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An NUS team comprising Design-Centric Programme (DCP) and University Scholars Programme (USP) students, has mastered the art of levitation – and flying.

Taking about a year’s time, the team has designed and built Singapore’s first personal flying machine, dubbed Snowstorm. Combining their skills and expertise across different engineering disciplines, the team called FrogWorks built the machine from scratch -- from construction of the physical frame to control and stabilisation systems. Three rechargeable lithium batteries running independently, power the 24 motors of the craft.

The machine is supported by six legs with shock absorbers in the form of six inflated balls. With a flight control system that includes a range of automated flight modes commonly used for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, the pilot can adjust thrust, pitch, roll and yaw (oscillation) of the craft -- besides altitude hold, loiter and other position modes.

Said member of the team, Mr Shawn Sim, third-year Mechanical Engineering student with the Design-Centric Programme, “Designing and building Snowstorm was a great learning opportunity for us. The toughest part of this engineering challenge was ensuring a good thrust to weight ratio to allow the craft to lift a person into the air. At every stage of our design, we constantly had to balance and consider trade-offs between the types of materials, their characteristics and weight. In some instances, we even 3D-printed parts, such as our landing gear mount, just so we can have a customised and optimal fit.”

DCP supervisor for the project, Dr Joerg Weigl said they built the machine primarily as a means to fulfil everybody’s dreams of flying. Added Associate Professor Martin Henz who is with USP and NUS School of Computing, “Recent advances in motors and battery technology has made it possible for us to literally take to the skies. We will continue to fine-tune Snowstorm, working on mechanical safety measures, propeller and motor configurations, and control software and hardware to achieve the high levels of safety, simplicity and performance required for recreational use by the general public.”

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