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YC's latest moonshot bet is a startup building a $380K “flying motorcycle” (techcrunch.com)
246 points by kristianp on Mar 8, 2019 | hide | past | web | favorite | 302 comments

Where are they getting the engine?

You can get model aircraft jet engines with enough power for this.[1] Various human-carrying craft have been built that way, such as the Zapata Flyboard.[2] But the engines have a lifespan measured in hours and not enough reliability for carrying humans. That's why all the demo videos of these things are over water, or tethered.

People have been trying to build small, cheap jet engines for decades. "Small" has been done. Cheap, no. Below bizjet size, the price doesn't go down much. Which is why general aviation is still running mostly on pistons. The 1960s Williams jetpack (not the Bell rocket belt) used an engine intended for cruise missiles.

If they've cracked the small jet engine problem, there's a big market for those, without trying to package them as jetpacks or motorcycles. Otherwise, it's just another demo rig.

The video is a bit suspicious. It's very quiet. You can hear the boats over it. It doesn't blow stuff around. It doesn't move his clothing. It doesn't ripple the water even at low altitude. Other videos of small jet engines are very noisy and have lots of jet blast.

[1] http://www.jetcat.de/jetcat/Kataloge/JetCat%20ENGINES.pdf

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7feIt5PRvUw

Agreed, this seems like a huge problem and this

> The startup’s most pertinent problem is creating the autonomous stabilization technologies that will make flying the Speeder effortless and safe.

looks like a smokescreen for marketing to the tech crowd. Everyone is going to believe they can solve the stabilisation problem: that's "just software" and we see demos of robots solving stabilisation problems all the time. Building a jet engine that's an order of magnitude better (cheaper, more reliable) than the industry has managed in 50 years, but with more or less the same tech? That's the kind of problem you can't just solve with machine learning.

If that "most pertinent problem" is tech savvy investor/journalist bait... it's genius. I read that and thought "well that's probably solveable."

OTOH... In the context of a moonshot, maybe the non-existence of an affordable & appropriate engine is ok. Tesla started with an unaffordable battery, and built a really expensive car with it. The car was good though, compared to other cars in the sheiks & princes price range. It was an important step on the way and proved that the real pertinent problem was affordable batteries. Not an easy problem, but still.

There's probably some demand for flying motorcycles, even if they cost >€1m and are only good for 10 minutes of hovering over a lake.

From there... who knows. I'm not sure flying cars a mass market idea even if they cost the same as rolling ones.

The military market for tiny turbine engines has been serious for decades; cruise missiles use them. I really do not believe that a plucky SV attitude towards engineering and VC funding is going to waltz into this domain and shock the world. But I definitely believe that SV self-confident arrogance would lead some to convince themselves otherwise.

Ah this point piqued my interest. Before I thought this was a waste of time for YC to be throw $150,000 at this company, but with the military aspect it makes it a lot more of a feasible business model. The military doesn't need something with many hours of flight time for all scenarios. They might just need to get medical supplies delivered to the field really quick and this could more then accomplish that potentially.

Yes, very small turbines have a variety of military applications beyond just cruise missiles. Small turbine driven reusable drones are one possible application.

I'm not sure if you're trying to imply it, but YC funding defense tech under the guise of funding toys for the ultra-wealthy would be interesting, but I don't honestly think that's what's going on here. I don't think they're likely to develop novel turbine technology, and the concept of a one-person turbine flying device left the US military unimpressed decades ago. There doesn't really seem to be a tactical niche for it on the battlefield.

We’re actively working with army, navy and marines in US. Why put a Blackhawk and crew at risk where one it a swarm of autonomous cargo Speeders can do same work. 400-600lbs cargo of equip, blood supplies etc. Not to be used for insertion of operators in covert mission but in overt ops our noise signature isn’t a factor.

For unmanned for cargo delivery it makes a lot of sense and could be revolutionary. But putting a man on it doesn't make so much sense; whoever was standing on top would be a very noisy obvious target and even if that weren't the case the case, the system would probably create a ton of casualties anyway just from people getting too excited and crashing it.

The premise of a longshot is that it doesn't seem (and isn't) likely that any given plucky startup is likely to succeed, but the rewards are worth the risk.

Anyway... the military isn't always the ideal market force for driving down costs.

The military isn't necessarily interested in driving costs down, but they and their numerous well funded, technically competent and experienced contractors are highly motivated when it comes to improving size, reliability, fuel efficiency, etc.

Every minute saved in reaching a stroke or heart attack victim reduces mortality by approx 10%. Worth fighting for?

If we can fly quickly AND safely and land within feet of an injured person and that makes a difference of them living or dying, isn’t that worth a shot?

Yes, you are completely correct! It is much more than software to solve this issue. It is so much different than self-leveling robots on a surface because we are floating in the air with no hard attachment point. We are currently going through multiple iterations on our 1:3 scale prototype so that we can dial in the stabilization systems so that we have the correct flight characteristics.

We 100% agree and base level stablization is what we spend most of our engineering time on - both software and mech. We are learning a heck of a lot from our 1/3rd scale model

> ... effortless and safe

also the most pertinent problem with a thousand similarly idiotic ideas, from edible knives to jetpacks

Whenever a hip startup dismisses the problem as “just software”, I worry that it will randomly crash (in both senses) because someone took down an npm library.

We have actually teamed up with a company called AMT Netherlands to build our custom engines. The engines are not cheap because most of the companies are making them in very very small batches. We are currently increasing our numbers so the numbers are coming down considerably. We are actually currently working on a small thrust class turbofan which would solve a lot of issues that turbojets present. If you check out our videos we have flown all over the world for different companies like RedBull. We have also flown at many over land events like the Austrian F1 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZpMLyAOFiQ)as well as at The Festival of Speed at Goodwood (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvELzB7jY_0?).

What bypass ratio are your turbofans? Your argument seems to be that because it's a turbofan (bypass > 0), you've "solved" all of the issues with turbojets. But at this size, you've still got a bypass ratio that's much closer to a turbojet than a modern commercial airline engine.

We use turbojets but are working on a 4:1 bypass ratio TF

> You can get model aircraft jet engines with enough power for this.[1] Various human-carrying craft have been built that way, such as the Zapata Flyboard.[2] But the engines have a lifespan measured in hours and not enough reliability for carrying humans. That's why all the demo videos of these things are over water, or tethered.

All engines have lifespans measured in hours. Jetcat engines have service intervals of 25-50 hours, which usually involves bearing replacements, inspection, cleaning etc.

Non-RC small engines have very normal service intervals of 1000s of hours, right on par with large jet engines and as long or longer than piston engines. The JFS100[1] is slightly more powerful than a JetCat 550, and is a bona fide helicopter engine. Helicopters[2] have used small <100 hp turbojet engines for decades. They're cheap and incredibly reliable. Those JFS 100s go for <$4,000.

They don't have the same power/weight ratio as jetcats because they're used to drive props- there is no demand for tiny jet engines because props are more efficient and jets require too much reduction for slow speed personal aircraft.

> The video is a bit suspicious. It's very quiet. You can hear the boats over it. It doesn't blow stuff around. It doesn't move his clothing. It doesn't ripple the water even at low altitude. Other videos of small jet engines are very noisy and have lots of jet blast.

This is excessively incredulous. The flyboard is well documented and perfectly reasonable. These people balance on jets of water without computers and jet engines are built to be trimmed in to match each other closely. Otherwise you'd have planes going in to flat spins when they pushed the throttle too hard.

