The Future of Flight?

Those annoying little drones are about to change the way aircraft are designed and built.

Multi-rotor drones are more stable because the lift footprint (if there’s such a phrase) is wider, and when the rotors are distributed around the edges, the body interferes less with the air’s downward motion, which means the rotors provide more actual thrust.

By not wasting thrust you get more lift with shorter rotors, which require less power to rotate faster, amplifying the benefit of more rotors.

Processing power used in miniature drones allows the thrust on each rotor to be adjusted more responsively to changing conditions.

While I’m not big on the idea of pilotless passenger drones, I can see these innovations making the piloting of small aircraft simpler with computer-assist (as most of us already have to some extent in our cars), which could finally put personal VTOL flight within reach.

Though I find myself picturing the sudden cloud of rotored vehicles every rush hour on L.A.’s 405 freeway, rising like newly-fledged giant mosquitoes, trying to escape the traffic jam — only to lock rotor shrouds with one another and tumble onto the frontage streets, and onto the buildings facing them.

Darwin nods, quietly snickering up his sleeve.