Drones are changing the world. It seems they can do everything: record big sporting or musical events, carry out military tasks and deliver packages. People have also implemented them in many industries to do dangerous tasks or make tedious tasks more efficient. I believe you are wondering if a drone can do one more thing—lift a person.
Certain drones can lift and carry a person. Their ability to do so depends on power, dead weight, type of propellers, and the number of motors. These are so-called “professional drones” or “heavy-lifting drones.” When lifting heavy loads, the position of a drone is important as well.
Drones come in all sizes, from as small as the palm of your hand to some as big as a small plane. They also come in various shapes and can carry out different operations. Nowadays, we see manufacturers building drones for all purposes. It is time to look at something revolutionary – a drone that can lift a person and carry them around. Let’s see how it’s done.
How Much Can a Drone Lift?
Payload is the carrying capacity of a drone. Although drones have proven to be very useful and adaptable, their payload capacity is generally one of the biggest limiting factors. This is especially true for micro aerial vehicles that are promising when it comes to search and rescue missions.
Drone manufacturers design drones for various purposes according to which they can carry payloads of different sizes. The average carrying capacity for hobby drones is 0.6 to 4 lbs, while heftier professional drones can carry as much as 44 to 485 lbs.
The drone’s payload incorporates all the equipment, including GPS, cameras, radar, and sensors that the drone carries. Other integral drone parts such as batteries, propellers, and motors are not part of the payload. Specifications and functions of different drones vary from one model to another, and it definitely affects the maximum weight they can lift.
There are several factors we need to consider and which affect a drone’s payload capacity. The crucial factor is the size and number of propellers, motor power, the weight of a drone and type of battery. We should not forget that the propeller thrust needs to be twice the total weight of a drone and the payload. Wind, moisture, and air pressure also influence your drone’s lifting capacity.
Drones that have been designed to carry heavy loads must have a battery with a bigger power capacity. Besides, heavy-lift drones also need a durable drone frame heavier than the standard construction of hobby drones.
We also have to think about the take-off weight a drone can manage. Take-off weight is the heaviest capacity the drone can handle to fly with no complications.
Manufacturers of consumer drones have one goal, which is to increase flight time and flight range. They do not pay much attention to the payload capacity. However, the function of hobby drones is not to carry an additional load but to take photographs and help beginners learn the basics of flying. These small drones can lift payloads related to their size. For instance, they can carry a letter or a gift. Bigger drones can carry 0.44 to 0.66 lbs of extra weight with no problems.
Heavy-lift drones can lift to 661 lbs, which means they can easily lift a person as well. Let’s see which drones they are.
Drones That Can Lift a Person
Chinese company Ehang made a drone big enough to carry a person and went one step ahead with its concept in 2016. The manufacturer displayed Ehang 184 at an event in Las Vegas.
The drone has a design similar to that of a quadcopter, with the addition of a cabin that seats one person. Composite material with carbon fiber, epoxy, and aerial aluminum alloy are main features of its construction. The vehicle has eight motors, two for each of the four arms.
Ehang 184 operates on the lithium-ion battery that accounts for much of the drone’s weight. However, it provides enough power to carry a 220 lb load up to 23 minutes at sea level. The maximum height it reaches is 500 m with an average cruising speed of 62 mph.
Ehang claims the drone is safe and has a full redundancy system. The vehicle can still operate a normal flight plan, even if one of the power systems fails. If the vehicle detects any malfunctioning, it will land in the nearest suitable area to ensure the safety of the passenger. Communication is encrypted, and every unit has its independent key to prevent the hijacking of the remote signal.
The passenger inside the drone has no control over its route since the drone is pre-programmed to fly to specific destinations. Passengers can choose to halt the flight in case of emergency.
This drone costs between $200,000 and $300,000.
Next on the list is the Norwegian drone, Griff 300. This drone can lift 496 lbs and fly 30 to 45 minutes on a single charge. The Griff 300 is an octocopter, which means it has eight motors.
You can manually fly the drone from the ground using a radio-remote controller. Users can also fly the drone through the first-person view thanks to the option of a custom helicopter cabin-like mobile control station.
Buyers can add different features to the drone, such as sensors, cargo, and other gear they desire. Specific payload options are extra for users in armed forces, law enforcement, firefighters, and rescue teams.
The next model this Norwegian firm is planning to produce will lift 1,746 lbs.
The price of Griff 300 will probably be $250,000, but it is not final.
Last but not least is the German VoloDrone, which can carry a payload of 440 lbs at a distance of 25 miles. The drone can reach a speed of 68 mph. You charge the vehicle by swapping the battery. VoloDrone is a fully electric drone that can carry out impressive tasks.
The goal of VoloDrone is to serve various missions across diverse industries. Manufacturers want to deploy it where classic transport reaches its limits. This vehicle can assist in daily operations, even building sites. It is also present in agriculture with impressive abilities to increase productivity in plant protection, sowing, and frost control.
Another version is Volocopter 2X, a two-seat vehicle. The maximum speed of Volocopter 2X is 62 mph and can reach a distance of 27 km.
Legal Aspect of Drones Lifting Humans
Many people cannot afford these heavy-lifting drones and it will take years before they become affordable. Another problem is that many countries around the world such as Morocco, Algeria, Cuba, and others have banned flying drones.
Ehang 184 drone does not require a license or previous experience to operate. A pilot’s license is expensive nowadays, but drones may operate autonomously without the need for a pilot’s license. There was no guarantee from authorities for obtaining the license for Ehang 184, although it has passed the tests with several successful autonomous flights.
However, Ehang has become the first company to achieve a certificate of unmanned aircraft system safety level II for autonomous aerial vehicles through tests of the UAS fence in 2019.
GRIFF Aviation already got its approval from the Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority, and its systems comply with European UAS safety regulations. They will also need to address similar regulatory obstacles for more uses in the U.S.
VoloDrone does not still have its certification for its air taxi function, but the company wants to put it to work sooner. Although it has had demonstration flights, it is not for commercial service. They expect full certification towards the end of 2022.
The good news is that you will be able to apply sooner for permits to fly the VoloDrone on a case-by-case basis.
These heavy drones are not only for fun and shooting pictures and videos. Unlike smaller drones people use every day, there are more strict regulations for big drones. First, if you plan to make money with your drone, shoot videos, and others, you need to pass an FAA test and receive Part 107 certification. Besides, you should register the drone to get an FAA identification number.
Although these drones I mentioned have obtained some certification, they are still waiting for the green light from the authorities for full acceptance. It may take years for them to become completely legal and in service for people. Since these drones are huge, there is a need for some changes in regulating all big drones.
Previously there were no such drones carrying people, so there were no regulations about the safety of passengers. Because of that, these drones will have to wait a couple of years until the relevant regulations have caught up. It is a process, but I believe it will change the future.
Now, you have found out that drones can lift a person. Impressive, is not it? The drone industry is spreading quickly, and I believe these drones are the future. If drones can put out fire and rescue people, just imagine what else they can do, especially if they are big enough to carry a human. It is just a beginning. We are about to see how useful drones can really be.
Image Source: Ehang