He never goes near the water in that video, it's loud as hell, the only boat you can hear is a cigarette boat (which is basically a drag car), and he's wearing full leathers. Of course they aren't rippling. How would they fake a video like this[3]?

[1]: http://nyethermodynamics.com/jfs100/index.html

[2]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VxwRo9jzwg

[3]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQzLrvz4DKQ

> But the engines have a lifespan measured in hours

I think it's slightly more correct to say that they have a service interval measured in hours. The jetcat ones require service every 25h of use, but there are other companies that require service less frequently, although the highest interval I found is 100h.

For common hobby grade engines that is correct. We actually have working one on one with a manufacturer for over 8 years. Over this time we have gone through many iterations to make the engines rated for manned flight. So we own the special internal components that make these much much better than hobby grade engines.

Those Jetcat engines are listed for sale here http://www.zedjet.com/jetcat-turbines.html with prices from £1700 to £5000 which doesn't seem so crazy expensive. Not sure about the reliability.

I don't know if he updated his comment since then, but that's exactly the one he talked about. It's his first link.

> [small jet engines, price, piston engines for GA]

Another important reason is fuel consumption. Jet engines in general are extremely thirsty, AFAIK the only reason they became (unexpectedly!) competitive with piston engines is that they allow the planes to fly so much higher where the air is thinner.

In addition, small turbines are even less efficient than big ones.

And all GA jet engines now are turbofans with high bypass ratios. Not something you can do at small scale. Would have guessed the relative speed they operate at also plays a role. And wouldn't this require quick changes in thrust? Not sure that heavy big diameter fans could do that.

Are GA turbofans really more common than GA turboprops?

Oh, my bad. I did not mean GA, but commercial passenger airplanes. As opposed to military jets.

The sound, I think, is coming from a large headset like the ones prominently worn by the ground crew. I don't think it's the pilot's headset, as it does diminish a bit at the greatest range, and I would expect some radio talk between the pilot and the crew. I suspect they are noise-canceling headsets, as there is something about how it sounds that reminds me of vacuuming with a noise-canceling headset on.

Small has been done and cheaper is always possible, but significantly reducing the noise of jetpacks would require an amendment to the laws of fluid dynamics.

As for visible effects of the jet: at liftoff, the tether, that was detached by one of the crew just before, blows around a bit. I am trying to decide if you can see the jet as a distortion of the background, or whether that is an artifact of video decompression. The best opportunity for seeing it appears to be just after liftoff, when the right engine nozzle is seen with the cruise ship behind it, but there doesn't seem to be much of an effect there. As he approaches for landing, the netting around the pad appears to be blown around.

I'm a bit suspicious of the camera shake when it's zoomed in before takeoff. I don't have video editing software available to me at this moment, but it would be interesting to track a few points and see if the path they trace out is actually random or if it looks artificial. Artificial camera shake is easy to spot this way if the VFX specialist was careless.

We wish we could fake these videos! Check out our youtube channel to see all the flights we have done all over the world!https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC68MUrNZtEgn9wHyZhcnJjw

While you are here, can you discuss the noise level?

Depends on which aircraft but the JB11 is approx 110dba at 25ft

> That's why all the demo videos of these things are over water....

I thought they were over water due to FAA regulations. From an article about Larry Page's Kitty Hawk Flyer. [1]

> > In the US, the Flyer falls under the FAA's rules for ultralight aircraft, meaning no pilot's license is needed so long as it's flown over water or "uncongested areas."

[1] https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/kitty-hawk-flyer-electric...

The demo video of his jetpack was shot in Monaco, not the US.

Yes, we actually do demos all over the world. We are not limited to over water from the FAA as our JetPacks are in the experimental category.

In previous flying car type things, people have attempted to use Wankel engines, which I guess have a decent power to weight ratio.


FWIIW Moller's project is a great example of why this is hard.

We are working also on micro turbo fans (<250lb thrust class). Current TBOs >250 hrs

> It doesn't move his clothing

It doesn't even seem to move the clothing of the guy that ducks behind him around 2:30.

There are a few paint flakes that come off and blow around a bit at 2:50 or so.

Based on the spec I'm guessing it is an AMT Nike

Five engines in the render, assume 1 is redundant:

705lbs to metric: 3134N. Divide by 4 = 784N which is _exactly_ the max thrust of a Nike.

Doing some bistromaths on the stated hover performance.

With a 231lb empty weight, 180lb rider, and 5 gallons of kerosene (ultra light version) you get

104kg + 81kg + 15 kg = 200kg

sfc of a Nike is 40 grams / (kN second) (Should have gone with Hawk ;) )

Lets say hover thrust on a nice still day will be around ~ 1.9kN -> 76.7grams per second of flight.

Assuming I've not made any mistakes that gives roughly 3.5 minutes of hovering flight on that 15kg of fuel (ignoring the fact the vehicle gets slightly lighter as the fuel burns off).

That sort of matches up with the spec, assuming the 10-22 minutes stated is for a lighter human on the experimentally licensed version of the vehicle.

Yes you are correct. We are also working on our turbofan. Way better sfc, quieter and cooler exhaust.

I wonder if it's legal to use Jet turbine in my car to produce extra acceleration for overtaking during commute.

That's so wild. Made my day.

There's a jet powered minivan that shows up every now and then to this Cars & Coffee - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEZ6zqeRXiw They also have a smaller jet engine powered mini bike similar to this one - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ybX25MjTsw

One of the excellent things about YC is how they are completely unphased by moonshots. I don't know of any other organization that is nearly as supportive of ideas that would literally be called crazy other places.

3.5 years ago my cofounder were working on what was actually becoming an okay telecom referral business at the YC Fellowship, but my cofounder and I weren't happy. Pretty much every partner there enthusiastically told us that we should definitely consider doing our totally insane idea to try and bring modernized commercial agriculture to smallholder farmers in subsaharan Africa.

We started our moonshot and it's still growing. I think the only people who really believed in us were us and my parents and a couple YC partners, and a couple people at Accion Venture Labs. That was all we needed though.

By the way, I still think our company is a moonshot. Starting a moonshot company is stressful, it's foolish, it's a thousand mistakes to crawl out of, and by far the most rewarding professional decision I've ever made. Any moonshot worth taking will have a real shot at changing the course of human history, and I'm much happier to have a 0.5% chance of ending hunger then to have a 30% chance of a medium amount of wealth.

I’ve raised for and run two moonshot concepts that failed.

Now I work on an enterprise saa. Much happier with the saas, but maybe it is a life stage thing.

Really fascinating - can you talk a little bit more about your experiences?

You always hear about trying moonshots but I’ve never heard someone who went reverse and was happier!

I can't speak for the person you're responding to, but as someone who also started (and failed) a moonshot company I can chime in. To grossly oversimplify, failure (especially when you put everything into something) can make people jaded. The breaking point for everyone is different, but eventually you just don't want to try the pie-in-the-sky idea because you remember how painful the failure is, how many years of your life you lost, how many relationships damaged or ruined, personal debts accrued, etcetera.

At some point you want to minimize stress and just take an easy job that pays a shitload of money and you value your free time more than your career.

But I've been wondering, why not make the shitload of money first, and once you've got many years saved, then go off and do a moonshot?

The usual explanation is something about lifestyle and mortgages and children and so on, but whether you earn the money in your 20s and do a moonshot in your 30s, or do the moonshot in your 20s and earn money in your 30s, don't you wind up at the same place either way?

