What licensing & regulations apply to this personal aircraft?

For $92K this can be yours. It’s basically a big four-propeller electric drone that you can ride in. Rechargeable battery with 20 minutes of flight time.

Suppose I bought one. Do I need a pilot’s license? Is it even legal to fly it where I live (drones are illegal within 15 miles of Reagan airport, although that only applies to unmanned aircraft)? What FAA regulations would I have to follow?

Ultralight rules

It doesn’t get more than 10 feet off of the ground in that video. I wonder if it has to stay in ground effect.

Thing looks like death trap to me. Wait until you see if A) it ever actually makes it to market, and B) how many of the first adopters it kills.

Ultralights cannot fly in controlled airspace without special permission. They are generally limited to 1200’ AGL, but if you are that close to an airport it could be 700’, or prohibited entirely.

Ceiling is stated as “above 1500 feet”.

I agree that it would be covered by ultralight rules.

It’s an ultralight under US rules.


However, I strongly advise you get some training before attempting to fly one.

Depends on where, exactly, you live.

You definitely can not fly it within 30 miles of Reagan airport. Not unless you want a visit from the Feds. If you’ve really attracted their attention they may not wait until you land and, to be honest, I really would not want to ride out either the wake from a fixed wing intercept aircraft or the downwash from a military helicopter in that thing.

If you’re flying under Part 103 you can’t fly it in airspace labeled A, B, C, or D. Also, quite a bit of Class E. Basically, nowhere near airports with towers. Not over “congested areas” of cities or towns - basically, no flying over housing developments/neighborhoods/suburbs. There are ways to ask for an exception, but in every instance I’m aware of where such permission was granted the person getting authorization had at least a private pilot’s license.

You would be following Part 103. Here is a link to the actual chapter and verse of the regulations.

Your only alternative would be to try to get it licensed under some sort of “experimental” classification (that’s the reasons for shipping it only 50% complete - the remaining amount to put together let’s you call it a homebuilt under US rules, unless they’ve changed them since I last was flying those sorts of things). However, you’ll need either a Sport Pilot or Private Pilot rotor license (not the more common fixed-wing) to fully utilize the capabilities of such a classification, and to use it at any sort of airport you’ll need to add stuff like lighting. You’d still be limited in where you can fly it due to the powerplant/engine(s) combination, which do not exist in an FAA certified version.

I doubt it - but given the limited flight time I’m not sure I would, personally, bother with trying to gain much altitude. Also, one of the appeals (to me) of such an aircraft is the ability to fly low and slow.

It’s basically a rich man’s toy (or a rich woman’s toy). It’s clearly for cruising in fair weather and not much else. Which is fine - the bulk of my own flying could be described that way. I just use aircraft that are (for the most part) a lot cheaper, and certainly with a longer track record of use.

A lot of ultralights are described as such. Actually, some of them are. I would have some serious questions about this thing before I’d climb into it myself, and I’m probably one of the more tolerant of crazy minimal aircraft around here.

They claim it is flight stable with one failed engine. OK. What if two stop working?

Sure, they have a ballistic parachute on board. Skippy for them. Do they mention that the effectiveness of those is iffy at best below 100 feet altitude, and preferably you’d like to be three or four times that altitude? Don’t care how fast that 'chute opens, it still takes a certain amount of time to deploy fully.

That might be another reason for staying low - not that I’d want to fall 10 or 20 feet even with a roll cage, but that has at least a chance of survival. Much more so than, say, 50 feet would.

You want to be either low enough to survive a potential engine out or high enough to have time for the parachute to work. In between is not good.

Exactly. Flying low in anything is dangerous. This thing looks designed to really be flown in the regime where the chute is useless. It may be stable with one engine out, but what happens if a prop fails and takes out the second prop? Or FOD goes though a pod taking out both props? How much altitude does it lose if an engine fails before the flight control system compensates?

More imprtantly, flying low to the ground gives you no reaction time if unexpected things happen, it’s hard to turn to avoid obstacles like fences and power lines, and the low flight time means people will be pushing the range of the thing constantly.

Pilots learn that altitude is their friend. We get nervous if we have to fly an approach that won’t let us glide to the runway if the engine should happen to fail. The thought of spending all my flight time 50 ft off the ground over random terrain is pretty terrifying. If I owned that thing, my flight profile would be to get to ballistic chute altitude as fast as I could, and once I had to descend below it to land I’d probably be nervous the whole time.

