The “kereta terbang” idiocy

Jae Senn

On Thursday, Aerodyne clarified that this is officially just a DRONE CONCEPT, and not our national FLYING CAR.

After being trolled by the entire country over this silly-looking machine, hopefully Aerodyne will realize why quadcopter drones are only good for short flights with good bursts of speed while serious long-distance long-endurance flights and surveys are made with fixed-wing drones.

But, why did this “confusion” arise in the first place? Again, it’s because of the lack of common sense on the part of the authorities. When Minister of Entrepreneur Development Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof explained about the flying car previously, he said that it will be unveiled in 2019 and based on the description that he gave, many people realized immediately that he was describing nothing but a drone!

It was mentioned that it’s not for sale to the public, and that its use will not be for civilian transport but for delivering goods or for plantation surveying. It will also cost the government RM1 million for a prototype of such an unnecessary “flying car” to be developed.

Basically, it’s a large unmanned aerial vehicle which will somehow be given a seat just to make it manned, while not being in the same league as actual flying cars like Terrafugia and PAL-V.

It isn’t hard to see why people immediately assumed that this peculiar toy model was the national flying car because it ticks all the right boxes:

1. Unmanned quadcopter drone that has seats bolted on just to qualify as a “car”

2. Suitable for surveying plantations but not for civilian transport

3. Unveiled in 2019 at an aerospace exhibition

The bigger question is.. those 4 rotors will chew up lots of power. Where are the batteries for all 4 rotors that’s sufficient for a claimed flight time of 30-90 minutes?? Don’t forget, for a quadcopter design, the aircraft isn’t a lifting body. The rotors will have to provide the lift AND the thrust, unlike a fixed wing drone whereby just a single rotor provides the thrust while lift is provided by the wings.


The look on Azmin’s face says it all
Mahathir is probably in disbelief that the guy doing the explaining doesn’t realise how idiotic this all seems

And even then, for currently commercialized light electric planes, 300-600 kilograms of lithium-ion batteries are needed to provide flight times of 60-180 minutes. That’s for a single rotor that doesn’t need to provide lift (hence, lower power draw) and can be throttled down once the airplane is up to speed. The motor of electric planes can also be used to recharge the batteries during deceleration through energy recovery, just like on hybrid cars.

On a quadcopter, if the rotor slows down, it will lose altitude. If the rotor stops, it will fall. You’ll need a ton (literally) of lithium-ion batteries on a full-scale quadcopter just to feed four powerful motors for lift and thrust for 30-60 minutes. This ton of material is just dead weight that adds to the amount of load the quadcopter has to overcome in order to go airborne.

So, the more load you carry and the greater the range or altitude you need, the more power and hence batteries you will need. The more batteries you have, the heavier the dead weight will be, which requires more lift or thrust that, yet again, requires more power.

In the end, for a slim quadcopter that seats two persons like what we see in the picture below, with not much visible space for large amounts of batteries to speak of, I’d say it will have a flight time of 5-15 minutes at low altitude and a speed that is typical of a motor vehicle, e.g. 60-80 km/h.

You don’t need hard maths to tell you that this toy model will not have practical use if scaled up. Humans are hardwired with enough intuition and common sense to know when something does not add up, or if something is fishy and feels like a scam.

Just look at the faces of Azmin Ali and Mahathir.