I think the darker take on it is that as you get older you realize that things are harder and you're not as dumb. Mortgages and children are a polite way of saying "I know how stupidly hard that is, I like spending time with my wife and kids and family and I'm going to actively choose a quality life over an impactful life."

I tell people to only start a startup, and definitely only start a moonshot startup if you can't help but let your ambition destroy your happiness. Things at Apollo are going really well, and it has been ~5x more stressful than when I was working at a really fast paced and successful US company. It's probably ~15x more stressful than when I was working at a laid back US tech company. You do it because you have to see what you're building in the world.

The answer is that you’re right. I did the money first, and since then working on moonshot stuff has been a lot more enjoyable that what I typically see here.

The challenge and stress of the moonshot never goes away, but the stress is more “intense trek through the mountains” and less “my family is going to starve and my friends hate me. “

"Intense trek through the mountains" is more like a vacation when you go through real stress while building your company.

> why not make the shitload of money first

Because it is very very hard to get to "fuck you"-money and passive income often isn't quite as passive as it seems.

I went the other way. I did a moonshot, made great connections, had a few years of fun, learned tons, but also had horrible years and had no financial security after a decade of unceasing work.

I managed to get a mid level leadership role for a huge tech company. I no longer think about mortgages or tuition, I’m a million times less stressed out, and I enjoy my life.

It’s common but it’s not “sexy” to say fuck it, I want a sure thing for a while.

Totally, I can't imagine having started this business and moving to Nairobi with a couple kids and a mortgage. I think moonshot businesses are in many ways the privilege of the young and at least modestly financially stable.

>One of the excellent things about YC is how they are completely unphased by moonshots.

I have never seen YC as a company investing in moonshots. Most of the companies that get accepted seem to be building products for developers or similar saas businesses. Some of their recent biotech investments are a bit more cutting edge, but full of moonshots, YC is not.

It's hard to keep up with all the companies they have funded but looking briefly here are a few along those lines:

Momentus - space propulsion, handy I guess for shooting towards the moon

Cruise and Embark - self driving cars and trucks

Helion and UPower - nuclear fusion and fission

Boom - supersonic aircraft

Ginko and Atomwise - custom designed organisms and drugs

Rigetti - quantum computing

Nectome - mind uploading

and I'm sure there are quite a few more

They're VCs. They have to bet on moonshots, because they bet on a lot of companies, most of which fail. If they don't bet on crazy ideas, it means the few that succeed, will only succeed like a "regular" company would succeed - with some nice just above positive cashflow, growing in the next 20 years to somewhat sustainable business - nice and slow. This will not fuel financing other 100s of companies that have failed.

What they need in every company they fund is at least a potential of astronomical exponential fast growth, if it succeeds. That's why many of these can be called "moonshots".

If the upside in a company is only to be "mildly successful" - they are not for VCs. The upside has to be explosive (even if there is a low chance of it).

Yah, but I don't know if it's really fair to lump all VC businesses into the same bucket. Weebly and Boom don't same like the same kind of risk.

Also YC seems to have changed in that regard under Sam Altman compared to PG. The old YC did very well with web startups like Airbnb and Reddit but they didn't have the nuclear fusion and supersonic aircraft. It remains to be seem if YC succeeds with the latter stuff but well done to them for trying.

Earl I’m so so glad you did, and it’s been such a fun ride to witness.

+1 to your experience of the role YC plays, and +1 to what y’all are doing at Apollo


>>One of the excellent things about YC is how they are completely unphased by moonshots.

On the other hand, it's not like they're betting the farm on a moonshot. They've funded over 1400 companies so they can afford to take chances, $150K for 7%. Who knows...after all they make their money of very few companies.

I'm not sure I'd call that a moonshot. Difficult and maybe crazy, but modern agriculture clearly already exists and works, unlike driverless cars for example.

I mean... we're trying to end human hunger for a few hundred million people. Thank you for believing in us? No one has ever told me that it sounds more plausible than driverless cars. I'm torn between puffing up my chest and taking the compliment.

That's a moonshot. I am a native Nairobian, and would like to know how you will revolutionize the sector. Biggest employer, biggest component of GDP but still extremely low yields, low income and inefficient with lack of adaption of tech.

Agricultural Inputs Procurement, Distribution, and Financing + Uber-style remotely managed field agents + ML Credit Ratings + off taking/market access

Basically, we start from "What is the best/highest ROI product we could sell a farmer" and then work backwards to make the rest of the business happen. It's required a ton of infrastructure and ground game, things that people in the developed world take for granted are huge problems here.

Let's get coffee?

It seems to me that if you want to do this right, you ought ot be thinking about how you can bootstrap the infrastructure and industry to produce the neccesary products and agricultural inputs locally.

Also, can you make it sustainable. AFAIK, industrial farming is destroying soil quality in nations that use it, and some farmers are looking at returning back to techniques like crop rotation...

The good news is our farmers are way too poor to put too much fertilizer/inputs into their fields, they're generally applying fertilizer with a spoon seed by seed.

To be honest, we're not going to tell farmers that they should pay 4x more to produce their inputs locally. These are some of the poorest people in the world, telling them they should continue to have a hunger season every year because of long term concerns about soil quality isn't in me. If you want someone to help lobby for a nitrogen tax in the developed world though, I'm your guy :) .

Good to know you're thinking about these kind of things :) I think your definitely trying to do a good thing :)

It is true: right at this very moment, billions of people have enough food do eat. It is a worthy task to try to extend that to the hundreds of millions who are not there yet, but it's hardly something that has never been done before, unlike driverless cars.

That doesn't mean it will be any easier (or harder), but it does mean that it is less of a "moonshot".

Yah, it might also be different connotations on moonshot. If you believe a moonshot has to be something new + unlikely/hard then it's definitely not a moonshot. If you think a moonshot is something that's just incredibly unlikely but potentially super valuable, it definitely is.

Empirically, at least two investors who had put money into successful early-stage driverless cars and one who put money early into Planet Labs thought what we were doing was going to be harder. For some VCs, Africa might as well be the moon.

To me one implication of a moonshot is that you're aiming to hit a small target, and a miss is a miss no matter how close you get.

You made "end[ing] human hunger for a few hundred million people" your goal, but it isn't the case that anything short of that equals complete failure. Even if you only got a fraction of the way that'd be a massive success in my view.

Totally, and it that sense not sure if we would count. There probably isn't much of a sustainable space in below a few hundred k though.

Here’s a quick question, what makes you think it’s the lack of technology that is the cause for poor farming yields? What makes you think it’s not due to property rights and rule of law?

If you went 50 years in to the future and came back with X widget for farming and just dropped it in random place in South Sudan or Niger, I don’t think they would just become farming power houses.

When we talk about basic ag tech, we're not talking about drones or robots, we're not even talking about mechanization, it's mostly fertilizer and seed breeding.

- The accumulated knowledge of crop science is pretty strong, it's not a secret what the limiting factors in cereals crops are.

- Empirical results (see groups like The One Acre Fund, extensive research farm results in the region, high confidence RCTs leave basically no doubt)

- For US farmers prior to ~1930, they had the same average yields as Kenya does currently. In fact, fertilizer usage and yield have a very strong correlation and Kenya has a very similar curve.

Are there factors besides inputs that can impact yield? Absolutely. You could see from satellite imagery the places where conflict reached in Syria by harvest time as that conflict was developing. Market access and infrastructure in Kenya are super hard also, fertilizer is more expensive in rural Kenya than it is in the United States even though the consumers are much poorer.

