By Jason Paur
A Japanese company with plenty of experience making small, remote-controlled electric helicopters is building a human-sized version. Hirobo unveiled its single-seat electric helicopter at a technology expo in Japan and hopes to make its first flight for next year.
Single-seat helicopters have long fascinated aviation buffs who dream of Jetsons-like personal transportation, and such a machine would be useful in military, search-and-rescue, and law-enforcement applications. Yes, unmanned aerial vehicles have in recent years filled a niche many thought single-seat helos would occupy, but the dream of a personal flying machine remains. We’ve seen a few ideas in recent years, including a contraption powered by hydrogen peroxide rockets. And of course there’s always yet another jetpa— umm … ducted fanpack.
Hirobo builds small R/C helicopters, including the battery-powered toys you see at the mall. The full-size HX-1 is essentially the same thing, only bigger. It uses a similar co-axial main rotor to eliminate the need for a tail rotor, and the company says it is expected to fly for as long as 30 minutes at 60 mph. The pilot uses fly-by-wire controls, or the machine can be flown remotely to aid in emergency evacuations or search-and-rescue operations. The idea is this full size R/C helicopter could be flown to the person in need, who would then be airlifted to safety.
And, of course, the HX-1 could, in the company’s words, serve a “pleasure purpose for rich people.” That goes without saying, given the price is said to be $375,000.
The HX-1 has not yet flown, but Flight Global says “limited” hover tests have been made and flight tests are expected next year.