Category Archives: Science and Technology

Sci-Tech: VTOL vehicles from Opener, Kitty Hawk, and Aston Martin

The BlackFly vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) craft is not a concept but has actually flown over “1,000+ flights and 10,000+ miles”:

BlackFly; the world’s first ultralight all-electric fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. A single-seat Personal Aerial Vehicle (PAV) designed and built for a new world of three-dimensional transportation.

The Silicon Valley based company Opener has been developing the vehicle since 2011.

BlackFly is simple to master and requires no formal licensing (in USA) or special skills to operate safely. Though BlackFly has full amphibious capabilities, it is primarily designed to easily operate from small grassy areas and travel distances of up to 25 miles at a speed of 62 mph (USA restriction).

OPENER is re-energizing the art of flight with a safe and affordable flying vehicle that can free its operators from the everyday restrictions of ground transportation,” said Marcus Leng, CEO. “We will offer competitive pricing in an endeavor to democratize three-dimensional personal transportation. Safety has been our primary driving goal in the development of this new technology. OPENER will be introducing this innovation in a controlled and responsible manner.  Even though not required by FAA regulations, BlackFly operators will be required to successfully complete the FAA Private Pilot written examination and also complete company-mandated vehicle familiarization and operator training.”

The OPENER team has spent the last nine years in stealth mode, designing, developing, and testing new innovative technologies which have now evolved into the zero-emission BlackFly vehicles.  Fault-tolerant design and triple modular redundancy reside at the core of these vehicles. Eight propulsion systems, spread across two wings, provide for multiple-failure security. Years of continuous testing, combined with 1,000+ flights and 10,000+ miles flown, form the bedrock of OPENER’s development program.

OPENER’s long-term vision is to integrate these highly-efficient vehicles into a rural/urban commuting network. These networks would be powered by renewable energy sources requiring only a fraction of the transportation energy used currently.

More at

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Google co-founder Larry Page is an investor in Opener – Larry Page invests in another flying car startup – KEYT – and also has his own personal VTOL vehicle company called Kitty Hawk. The Kitty Hawk Flyer is intended for different purposes than the BlackFly. Rather than commuting over land, the Flyer is a recreational vehicle for flying over water. In fact, it is limited to flying no higher than 3 meters/10 feet and 20 mph. It can fly for 12-20 minutes.

More about the Flyer at

The Cora is Kitty Hawk’s entry in the VTOL air taxi market. The two passenger vehicle will initially travel up to “62 miles / about 100 kilometres” and at “about 110 miles per hour / about 180 kilometres per hour”. Flights of the Cora, under development in New Zealand, have not yet been demonstrated in public.

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This VTOL single-seater isn’t flying yet but it will sure be one of the coolest looking ones if it ever does: The Aston Martin Volante Vision Concept | Aston Martin

Aston Martin Volante concept VTOL transport

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Sci-Tech videos: MIT’s blind cheetah + Boston Dynamics Atlas, MiniSpot, & CEO

A couple of videos about progress in robotic creatures:

** “Blind” Cheetah 3 robot can climb stairs littered with obstacles | MIT News

** Boston Dynamics: “Getting some air, Atlas?

** An interview with the Boston Dynamics founder and CEO Marc Raibert:

** Boston Dynamics: “SpotMini Autonomous Navigation”:

SpotMini autonomously navigates a specified route through an office and lab facility. Before the test, the robot is manually driven through the space so it can build a map of the space using visual data from cameras mounted on the front, back and sides of the robot. During the autonomous run, SpotMini uses data from the cameras to localize itself in the map and to detect and avoid obstacles. Once the operator presses ‘GO’ at the beginning of the video, the robot is on its own. Total walk time for this route is just over 6 minutes. (The QR codes visible in the video are used to measure performance, not for navigation.)

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Sci-Tech videos: Updates on Martin Jetpack and Urban Aero + A hydrofoil vehicle for Uber on water

New transport for air and water:

** Martin Jetpack – Been awhile since I posted videos of the New Zealand company’s one person Vertical Takeoff and Landing with a ducted fan design

According to the 2017 annual report (pdf), the current engine requires more maintenance and has a shorter working life than needed for commercial operations in most markets.  However, the company’s majority shareholder, KuangChi Science (KCS), has determined that the vehicle is “sufficiently advanced to generate revenue via repeatable show concept demonstrations and sales into the first responder market in China”

** Cormorant Urban Aero/Tactical Robotics – I’ve also posted here several times over the years about this large vertical takeoff and landing UAV with a unique approach to a ducted fan vehicle. The Israeli based company remains focused on emergency services and military applications rather than civilian transport –

** SeaBubbles is developing a water taxi with hydrofoils intended to provide Uber style personal transport services on waterways with a fast and stable ride –   SeaBubbles reveals its latest ‘flying water car’ as it brings in a new wave of cash – The Verge

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Sci-Tech Videos: Uber Elevate Summit 2018 – Latest on eVTOL flying taxi technology

Uber Elevate is Uber’s program to support development of electric powered flying taxis that take off and land vertically. The second Uber Elevate Summit was held this week in Los Angeles and companies from around the world presented the status and plans for the vehicles. Infrastructure, regulatory issues, battery technology, electric power supply, and other issues surrounding such services were discussed.

Here are videos of the presentations on the first day. See the schedule for a list of the session.

Here is a video from Uber showing a generic version of the service they would like to provide to urban customers:

** Here is a video of the talk given by Aurora Flight Sciences Founder & CEO John Langford on how “Aurora is building the certifiable autonomous systems that will enable all of tomorrow’s intelligent aircraft – of any shape”:

** Bell Helicopter presented their concept for an air taxi, though their video shows only the interior of their design:

** Pipistrel introduced a new eVTOL design at the event – At 2nd UBER elevate summit Pipistrel reveals new eVTOL Concept and strategic partnership with Elan

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Sci-Tech videos: A sprinkling of 21st Century technologies

** Boston Dynamics – “Getting some air, Atlas?”

** Boston Dynamics – “SpotMini Autonomous Navigation:

SpotMini autonomously navigates a specified route through an office and lab facility. Before the test, the robot is manually driven through the space so it can build a map of the space using visual data from cameras mounted on the front, back and sides of the robot. During the autonomous run, SpotMini uses data from the cameras to localize itself in the map and to detect and avoid obstacles. Once the operator presses ‘GO’ at the beginning of the video, the robot is on its own. Total walk time for this route is just over 6 minutes. (The QR codes visible in the video are used to measure performance, not for navigation.)

** General Fusion – “Inside a General Fusion Power Plant”

General Fusion’s magnetized target fusion (MTF) approach uses compression to heat hydrogen plasma fuel to the 150 million degree Celsius temperatures required to release energy from fusion. This energy is then captured in the liquid metal lining the walls of the chamber, allowing it to be converted to electricity.  This approach draws on new technologies such as additive manufacturing and high speed electronics to remove the traditional barriers to commercial fusion energy, opening a pathway to clean energy, everywhere, forever.

** EHang – “EHang Egret’s 1374 drones dancing over the City Wall of Xi’an, achieving the Guinness World Records”

** Tesla 2018

** 3Dhome.org – “3D Printed Homes for the Developing World”

** NanoRacks – “CubeSat Deployer Program-1 releasing satellites from the ISS”

** Gran Telescopio CANARIAS –  “Meet the Giant – A night at the 10.4m Gran Telescopio CANARIAS”

** Nature Video – “CRISPR: Gene editing and beyond”

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