Basically, there are certainly places that we're not a good fit for. I don't think we could operate in places with active conflicts like South Sudan, but Africa's a real big place. Kenya is quite stable and has effective if not formalized property rights for most smallholders. The thing I always try to remember is that America had very similar problems. The area that is now the great bread basket of the world also used to be referred to as "The Wild West."

That doesn’t address the core issue of rule of law and property rights though. Pick any number of countries in Africa and air drop them ag-tech that’s 50 years into the future. I don’t for a second believe that it would cause much of anything to change or improve.

Your US example appears to have been constrained by the current tech and knowledge of the day. In Kenya like you bring up, they aren’t limited by those things but rather lack of rule of law and property rights. So how can you compare them apples to apples?

This isn’t a chicken or egg thing. Rule of law and property rights are the necessary condition to allow people and society to grow and flourish. You can’t skip those necessary steps.

I mean look at the agricultural output for Zimbabwe for reference.

Hey, I'm sorry but I truly don't understand what you're trying to say. I want to try and understand where we disagree, because to me that usually indicates we're having a communication failure. I think this is an empirical question and I feel like it's been settled at every level, and so I'd like to understand at what level we're disagreeing.

Things I believe:

- At the plant level, crop science has shown fertilizer and seed breeding are by far the dominant factor that control the first 75% of yield above wild types of maize/corn.

- One Acre Fund RCTs have shown that providing seed and fertilizer substantially improve yield outcomes.

- At the macro level, the development path of most countries that have transitioned out of agricultural economies have correlated extremely well with fertilizer usage. From the US to China, yield correlates really, really well with fertilizer usage and minimally with things like rule of law indexes of property ownership.

Which level or statement do we disagree at?

I wish there was a "moonshot" for something like The Kidney Project (https://pharm.ucsf.edu/kidney) A project to produce an artificial kidney. It was kept alive by small donations by kidney patients over the years. Now maybe on better footing and closer to human testing. But still nothing funded like these pie in the sky moonshot project that people will care nothing about in a few years.

If you want to start it and apply to YC, we'd be very interested.

I don't mean to imply I'm involved in the Kidney Project. With the time I spend in dialysis, I'm in no position to even take on such a venture. I just wanted to point out there are very meaningful projects other there with a little more visibility and funding can reach success sooner. There are millions of those on dialysis which would be able to get our lives back on track (work, live, travel) if this project becomes successful. The cost savings vs dialysis are enormous. The project is close to human testing. All I'm asking is for VCs to make a good faith effort to learn about it.

You have tentatively restored hope in me that startups are not just get-rich-quick schemes.

You for real?

Absolutely. I work for YC. An artificial kidney would transform the lives of millions of people on dialysis. It's worth trying to build one even if the chance of success is only 1%.

Could YC pro-actively get in touch with the folks already working on the project? Sounds like they would be your best bet at success.

That's a good idea. I just emailed them.

It was cool to witness this thread!

Thank you for this. I think the prominence of YC will bring much attention to this space.

The approach that the kidney project is taking is very promising. It expands on the current dialysis method. Improved filtration but self contained in the body. No need to lug around a heavy machine. No regular clinic visits. 24x7 cleaning of blood. Reduced chance of infection. No rejection issues unlike transplants. The cost savings vs current dialysis is mind-blowing. Back in the 80s, our current dialysis method was in their infancy until new materials (plastics) made them feasible.

It's already people at UCSF anyways so that's less complicated already.

I really wanna see where this ends.


Moonshots + Resources = Success. Love to see it in action!

Then get people behind: https://www.nature.com/articles/nmat4782 on the phone. I feel like SJ Park is going to be one of the big brains behind artificial organ revolution.

These don't look safe, even assuming perfect mechanical reliability, because humans will be piloting them over major population centers.

Humans are generally dumb and inattentive, and this particular vehicle looks like it would attract especially dumb humans who'd use them to try dumb things. Since they won't need any piloting certification, this is basically offloading risk onto everyone on the streets below.

I'd feel more comfortable if this were automated only. Then I'd at least be assured there'd be an organization held accountable, rather than a risk-seeking human who'd be dead anyway if it crashed.

If it were automated and had perfect mechanical reliability, then the only real issue is the noise pollution. Which still is going to be an issue, because these jets put out significant noise, and I haven't seen anything in the last 10-20 years since Moller's flying car prototypes to suggest that progress is being made there.

I love scifi as much as the next person here, but there's a lot of problems to solve before we put loud flying missiles in the hands of untrained adrenaline junkies flying over population centers.

That's why I don't think we would ever have flying cars either. We can barely handle driving on flat surfaces and I suspect most people on the road only get by idly emulating simple line following machines rather than actually engaging the whole situation.

It takes a third party to orchestrate busy sections of our current flying vehicles, planes, so I can't see any alternative to full automation of a mass of flying cars.

I mean cars wouldn't be accepted today if they were just invented. The only reason why we think 30k deaths a year is fine is because "that's the way it's always been", and cars come from an age when one out of three children would die before they turned 5.

In a sane world we would have only segregated rail transport in urban areas and cars in rural areas where the population density is less than 10 people a square mile.

For the whole world, cars kill 1.2 million people per year.


Though there are better places than the US, quite a few countries are willing to put up with absurdly higher risks.

Agree on the flying part, not so much on the line following machine. If you think about it: think about the vast amount of cars and miles driven every day. Think of the sheer number of decisions every driver has to make all the time. I think it’s a wonder that the traffic accident rate is rather low.

About 40,000 people died last year in the US. That's over 100 people dead every single day. Millions are injured on a scale from minor bruising to permanent disability every year. It's the number one cause of accidental death if you ignore overdoses. This is not a low rate.

It takes a third party to orchestrate busy sections of our current non-flying vehicles too!

I'm of the same mind. There's a reason pilots have to have hundreds of hours of training before they are allowed to fly solo. Adding a third dimension to piloting a small personal vehicle takes every bit of concentration and awareness a human can handle. I definitely don't want to see the average driver next to me every morning and afternoon -- the one making all kinds of bad decisions like running red lights and not looking before merging -- behind the wheel/stick of a flying craft.

Conversely, there are a bunch of countries where you can get your PPL before your driving license. I first flew a plane when I was 14. It's not that hard.

Not while the sky is still big enough perhaps. I can take off, poke about and land at a rural airport without seeing anyone but without coordination a busy airport would be a writhing pile of twisted metal. Also it does take a particular type of person to choose to fly, so you are already in a minority of people. The majority of people drive, that is a lot of room for bad judgement.

Indeed. If your car's power cuts, or breaks fail - the odds of you surviving are incrementally getting higher every year we're on the road. Cars are getting safer and safer, but surely part of that is due to the fact they're on the ground.

If I'm even 10 metres under the ground, flying at 50km/h, if this device fails, of the battery runs out, you're not gonna live to the tell the tale. There is no parachuting, no way of gliding safely to the ground (like planes and helicopters). What is the safety net?

I can't ever see a world where even a minority of the population adopt flying cars. The chance of catastrophic failure (death) is too high.

This. For all the, "Where's my jetpack?" angst in the world of science fiction fanboys (I am one) and start-up builders, there seems to be a disconnect with the rest of humanity on this issue. If the chance of failure is > 0% and odds of death on failure is > 95%, I don't see how a product like this will ever become more than a pipe dream, or at best a prototype flown by a thrill seeker over open water for a publicity stunt.

