by Elco B
Sat May 27th, 2006 at 02:42:42 PM EST
In an earlier diary, I wrote about the biggest plane, the Mriya, now it is about one of te smallest helicopters ever build (yes, I'm an extremist): it's unbelievable small and it's Belgian: the Pixelito helicopter.
- Weight inclusive battery : 6,9 grams (NO typo!).
- 4 channel infra-red control.
The hamster weighs 120 grammes.
Adult man remain children: only the toys change and get more expensive.
I forgot the author of that quote but the author of this plane challenges this, because far more is at stake.
The designer: Alexander Van de Rostyne. He explains his motivation :
Nothing is more satisfying for creative people than to realize steps of innovation and progress that seem to inspire a large community.
Alexander was a radio controlled helicopter model enthousiastic for years. Always looking for the detail that enhanced performance, he always was working in his atelier on his oily, greezy, noisy machines.
One day, and somewhat in competition with fellow-hobyists, he started working on a small as possible model. Were others failed or simply gave it up, he continued to experiment, building, rebuilding, testing, inventing new technical solutions because of on this micro-scale things are different, and finally his first model took of on march 1997 : the Pixel 1.
The Pixel I
|This Helicopter is a 100% own design. All the mechanical pieces were handmade, including rotorhead, swashplate and so on. Roughly 95% of the frame is made of carbon. The blades are balsa covered with glass fiber. The tailrotorblades are carbon. All components were first tested on a test-bench. Most of the time went into designing the rotorhead. It was crucial to determine the correct combination of rotor dimensioning (span and chord), pitch, RPM, gear reduction ratio, motor and battery selection. The challenge was to get maximum lift at minimal power input. Currently, the Pixel I hovers at 12 Watt.|
Pixel I showed to me, and to the modeler's community, that the impossible became possible. It was a shot in the dark, but I hit the target.
Development: after this first succes, Alexander continued to experiment. He found 'a partner in crime': the Norwegian Petter Muren . He also was working on micro-flying machines and was succesful although he approched the problems from a different angel.
Did you know that mathematical models indicate that the fat flies can not fly? And yet I get crazy every time their buzzing hangs around in my house. Till proof of the opposite, they seem to fly very well indeed. The point is that whatever the mathematics say, you will have to give it a try. 'He succeeded because he did not know it was impossible' is an applicable statement.
His work and experiments resulted in newer, smaller and better models. Much was possible due to evolution in micro-electronics, specialy batteries.
On his way to further succes, Alexander patented some of his inventions, which are now widely used by RC-model manufacturers all over the world. In return, he was able to get the latest model electronics.
I must admit that the race for making smaller and smaller is starting to hit barriers . One day it will become very difficult for even de most skilled modeler to cope with that. The biggest challenge for the Pixelito was the size of parts. Manipulating, gluing, adjusting, even just see them is a problem. The funny thing is that it was relatively easy to make the Pixelito compared to the effort required to make the first Pixels. The main reasons for this are the progress in battery technology, the availability of micro motors, and the flood of micro electronics that come to us.
Petter Muren and Alexander met in October 2003 for the weekend at Alexander's place in Belgium. They are convinced that this was a rare encounter of two men who spend hours, days, years of brain cell effort in unraveling rotor theory seen thought the eyes of a non academicals mind. That weekend they took up the challenge together to go for something that would at least surprise a few, hopefully please many. That was the beginning of the development of the Pixelito and the Proxflyer Micron. They kept each other informed about the progress by e-mail. And they decided not to compete for the same spot. So they both froze the spec at 6.9 grams, each of them being convinced that there is plenty of room to go even lower.
Finally, Alexander came with his Pixelito and Petter with his Proxflyer.
Around 1500, Leonardo da Vinci already had a dream about kind of a helicopter. His concept proved not to be working. But this dream still manages to inspire people, with the new available technolgy, to do something about it.
Links : The Pixelito
: The Proxflyer