first video below, while the second provides an animation of of the complete take off and landing sequence:

[via IEEE via Mike Shouts]