Edit: After reflecting on this I realize that airplanes probably fall into these statistics, at least for catastrophic failure anyway. I'd be curious to examine statistics in more detail to figure out what a comfortable level of risk would be, but for now, I guess I fall into the ranks of your typical armchair critic on this one.

Commercial airplanes are much safer than cars (because they're rigorously maintained, observed, and operated by professionals). Little ultralight planes might be the best analogy for this project - but they're used by thrill-seekers, just like you predicted.

Commercial airplanes are usually able to safely glide under engine failures. A jetpack is going to drop out the sky. Just from glancing at this flying bike, if the power cuts above 10m, you're probably going to die.

Fixed wing can glide, helicopters can autorotate, open rotor e-vtols don’t autorotate because they don’t have variable pitch blades and their inertia is way too low anyway. jet-vtols have no rotor blades at all so... you’re right if an e-vtol or jet-vtol experiences a catastrophic failure then it’s going straight down! Many of the e-vtol companies say they solve this by having x levels of redundancy..we don’t buy that at JPA. We want to build a saftey system that can rescue the pilot from 5 feet or 50 feet or 5000 feet. Now that’s a challenge! But we believe doable.

People do crazy shenanigans on motorcycles in 2D already. Source: owned sportbikes, have the titanium implants to show as my "credentials".

Can't imagine the stupid s%%t some are going to do in 3D.


So back in the day (fault of bad meds) I was sometimes a crazy driver. Poor impulse control. Drive it like you stole it. Whatever. But hey. I'm still alive, and I never got anyone else seriously injured or killed.

But anyway, one afternoon I was doing slalom at ~90 mph through ~70 mph traffic. And then, out of nowhere, this dude on a racing bike blew through at 140 mph or more. And we were all damn lucky that I saw him just before using the same gap that he was heading through. It would have been a serious mess.

I promise that was not me. I don't do that.

I do other things.

I always thought that if anything like this ever happened, it would be a self flying machine, with minimal human input

> then the only real issue is the noise pollution

I live on Moffett Field next to the 101 -- the vehicles from the 101 are far more annoying than the airplanes. Just listen to traffic noise pretty much in any urban or suburban environment. The Caltrain sounds like -- well, a freight train. My point is that if we cared about noise pollution, we'd be paying more attention to the everyday noise all around us and developing technology such as a hypothetical road surface that absorbs sound or finding ways to make the loud train horns unnecessary. The noise from trains and roads is far more obnoxious than any airplane sounds.

True cars and trains are loud. However, we're on the verge of both Caltrain and car electrification, which will significantly reduce ambient noise.

I can't believe we haven't cut & covered the Caltrain line yet. I imagine that's a project even the plentiful peninsula NIMBYs could get behind.

As sibling points out, airplanes at moffett are rather far away, whereas these flying bikes are meant to be point-to-point in dense environments. Also note that there's lots of regs & techs that help reduce noise for larger planes, and I'm not sure the same is going to be true for these smaller vehicles, similar to how all those two-stroke lawnmower and leaf blower engines are horrible both environmentally and noise-wise because they're optimized for size.

At normal highway speeds most car noise comes from air movement and tires. Electrification will only deliver a slight noise reduction.

Airplanes are a few orders of magnitude farther away than what these vehicles are suggested to fly at.

The Caltrain horns are so loud I have decided I believe in a conspiracy theory - the volume was mandated in the name of "safety" by a lobbying group secretly working for the auto industry.

Nowhere else I've been are trains so obnoxiously loud.

Just as for $1500 drones we will have a fly by wire system that precludes controlled flight into terrain or other obstacles.

Systems do not preclude controlled flight into terrain. They simply purport to. These are different things. And before you say "in that case it's not controlled" well yes it is.

Given how many days of the year the roads are frozen and/or snow covered where I live, the safety trade-off might be worth it. Just so long as the max height is only about half a meter off the ground (hovering, not flying).

I'm having trouble finding good references to cite [1], because the internet doesn't have a long-term memory, but early reactions to the automobile were identical to this. People had never tried to maneuver machines faster than a horse could pull one.

The driving skills that we take for granted now, that seem to come naturally for so many people, were totally nonexistent a little over a hundred years ago. Our brains can now process lots of things moving at different rates of what would have been bewildering speeds to any human not that long ago. We negotiate traffic and anticipate tricky situations and have developed rules that help coordinate the chaos.

Yeah, there are a lot of collisions and deaths all the time, and there are a lot of people who aren't great at it. But even the not-great ones are capable of something that nobody was when the automobile was introduced.

Lots of things turn out better than we expect just because most people don't really want to die. If it were possible for people to fly around overhead in some kind of personal vehicles, my guess is most folks would learn how to handle it.

[1]: Best I could do for now: https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan-histor...

I am a motorcycle nut and aviation nut since birth.

I’ve also jumped out of a dozen aircraft types via static line and ram air free fall chutes.

And I enjoy paragliding.

There’s nothing more I would like to see than a new form of personal flight.

However, I don’t see the viability of this thing at all.

Likely due to my having been in close proximity to the Martin Jetpack slow motion disaster over the last decade.

Reliability, repeatability, infallibility, safety, Certification, and classification.

All tall barriers to entry for recreational/commercial/civil aviation.

What would excite me would be an autonomous vertical lifting body that can lift a 200kg box over 200km, using 5-6 high reliability motors that can survive the failure of 1 or 2 motors as a result of mechanical failure or enemy fire.

For use in both commercial and military applications.

A reliable, agile, boring container carrier.

An oversized coffin shaped container that can fit 80%+ of high value commercial and military and commercial items, including personnel/casualty CASEVAC.

Why are we not building an autonomous platform around the carriage of a specifically calculated cube container?

Like a mini aerial 20ft or 40ft shipping container.

Actually the idea is quite similar to the "container" in the Agents of Shield [1]. A bit visionary.

[1] https://marvelcinematicuniverse.fandom.com/wiki/Containment_...

EDIT: there are jets small which could be attached to a rectangular frame. But I don't see where this can be used commercially? With what could you connect up in the air?


My thoughts are more along the lines of a 5 or 6 electric prop motor drone along the lines of Griff Aviation drones.

Applications would be:

Military: 200kg, 200km range/100km radius would provide low cost rapid vertical logistics and CASEVAC to sub units that is desperately needed.

Commercial: regional city pair rapid logistics for critical 1 hour delivery.

Tons of interesting material in your comment. It actually sounds like you’ve just cooked up a viable start up idea. One issue I don’t see addressed in any of these modes of transportation is the enormous amount of noise the jet engines produce. Any insights on that?

My thoughts are to stick with electric motors powering props/rotors over jet engines.

But they still produce a fair bit of noise, however much less than jet turbines.

My guess is that drone rotor prop design can incorporate noise reduction potential(including shrouds), but they will also have to be balanced against lift/thrust performance and additional weight offsetting payload/range.

I can easily imagine a future where residential drone delivery raises considerable concerns over not just safety, but noise, perhaps with associated minimum flight altitude floors to reduce ground signature.

But that will have an impact on drone payload/range as well.

Possibly an analog debate to electric scooters, lower congestion but higher personal injury rate.

Fascinating! It's not a "sexy" idea, but it sounds practical and technically feasible (from how you describe it). I especially like that tolerance to failure is built in the design.

Boring pays the bills all too often in life.

In my limited experience with drones, 5/6 rotor drones appear to be more survivable/recoverable if the drone suffers a single rotor failure.

