Our Prototypes column introduces new vehicle concepts and presents visuals from designers who illustrate the ideas. Some of them will be extensions of existing concepts, others will be new, some will be production ready, and others really far-fetched.
The Vexil is a solo flying platform concept that uses a ground-based laser to recharge its supercapacitors. With its recharge radius of 8 kilometres, it could be used to explore, conduct surveillance or serve as an eco-friendly recreational vehicle.
A few months ago, I was impressed by a hoverboard prototype built by , who managed to break a world record by . Alexandru is now starting a company around his invention, but one major hurdle is battery capacity. His invention inspired me to develop the Vexil concept, which uses amplified light to power its electric motors.
How it works
The Vexil would be equipped with 3 to 6 electric fans to lift a 180-pound rider in the air. Instead of ion-lithium batteries, it would use supercapacitors, which can accept and deliver a charge much faster than batteries, and can tolerate many more cycles than ion-lithium batteries. Because they are almost 10 times larger than conventional batteries for a given charge, the Vexil would fill up with energy whilst flying.
A laser mounted on a small tower would be used to shoot a beam of energy directly and precisely at a receiver located under the Vexil. This receiver would convert the light beam into electricity and recharge the vehicle’s supercapacitors. The powerpack would be designed to store enough energy to fly for 2 minutes, including 30 seconds of back-up power. This means that the laser would activate less than five seconds every minute.
Upon starting, the laser would locate the Vexil once it was in the air. It would then synchronise itself with the unit and shoot an initial low energy beam to confirm that it was on target. Then it would shoot a short burst of energy, powerful enough to recharge the supercapacitors in a fraction of a second. The [tower-based] laser will have the capacity to rotate on 2 axes, and its beam will always remain over the horizon and aimed at the Vexil’s receptor.
Multiple types of cameras (Infrared, Thermal, 3D) and sensors could be mounted on the Vexil and used to assist the operator. For instance, it could be used in Africa to observe animals living in certain areas and to protect them from poachers. The Vexil could also be flown autonomously.
What it’s used for
If we can recharge supercapacitors safely with a micro burst of laser, then flying machines like the Vexil could be used for surveillance missions, search-and-rescue runs and even for recreational sport. As an example, skydivers could climb on it, ascend straight into the air to an altitude of 9,000 feet and dive from the platform. Of course, there are a host of other applications, but there are tons of technical challenges, too. Note that the Vexil’s configuration will most probably switch to a 6-fan layout located over the rider in a new iteration. If you have some comments about this idea, please contact us via the website.
The Vexil concept was developed in collaboration with , an award-winning industrial designer from Mexico. He graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design and specializes in 3D and concept development for human-centered products. He has also produced the concept images for the kit for teenagers and the (RNP) home recycler/printer concept.