To overcome this obstacle, Moller’s M200G uses its propulsion system to stabilize itself. The craft moves using eight small ducted fans, each powered by its own Wankel-style rotary engine, that lift the M200G into the air and push it forward, backward and sideways. Varying the thrust from the fans also provides stability—for example, a little extra thrust from the right-side engines prevents that side of the craft from dipping. Using multiple inertial sensors and accelerometers, an aircraft-stability computer constantly monitors the altitude of the craft and sends commands to the engines to adjust thrust in each fan up to 400 times per second, maintaining stability. The aircraft is constructed of ultralight materials such as aluminum and fiberglass, which increase the vehicle’s strength and maximize the engines’ power.
With a starting price of $90,000, the M200G will initially be a toy for the rich. It will be limited to flying below 10 feet, eliminating the need for Federal Aviation Administration certification of each pilot. Eventually, the company hopes to offer low-cost aircraft. “Artificial stability systems will get better and cost less in the future,” Moller says, “allowing us all to be able to afford strange and wonderful new flying machines that defy conventional aerodynamics.” Flying saucers, it turns out, may be just the beginning.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.