Of course with flight endurance that low, if I climbed to 500ft it would probably just be time to descend again and land.

Given that “hands free hover” is a listed feature I expect you could fly both low and much slower than a fixed wing aircraft. However, I expect most people would try to push the envelope at some point in regards to speed or altitude or both.

Does this product come with included life insurance policy, or is that an optional add-on?

“Altitude is insurance.”

And to be sure, a large number of fatal in-flight accidents happen while flying in the landing pattern (that infamous stall and spin on turning base to final), where a parachute doesn’t do much good.

Glider pilots always have to fly the pattern without a functioning engine, and most of them routinely wear parachutes. But screw up in the pattern, and a parachute won’t save you this time.

I think that use of this product voids your life insurance policy.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha >snort< guffaw ha ha ha ha ha…

You so funny…!

I realize it’s a Version 101, but considering the limited areas you can fly it in and the fact that is only has 20 minutes of flight time, what exactly would you use it for?

Haul it out to the boonies on your pickup, unload it, fly around for 20 minutes, then load it up and drive back home? Seems like the effort way exceeds the fun.

You don’t know pilots in real life, do you? We’re all a bit nuts…

But yes, your assessment is pretty correct. Hence why I described this as a rich man’s/woman’s toy. It’s not practical. But then a lot of flying done for fun is not practical.

When I lived in Chicago I regularly had to drive nearly 2 hours to get to the boonies when I wanted to fly ultralights. Then 2 hours to get back home. 4 hours of driving. Sometimes, when I got to the air field, there was something amiss and I didn’t get to fly after all. I did that nearly every week for years.

So yes, some people will do this sort of thing (and if you are driving that far usually you rent a spot at the field to store your aircraft, but that’s just one option among several).

You are correct that this is not something that would appeal to most, which is why flying as a hobby is very much a small niche category.

Yep, I can totally understand that. But even if you keep this parked out in the boonies somewhere, you are still limited to such a small flight area it seems it would get boring fast. Wouldn’t an ultralight give you much more range and cost less?

Depends on the ultralight.

Recreational flying is a thing. It’s recreation, so no telling how much of a heroic effort enthusiasts will go to.

Soaring (the hobby of flying sailplanes) perhaps even more so. Just a four-hour drive from where I live is one of the foremost world-famous soaring locations. The facility even has its own campground, where some people have reserved camp sites for the entire summer (and this is open to customers of the soaring facility only, not the general public).

Just a 90-minute drive further is another such place, even bigger, out in the middle of miles of sagebrush, where glider pilots camp out for weeks at a time.

(I’ve done three-day camps at these places.)

The more active of these people fly gliders for literally (yes, literally literally) hours at a time. I’ve seen the reports and videos of 5-hour, even 8-hour flights. One guy I know flew a glider from Hollister (near San Jose, CA) to Yuma one day, and another day from Truckee (near Lake Tahoe) up to somewhere in Idaho. There are numerous YouTube videos of flights like that by many people. (My own record flights were about 150 minutes.)

Enthusiasts gotta enthusiast.

People go waterskiing and that often requires significant time and expense and once there you don’t really do anything other than muck around with boats and waterskis.

I think what you are missing here is that just flying around in the thing will be entertaining enough for the sort of people who would buy it. It’s not a mode of transport, it’s a toy.

By itself it probably isn’t that much entertainment that people would use it a great deal. A lot of the pursuits people drive long distances and do lots of preparation for are in some way sporting and social activities. Messing about with gear, setting up and tearing down are part of the fun with like minded people.
Maybe you could get a few owners of these death traps together and they would have a huge time. Until the first fatal accident. I doubt they would survive a midair collision. A few dudes buzzing about in these together would be pretty certain to involve risky behaviour.

Consider model rocket enthusiasts. They spend many hours building their rockets. They are required to drive out into the wide uninhabited spaces, and the entire rocket journey may take a few seconds.

I race a sailboat with my brother. It is only half an hour travel each way, but rigging, derigging, washing, launch, retrieval, putting on all the wet weather gear, getting it off, general messing about adds another few hours. The racing itself is about 75 minutes, with another 30 messing about sailing to and from the course. It kills the day. A beer or two socialising after. Been doing for about 25 years. That it is a competition makes a huge difference.

I vaguely recall some warning once upon a time that flying an aircraft in the “experimental” category meant that your life insurance would not cover you in the event of a death. Or something to the effect that certain risky sports were also excluded.

That was before sport aircraft ultralights were a category. Not sure about them.