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The Electricopter™ technology achieves remarkable cost effectiveness by borrowing an idea from the world of computer storage.  In 1988, several professors from the University of California at Berkeley conceived a way for a single, large, expensive, computer disk drive (SLED) to be replaced by several cheap, small drives working together in concert.  They called their invention the Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks (RAID).  Large enterprise-class computer systems have used them ever since. 
Not only were RAID data storage systems cheaper than the SLED systems they replaced, but they were more reliable as well.  This is because the obsolete SLED represented a single-point of failure.  Disk drives are devices with a high-degree of minimum complexity, and if any part fails, the disk stops functioning completely.  Often the ability to access the data stored on the disk is lost as well.  In contrast, the RAID systems were controlled in such a fashion that the data was spread out and protected across the drives in the array.  If one drive failed, the other drives would continue to operate with no loss of access to the data.
Conventional helicopters are built much the same was as the old SLED computer drives.  They are extremely complex, and every part must function perfectly or the helicopter stops operating.  They are – in effect – flying single points of failure.  The RAIR™ technology replaces the single, large, expensive helicopter rotor disk with a redundant array of electrically-powered propulsion units.
If a human life depends on the absolute integrity of a single part, then that part must be constructed of the highest quality materials.  The old mechanics’ adage also applies: “if it moves, it will fail.”  Therefore, conventional aircraft parts are subjected to rigorous testing and maintenance.  A conventional helicopter consists of hundreds – if not thousands - of such parts

Because no single component failure can have tragic consequences in a  RAIR™ -based craft, they can be easily manufactured with “off-the-shelf” non-aerospace grade (inexpensive) parts.  The Revelation, the first full-size, man-carrying RAIR™ proof-of-concept prototype, uses 36 inexpensive cordless electric drill motors, for a total cost of $1,500 at retail.  This would be reduced to a mere $288 when purchased in large quantities, analogous to the cost of replacing the spark plugs in a conventional piston-engine helicopter!  In fact, no other aircraft program in history has gone from conception to a successful, full-scale test flight for a total direct capital budget of less than $15,000.


The key to the RAIR™ technology is the use of electric motors to power the rotors.  Electric power is easily controlled with off-the-shelf Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor (MOSFET) technology.  This means that the RAIR™ system is tailor-made for computer control.  In fact, The Revelation prototype uses a home-computer game joystick connected to a very simple analog computer, which is interfaced to the RAIR™ MOSFETs with TTL logic.  With this interface established, it is easy to control a RAIR™ craft with virtually any computer topology you can imagine.  RAIR™ represents the simplest application of “fly-by-wire” technology. 
Given the power of a common “palm-sized” computer with a Global Positioning System (GPS) option, a RAIR™-based craft could easily be programmed to fly only in certain “virtual corridors of airspace”, automatically keeping the craft out of restricted airspace or guiding the craft to its destination.  Such a RAIR™ computer could also be programmed to ignore operator inputs that might compromise the flight characteristics of the craft, I.E. too rapid a climb or turn.  This functionality using solid-state "gyroscopes" will be designed into production RAIR™ craft. 
While RAIR™-based craft are most certainly VTOL, they share none of the serious ground-safety hazards associated with conventional aircraft.  Aircraft propellers, helicopter main rotors and tail rotors all are very heavy and require relatively high speeds to operate.  These spinning devices are quite hazardous near the ground.  The RAIR™ craft on the other hand, does not rely on spinning inertia for sustaining flight in case of a fault, so the rotor blades can be made of very lightweight material.  In addition, the RAIR™ rotor array itself can be shrouded, preventing physical contact with obstructions on the ground.  This makes RAIR™ craft very “neighbor” friendly in a suburban setting.  One could land a RAIR™ craft in their driveway without undue risks to bystanders.
The RAIR™ means no trips to the airport, no special training, and no upset neighbors.


The highly available nature of the RAIR™ technology simply communicates robust passenger safety.  Not only does the elimination of “single points of failure” raise confidence, but the reduction of necessary pilot skill reduces the risks of operator error.
Production versions of the RAIR™ technology would likely incorporate 12 thrust units.  In the event of the failure of one of the units, the RAIR™ craft would lose only 1/12th of the available thrust in flight.  An inexperienced pilot might not even be aware that such a failure occurred! 
The electronic control system of the RAIR™ inexpensively embodies a “fly by wire” system.  Other than the joystick control itself, there are no moving parts in the rotor array control system.  While the current embodiment prototype uses an analog computer to translate control commands, the RAIR™ can be easily adapted to interface to a digital computer.  With no tail rotor requirement, and an intelligent control computer, RAIR™ pilot skill requirements could be economically reduced to a minimum – even below that required for operating a conventional fixed-wing aircraft.
Because the RAIR™ design is highly redundant, passenger safety is enhanced even while using non-aircraft-grade parts.  In short, the RAIR™ offers the operational capability of a standard helicopter, while greatly reducing the costs and pilot skill requirements.
In addition, RAIR™-based craft are the only VTOL designs that can support “whole aircraft” emergency parachute technology, such as manufactured by Ballistic Recovery Systems, Inc.  This can potentially offer “redundancy to the redundancy” for a truly fail-safe aircraft platform.


Here are some photos of The Revelation proof-of-concept prototype:


The Revelation POC Prototype

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U.S. Patent No. 7,699,260

Hughey Electricopter Corporation proudly introduces the Redundant Array of Independent Rotors (RAIR) technology.

This patented approach to aircraft lift and propulsion elegantly overcomes all the historical barriers to mass-market acceptance of a personal aviation product.

Link: U.S. Patent #7,699,260


“When once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.“

-- Leonardo Da Vinci


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