Glenn Martin and Martin Jetpack [0] (Glenn left the company in 2015 though) has been trying to build and bring to market something similar for the past decade (development has been going on decades before that). There's apparent commercial, private, and government interest in the device, but somehow that hasn't actually manifested into a finished and delivered product.

When Glenn spoke to a group of potential investors (which I was somehow a part of) back in 2011 you'd think that they were on the cusp of having a finished product and a stack of orders from the US DOD, a variety of commercial organisations, and dozens of rich people who want a personal aircraft. Technically Martin Jetpack still exists, but it has failed to bring anything to market, despite having millions of dollars poured into the company [1]

I struggle to see how Jetpack Aviation is going to achieve what Glenn and his company failed to do. They don't even have a flying prototype or a physical mockup, only some cool CAD models that look like they were made by some high school kid who's watched Star Wars a few too many times.

Jetpacks and flying motorbikes look cool, but on a practical basis they just aren't useful. They don't fly high enough or fast enough, and they can't operate in high wind or poor weather. For military/government use they aren't suitable and there just aren't enough rich people who want an expensive flying toy to sustain the market.

[0] http://www.martinjetpack.com/

[1] https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&...

Our tech could not be more different to the MJP. Theirs was a gasoline engine powering a pair of ducted fans. Too many single points of failure and never able to keep the engine cool, not possible to fly much faster than 60mph. Ours is 1/3rd the size, will fly at 4x the speed. We’ve flown our jetpacks all over the world. We already have a development agreement with the US Navy. They are perfect for overt (perhaps not covert) military ops - insertion and extraction and getting medics into position. Why risk a Blackhawk and crew??!!

Why not for governments and EMS. If we can get EMS medics to heart attack and stroke victims just 1 min quicker the number of lives saved is 100,000 - 200,000/yr just in USA. Isn’t that worth taking a shot at?

I don’t understand the point about flying high enough. We can fly at over 15,000ft

Hey first things first I respect what you're doing. A 1% chance of success is worth it here. That being said... You are literally exactly this with your comment...

> When Glenn spoke to a group of potential investors (which I was somehow a part of) back in 2011 you'd think that they were on the cusp of having a finished product and a stack of orders from the US DOD, a variety of commercial organisations, and dozens of rich people who want a personal aircraft.

We were never part of the Martin JetPack project. Totally different tech.

I think small flying vehicles are cool and this is a good use for them, but if this is true, are there other ways to get more people equipped with some of these lifesaving skills at possibly lower marginal cost? CPR training? More AEDs? Some more kinds of injectors that can be used by people with minimal training? Maybe there are other devices on the model of the AED that could administer other kinds of potentially-dangerous treatments?

There's also the ability to stick AEDs on drones, which relies on the member of the public reporting the heart attack to use it, but can make them available to that person much more quickly than instructions about where to find the nearest publicly-accessible AED.

You can obviously also have a lot more defibrillator drones available across a city than jetpack-equipped paramedics. I've seen it as a concept, not sure how many are in use and what their success rates have been.

It's exciting to see y'all working on this. I'm all for the Buck Rogers-style innovation.

I'm curious, how high have you actually flown it? Up to 15,000 ft? That sounds absolutely terrifying.

No we haven’t to 15k ft, we’ve modelled that. We’ve flown at approx 7k ft above mean sea level in alps

How high above local ground level?

Would you be willing to tell us how you plan to handle power loss failures? Some other powered lift aircraft have had a "death zone" altitude range: too high for the pilot to survive a crash but too low to deploy a parachute.

This company is different. Their jetpack is way more portable than martin’s and Ive seen several videos of successful flights. I think making a motorbike won’t be that hard for them.

Look that's all fine but you must surely realise where you are posting this, and that in the future your comment can only be either irrelevant or held up as an example of people making predictions that turn out to be wrong.


For me the moonshot problem I'd like to see solved would be trash. Literally! I've been to New York the first class world city where they pile plastic bags full of trash outside the houses and been to leafy suburbs in Europe where they put these bags in boxes and leave them outside too. Meanwhile in developing countries trash causes real pollution and health issues. But in all places it's people create waste and the waste accrues and then the waste then may be moved about. One possible solution for non recyclables would be some kind of composting / incineration-generation device to convert the trash into organics and/or electricity.

Come up with something more formal and work on it! If you get some evidence of success you should submit it to YC and anyone else that will look at it!

The world doesn't change b/c we will it to, the world changes b/c we take action!

> composting / incineration-generation device to convert the trash into organics and/or electricity.

This is extremely widespread and already industrialised.

Yes the solution would need to be better than these as the problem still exists.

Or you could put the trash in trash bags and collect it frequently. That’s nothing a developing country can’t do.

"The Speeder is “at least” two years of development time away from ending up in customer hands."


"Joby Aviation has spent the last decade developing their own electric motors and their current VTOL design from the ground up." [0]

I'd guess that it's at least two years after development has completed in order to get through final certifications for whichever regulatory agencies have a say in this.

[0] https://techcrunch.com/2018/07/08/the-electric-aircraft-is-t...

The 1/3rd scale prototype is flying. In a number of ways what we’re doing is simpler than JA. We’re confident we can achieve our time goals.

> The 1/3rd scale prototype is flying

I remember this lesson from watching _Flight of the Phoenix_. :-) Congratulations!

If you stop viewing this as a "flying motorcycle rich person toy" and start viewing it as a "vtol jet engine based drone" it's quite cool.

Have to imagine that there are search and rescue/fire fighting/military uses for this technology, manned and unmanned.

I hate this for so many reasons. One of those 'future' products like clear glass screen and bendable phones that are just, well, stupid. Am I the only person that sees that?

You are not. It seems like a horrible idea. But then again, I didn't understand the point of something like Twitter, either, so I am grateful that people are exploring dumb ideas -- that they appear to be intentionally doing the wrong thing -- because going downhill is the only way you get out of a local optimum. Most of these will fail, that's fine.

Yep. A huge waste of resources when compared to other modes of transport. Very noisy, too.

All for an elite few who can afford it. That's not helping in saving the planet, people. Quite the contrary.

You’re not alone. And don’t even get me started on the Minority Report UI.

But I am down with the foldable phone idea. (I know you said bendable)

Maybe I have a different definition of the word, but I wouldn't describe this as a moonshot. A "moonshot" is something incredibly hard to do that will have a huge impact on society if you manage it. Building a (really cool) $380k toy won't impact very many people at all.

Respectfully disagree.

One, it normalizes truly radical engineering projects (look higher in the thread to see building an artificial kidney). If YC signals it sees a jet bike as acceptable, imagine all of the ideas that seem just a bit too crazy that become possible.

Two, toys are generally the first or second version of truly radical technologies. Compared to a motorcycle, yes this looks extremely dangerous. Compared to a helicopter - down right low risk.

Compared to a helicopter - down right low risk.

How is this lower risk than a helicopter? If a helicopter fails it doesn't just drop out of the sky; it can autorotate relatively safely to the ground. Autorotor flight is a safety feature taught to every helicopter pilot. People have walked away from helicopter crashes. A jetbike presumably won't have that feature.

Alright, let’s say we get the ALL the safety issues squared away. And let’s also assume they strap a cold fusion reactor to this too, so you can fly it around the world without stopping...

Can you imagine how fucking LOUD one of these things would be? Regular motorcycles drive my crazy with the noise from their ICEs. Now what if they had jet ingines one them instead? That alone should be enough to get these things banned.

If this isn’t a sign of how out of touch some people in Silicon Valley has become, I don’t know what is.

