China: Awesome gentleman builds homemade flying contraption powered by eight motorcycle engines

Local farmer Shu Mansheng starts the engines of his self-designed and homemade flying device before a test flight in front of his house in Dashu village on the outskirts of Wuhan, Hubei province September 21, 2011. The round steel flying device, which cost more than 20,000 yuan ($3,135), is the fifth model made by Shu, a junior middle school graduate. It measures around 5.5 meters (18 feet) in diameter, and is powered by eight motorcycle engines. Shu managed to hover for 10 seconds at about 1 metre (3.3 feet) above ground during a recent test flight. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Above, in August, he set up a propeller on the motorcycle engine of his self-designed and made flying device before the first test flight in front of his house. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)


    1. @arthurschwartz: The banner reads 中国“太空”学校, which means China “Outer Space” School.

      1. in a good way?

        on a side note, I actually lived in Wuhan four years ago, and though I never met this guy, I did see some pretty interesting contraptions that had obviously been pulled together from who-knows-how-many other vehicles/stuff.

        The frame for this guy’s contraption looks suspiciously like the scaffolding on the signs I remember, an example of which you can see over his shoulder in the second picture.

  1. What is going on in China on the farms?  Didn’t some Chinese farmer recently make a humanoid robot from scratch?  Who’s doing all the farming while these guys make androids and aircraft?

  2. Awesome gentleman indeed!

    His delightful contraption is completely enrobed in awesome sauce and topped with colorful danger sprinkles!

    Onward and upward, good sir!

  3. judging by all the two stroke exhaust pipes, I’m guessing that thing rains down smoke from above like an upside down volcano….

  4. If you told me there was a man in China sitting in a fabric box surrounded by 8 spinning blades a yard long I’d probably think “That’s harsh.  Who did he murder?”

  5. In case nobody noticed, he’s probably also sitting on top of the gas tank. 

    How do you say MacGyver in Chinese?

  6. Multi rotor helicopters are quite feasible aircraft, at least currently on a RC scale.  But to be safe / useful they require a CPU running complex calculations using several active gyroscopes to precisely control the speed of each prop. Can a human substitute for all of this?  This guy just may find out.

    I’m just afraid this guy has just made a LOLcopter and may lose his designation as “awesome” when he kills himself and/or his neighbors.

  7. I would say that at the least he needs a roll cage, seatbelt and deadman cutoff switch to avoid a Darwin Award.

  8. Steel is an interesting choice of material, if that’s actually what he used (I didn’t click through for details).  It’s easy to assemble with basic welding skills.  But it’s heavy, and the framework is by far the majority of the weight there.  Aluminum is lighter, but the welding is far trickier.  Bolted aluminum structures have their own challenges.

  9. How come no-one has mentioned the most important thing, namely that he looks fucking hot in that dusty leather jacket and those shades?

    1. That’s not a leather jacket, its just heavy cloth.  You can tell by the seams- the look like the ones you see on a pair of jeans, because the cloth shrinks a bit.  Also, I think he’d buy a pair of real shoes before investing in a leather jacket; welding in sandles has got to suck.

      Which doesn’t change the fact that he’s got a classic square jaw and perfect hair, like the best sort of stereotypical American 1950’s can-do-man.  Such a man can make a cheap dirty canvas jacket look good!

  10. It’s definitely a ROFLCOPTER (Ride-On Flying Lawnmower Copter)! He’s a farmer so maybe he’s planning some EPIC crop-circles…

  11. This is the kind of idiocy that used to make America great (unlike the idiocy of today that makes us rather lame).  I can hear Duane Eddy in the background.

    And for some reason I’m reminded of “The World’s Fastest Indian” with Anthony Hopkins.

    1. If you want to see a lot of people engaged in creative fooling around check out Make magazine’s blog.  There still are Americans inventing and experimenting.  Instead of trying to figure out how to control an aircraft on a North Carolina beach they’re working out how to control a robot with an Xbox Kinect.

  12. This thing is deadly. Don’t try this at home. I have seen what happens to someone hit by one of those rc helicopter blades.

  13. Tool steels have strength-to-weight ratios as forged Al.  I evidence this by noting that good bicycles are made from both materials.

