There are hobbyists and then there are hobbyists. It’s safe to say this guy is the latter. What you’re seeing here is what may well be the world’s first manned amateur drone flight, with an intrepid British inventor hitching 54 drones together and then taking them for a spin down at his local park.
“The Swarm”, which is the name of this seemingly home-designed contraption, is described by its creator as a “Manned Aerial Vehicle Multirotor Super Drone”. Footage of its maiden human-carrying flight was uploaded to YouTube by user gasturbine101 last week, although at this point the exact identity of the world’s first drone pilot remains unknown.
With more consumer drone devices starting to appear on the market, it’s no wonder hobbyists and tinkerers are coming up with creative uses for the machines. The concept of the Swarm itself isn’t entirely new – German company E-Volo tried a similar thing four years ago.
But with the technology being more accessible than ever (Apple started stocking drones this week), this could be the start of an exciting but extremely dangerous trend – and one that police and aviation authorities are no doubt watching very closely.
According to the YouTube post, the Swarm features 54 counter-rotation propellers, six grouped control channels, and some means of Hobby King stabilisation. Its makers say the vehicle has a maximum approximate lift of 164 kilograms and can stay powered for 10 minutes.
Our favourite bit in the video is at 2:20, where the Swarm gets its most serious air, lifting several metres off the ground and prompting the camera man to lose it a little bit. He starts yelling what sounds like, “Paul! Paul, be careful! Paul!” to the pilot, as if it’s only just dawned on him that what they’re doing might carry a small degree of risk.
Other notable parts include 1:25, where the pilot – who at this point isn’t demonstrating an awful lot of mastery over the homespun controls – starts veering dangerously close to the camera. And, as pointed out by TechCrunch, there’s also a totally delicious snippet at the 3-minute mark, where someone in a car does a double take; at first they can be seen driving by in the distance, before reversing back into the frame to take a closer look.