> Regular motorcycles drive my crazy with the noise from their ICEs.

They don't have to be loud it's just that people pull off the stock muffler and throw on something different.

I used to have a ZX-10 that two owners before me used to amateur race which had basically straight pipes and it was entirely too loud -- used to set of car alarms just idling through parking lots. The police around here don't enforce the noise pollution laws so I didn't bother with it though I'm pretty sure my neighbors didn't like me too much starting that thing up at 5am.

My current bike (if I ever get around to getting it running) is as quiet as a kitten with its (intact) stock mufflers.

Thanks for keeping us inspired and trying to bring the future to now. Few thoughts & questions after reading the article & comments here...

Some of the reasons Tesla has succeeded that may be relevant for Speeder: -Safety: Tesla's construction has allowed their vehicles to have the highest crash ratings. Removing an engine & simplifying the frame have helped. -Driverless: Tesla has popularized & legitimized much of the technology that is trending towards driverless cars. -Performance: The Tesla Roadster was the moonshot (no pun intended) since it kicked off the brand while being sexy both design wise and by its performance. When electric car was associated with the nerdy, economical Prius, Tesla flipped that stereotype on its head. -Infrastructure: Tesla created the ecosystem to maximize the customer experience. From purchase/service/charging, Tesla independently set up the touch points to minimize friction.

My advice would be to go the SpaceX route instead of the Tesla route. You can go both and I'm sure you already are. Just remember that the regulatory environment will stall major headway for consumers. For military/government applications, this can be fast tracked and see applications right away. Those learnings can satisfy regulatory concerns and be the beta test needed.

I thought that YC was only interested in stuff that "scales"? This is just a toy for wealthy type-A thrill-seekers. How big of a market is that?

Seems sort of like a premium jet-ski that flies, but is even louder and more annoying, and has far more property damage potential in addition to being capable of producing even more gruesome accident scenes than crotchrocket motorbikes.

I think they should go for it, but I expect they'll be as popular as Bugatti Veyrons.

Tesla also launched as a car for the 1%, but now they have learned enough that they are trying to introduce a model for $30k. Will the Tesla $30k coming out soon car be great, we don't know yet, we might have to wait 10 years before there is a great $30k electric car. What we do know is that you have to try before it happens, and the 1% buying toys has funded some really awesome stuff that has eventually come down in price enough for everyone to afford and enjoy. This motorbike might be $380k today, but how much could one cost in 10 or 15 years?

The rider's orientation looks...insane.

They won't be able to see anything through the body of the thing (gotta squint at a little display to understand what the heck you're flying towards?).

All their weight is going to be on their crotch (and, like, the front part of it) or maybe their stomach.

Their neck is going to be fighting gravity in the most awful way.

It does look somewhat awkward but the upper torso angle isn't much different from a sports bike. It isn't the most comfortable, but doesn't need to be given the flight times.

The fact that the rider's pocket is directly above the intake could be an issue.. I guess everyone riding these should be rich enough to not carry loose change.

Powered flight is a matter of boring straight lines, at least outside the Star Wars universe. If all the technical details are solved, we might discover that the toy appeal just isn't as big as expected. Or are there many motorcyclists that prefer straight roads? Doing curves withhold reason (like on a big flat open surface) would be much exciting either.

For SAR applications, another interesting application of the control advances from the drone market might be a powered rescue winch harness: use the line for power delivery from the helicopter mothership and as a safety fallback, but gain hugely increased agility and precision from using a local set of fans for lift instead of swinging under the helicopter as a passive pendulum load. It would make helicopter rescue from steep slopes much less risky and open up vertical walls (or even overhangs) for helicopter access.

There will definitely be toy appeal. You can already fly helicopters low along a river which I highly recommend.

Doing that on something like this would be amazing.

I suspect that what they're offering is not only feasible but achievable with modern technology. The glut of cheap sensors and research into dynamic, multi-axis control thanks to drones makes it easier for something like this to come into being. However, I am skeptical about their ability to build something that can fly for a long distance due to the low energy density of current technology. Even with a gas powered turbine system, their efficiency is capped at around 30%? Theoretically, heat recovery can boost that to 85%, but that equipment is heavy and it's complicated to mount https://www.wbdg.org/resources/microturbines . I don't know the answer to this question but I do hope that they find out!

Good luck guys! You're solving some really Hard problems here.

Thank you, yes we really are but it’s cool to do. We should achieve up to 30mins endurance with exiting engines and if we move to a turbofan than 2-3 x that is possible

And the per person-mile carbon footprint of a machine powered by multiple VTOL jet engines is...?

I love so many things about this, yet at the same time I don't get the positioning of this product.

1 - Is this is a product for consumers who buy $300-500K super sports cars?

2 - Is this targeted to the consumers who buy private planes?

3 - Is this for search and rescue market?

Group 1 - I don't know. Why not buy a drone-based technology that runs on batteries that might be cheaper and perhaps more reliable. Yes, it may not have the same energy density of batteries, but you can get your 20 min of thrill, super charge it and fly again for another 20 min.

Group 2 - I don't see this being comfortable, they'll buy a single engine plane with seats for 4 that is more comfortable and you don't freeze, or for more adventures people a trike at a fraction of a cost would do fine.

Group 3 - For search and rescue, you probably go as a team of 2-3 people and if you're rescuing people you need to bring them back. So you'll need a fleet of these. I understand helicopters are expensive, but once you add a few of these, then you're compete with a true and tested helicopter model.

Maybe at the end of the day, they'll make this autonomous, put a few missiles on it and then sell it to the pentagon. It's agile and fast and probably can make an argument for its tactical advantages.

edit: typo

The specs say it only has a 10 - 22 minute flight-time anyway. This is for joyriding only.

30-40 mile range is perfect for what our customers have asked for.

4 - Quidditch

I love this idea. I've always wanted a way to play Quidditch, and short of someone building a Quidditch court into an orbiting space station, couldn't think of how you would do it. This is the answer!

Probably not quite what you are thinking of: https://www.iqasport.com/what-is-quidditch/

5 - Stormtroopers on endor

It is the same as betting on SpaceX in some ways. You have to take a few moonshot bets.

You bet. Thanks!

The investment isn't even enough to buy one

With our environment going to hell, we don't need this.

So much for the argument that capitalism entrusts wealth in the hands of a few for the benefit of all, or that wealth correlates to merit in any meaningful sense.

How do you do the economics on the value of the lives this can and will save?

Please explain how this will save lives.

I assume this will be worse in that department than motorcycles. And I assume they kill way more lives than save.

Lots of posts in here with the usual complaints about how this is an immoral waste of money on a toy for rich people, but does the amount of money that went into this project even come close in order of magnitude to the cash consumed by the Las Vegas casino business, or golf courses, or exclusive Trump brand resorts? Unlike those examples, this project at least funds a lot of research and engineering that surely will have some other applications down the line, and moreover is clearly inspirational (and therefore may result in a larger number of engineers and scientists in future generations, some of whom surely will work on artificial kidneys and whatever other ethically valuable projects you'd think of as well).

I really wish our civilisation would stop holding novel undertakings to uniquely rigorous (ethical, safety...) standards than it never seems to apply to its established habits.

They promised my generation flying cars growing up. They never, not a single time talked about flying motorcycles.

I don't mean to be negative but here's a few questions:

What happens when you hit turbulence?

What happens if you get caught in a rainstorm?

What happens if you fly into a flock of birds?

What happens when you fly into lightning on a clear day?