  14. Read: “Tool steels have strength-to-weight ratios as forged Al.”  as Tool steels have similar strength-to-weight ratios as forged Al.
    Haven’t had coffee yet.

  15. … all of the outer engines rotate one way, the inner engines the other … its an attempt to null the rotational effect. I suspect it would be better had 2 engines in each ring countered 2 in the same ring because of the leverage differential of the forces in each circumference. You can see in the hovering pic that the ropes are keeping the craft from rotating.

  16. Well, having built many flying craft over the years (models), let me say, first:  he cannot reach the outer engines to start them (take a look), the noise and smoke from the many 2 stroke engines will overcome him and any  spectators for 100 yards, and…. when (not if) one of the engines quits,  you are in for a death spiral of amazing  tragic results.  The power is probably there to make it fly, but I really question the stability of the craft, let alone critical  control issues; unless he only plans to  go up, and down… still, wobble city / whirling disaster here….You could not talk me into trying to fly this thing….even with Remote radio Control….Is there a film crew there to  catch this  Jackass? He is going down….big time…

  17. our modern world in a nutshell:  China does stuff, but most of the value-add is elsewhere

    A Chinese gentleman works out how manufacture a hovercraft on the cheap, but his design will be useless until someone else with a lot more math skills develops the control software and imports the high-quality actuators from Japan or Germany.Any chance we can get this amazing dude to a Maker Faire?

  18. Check out the american imperialist condescension.  My guess is that if this guy was from the ‘right’ country the comments would be much more along the lines of how cool makers are.  Engineering, motivation and the joy of doing aren’t endemic of america – or do you idiots think you’ve patented those things as your exclusive property?  

    1. Ha Ha Ha…this. 

      However – this dude might beat Moller to the finish in terms of Return on Investment of time and money. This dude’s current contraption is likely in the alpha stage. His beta (or whatever) might use cheap microprocessors that Moller didn’t have access to until, well…now.

      But if Moller didn’t do it first – and grace decades worth of Popular Science and Mechanics mags – would this have been hatched and built?

      1. I should have said “wasted” instead of “wasting” as I doubt anyone would invest with Moller anymore… However, stranger things have happened… This octocopter could benefit from variable pitch props, and a torque distribution system… but that might kill the cost effectiveness of the whole thing.

  19. Before criticizing, build one. The trouble with innovation in the US, is that it rarely gets done. Innovation is full of lawyers, patents, injunctions, for using a bit of software that is as common as a ball bearing.

    Innovators are eaten and become part of the borg.

    I love the audacity here, the sheer chance. Lookup Octokopter. The models have been built and proven. This is just a step toward manned flight on an Zoctokopter. Imagine 8 rotax engines, and a simple arduino controller yanked from the existing Octokopter design.

    It flys. Throttle controls via servos, and horizon stabilization is $50. It’s time, about 40 years overdue, for air innovation for people. Sure, it won’t be stealthy. :) I can see millions of these, running on diesel grown in unused farm lands flying all over china.

    If anyone will build the future it’s China. It’s where GE, and our top big businesses are spending their money. And, we consumers spend much of our money on Chinese products everyday. Try to buy a tool made in the US. :) nah best to read the map, accept it, and decide if you have the courage to innovate in the US. We owe China trillions. And we buy 100s of billions from China too. It’s not cheap goods. Check a US name brand product.

    Wake up fools. Where ya been the past ten years? :) bet 3 years from now Chinese flying machines will be kicking butt. Likely because a farmer in China can now make one. Who in the US can? Have $100,000 to start and $200,000 for lawyers? Try farming in China, apparently the opportunities are greater.

  20.   I see no obvious control devices,  (in one  picture, pilot (?) seems to just be hanging on to the side of the cloth box) and no fuel tank.  I think he could kill himself  just as easily with 1/2  the numbers of engines.  Nice wood work on   the propellers, however…   It appears   (?) that some of the propellers
        look like they are cut to turn in  opposite directions.  That is a good thing, (if so),  as there is going to be one hell of a torque control problem
       with this “”death circle””,  and this is just one of the many control, stability issues he will face.  But,  alas, not for long,  especially with no
      safety helmet…

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