None of those have to be fatal in an airplane, but potentially could be on this machine.

We probably have the highest wing loading of any aircraft, therefore the impact of turbulence is much less than fixed wing or helicopter. The pilot has belly strap and lock holding them to vehicle unless they need to release in an emergency in which case it has pyro cutter.

In rain you’d get wet just like riding a motorcycle on the road. The engines keep running fine.

Flying into birds is not recommended for any aircraft. They wouldn’t go into the engines but could hit the pilot then our safety systems would need to deploy.

Lightning usually won’t take an aircraft of any type out of the sky but may affect instruments.

Thankyou for sticking around and answering so many questions!

My first thought was "why is the pilot hunched over the intakes?" immediately followed by "holy hell that wing/disc loading must play hell on power requirements and fuel consumption, how does that work?".

You mention a scale model elsewhere, is there any video of it available online?

To your point, all of those can be fatal for existing light aircraft.

True. To build on OPs point though, these aren't exactly comparable. Specifically, light aircraft:

* are piloted by people who have to be certified pilots, which takes considerable training

* are flown at higher altitudes than what this product's marketing is suggesting

* are much more expensive to own/operate

* are only allowed to take off from specific places (regional airports) that tend to be away from high population density areas

* can use the lift from wings to potentially glide to safety if engine failures occur

This concept looks like it works best for short hops between high population density areas, and is at a price point and training level (read: none) that would mean many more potential vehicles would be in the air. So it's not only the above issues but also a matter of degree.

Oh, I totally agree. I was attempting to make the point that purpose-built aircraft with more highly trained pilots still succumb to this. A random on a flying motorcycle doesn’t stand a chance.

Ya it seems like risk profile isn't very clear, nor do major risks have sufficient mitigations.

I feel like the easier place to start is a low-speed automated cargo delivery system that runs on pre-defined flight paths and only in certain weather conditions. Even then you're dealing with pretty decent risk profile given the failure mode of anything flying is rather dangerous.

I'm not against flying things in cities per se, just want to see the discussion go more like 1) flying things are good for X Y Z reasons, 2) major issues to address before we get there include A B C, 3) here's how we're solving those to unlock this new opportunity. Maybe that discussion is happening in other places, but I'd love to see these safety factors better addressed by anyone building these types of things, else it doesn't build much confidence in the viability of the company.

The safety system has to be integral with initial design and it is. Before these are used in urban environments the machine must be able to set itself down safely regardless of the failure. That is possible.

Cool, I'd love to see the specifics. I imagine it'd be impressive and worthy of showing off.

Many are fatal on an ordinary motorcycle too. Motorcyclists accept those risks.

Since there's no need to keep the aircraft small while it's in the air, my ideal personal flight solution would be a combination of ducted fans for safe vertical takeoff and landing, and large wings that unfold or inflate in flight for much higher efficiency / gliding.

Edit: apparently there's a ton of engineering problems with both ducted fans (stability) and folding wings (unfolding in flight is tricky). No idea if this approach is feasible.

EDFs are really power hungry beasts! You have to use them for takeoff and then transition onto a wing ASAP or you’ll be out of juice at 250w.h/kg No loiter time possible. The issue with folding wings is that they can big stability issues. Probably not unsolvable but not simple.

Supposing that they succeed, become more affordable, and most people commute to work with them - would pollution and air quality levels be better or worse?

I guess worse, as avgas has higher lead content and contaminates more. However, they have room to experiment with different types of propellants and engines.

Let's hope the sky doesn't become a tragedy of the commons in the same way motorways did.

I know it's really hard to predict what people will or won't want in the future, but... Would people want this, even if it worked really well?

If it worked well and was free from regulation significantly limiting its use then a guess is there would be a substantial market for something like this.

Most importantly, we’ll never get to a future like what was imagined in the video if people are not taking honest shots at it. The fact that this is being given a chance is very exciting.

Thank you. We have been working on it for a long time and believe in what we do. VTOL urban mobility will happen!

Yeah, I'm not sure about that but the tech can be used with different approaches.

Owning the jetpack outright seems like a sort of "high octane for rich people entertainment" play, which you could compare to the Tesla roadster approach.

You could even have some bungee jumping/jet ski equivalent of it where you rent it for a couple hours.

Longer term, maybe you could have a jetpack/drone Uber-type merge, where you can have your jetpack delivered on demand, go where you want in a quick and entertaining way, and dispose of it until you need one for the ride back.

I'd want it if it didn't work so well to be honest. People in the Bay Area complain about how terrible public transport is. Try living in the midwest or southeast. I frequently dreamed of having my own personal Rocketman style jetpack or something to avoid that terrible commute. If I had the funds I'd buy one of these things without a second thought.

10-22 minutes of flight time doesn’t seem like it has commuter applications. I’d guess that for regulatory and safety purposes you wouldn’t be allowed to overfly a city, and you’d probably need to take off and land somewhere safe as well. This is for amusement, not flying over traffic.

If we assume that your second sentence is solvable (and I think it will be over time), the 10-22 minute number at the speeds they are talking about is huge.

For example, for someone who works at the Googleplex in Mountain View, 10 minutes gets you to Fremont (less oppressive housing market), 15-17 minutes gets you to Santa Cruz or SF/Oakland, and 22 minutes could get you to places as far away as Gilroy or Concord. All of these are spitball estimates, but they are directionally correct.

“As the crow flies” distances are deceptively short, and the impact this could have on housing markets, commuter towns, and “suburbs” could be huge. One could imagine a scenario in which the savings on housing would easily make one of these bikes look downright cheap (e.g., house in Mountain View versus similar house in Fremont). While there are issues of whether one would want to live in Mountain View or Fremont, the fact is that the option will exist in a way that sucks less than spending ridiculous amounts of time on the Bay Area highways and interstates.

Yes! Even just for the fun component.

But if it practically worked as a day to day driver it would absolutely revolutionise traffic in some cities, such as Jakarta with 18 million motorcycles all stuck in traffic.

Cant imagine all the issues you'd have to work through to make that work though. It would be a good time to invest in roof-repair and insurance businesses.

Our Speeders will be safe and self separate way better than is possible with existing air traffic control systems.

If they can get the cost down to <100K USD then I’d absolutely sign up for one, and I’m not even from the future!

Hey maybe one day we can get it down to that kind of level

We think they will. IF we can demonstrate it’s safe. Why not use a Speeder to get somewhere in 1/4 the time


If I had the disposable income, then hell yeah. This is something straight out of a sci fi movie.

We’ll count you in... in the future!

If there were only few of those around and you could afford one and it had good range imagine how it would cut your commute. Fly to your cabin in the woods in no time (rather than sit in traffic for hours) to chill for a bit? Worth the money.

Until every other idiot driver also gets one, and now you have distracted driving and other poor behavior, but in the skies.

They said the exact same thing about cars when they first came out.

Motorcycles can already do that due to the wonders of lane splitting.

Wouldn’t you need a pilot’s license for this? If it only flies so low that you don’t, isn’t it then suuuuper dangerous?

I say the dangerous part as a former Boosted Board afficionado and current motorcycle rider

Id guess it would be less dangerous than driving than say, a turbo busa, given you have less things to crash into!

Don’t sell it short! You can crash this into everything you can crash a motorcycle into PLUS everything in the sky!

Accidentally hit a guy wire on the way...

More big toys for rich boys who run the tech world.

YC can spend their money how they wish, but I wish this moonshot was something of actual use to more people.

Since they're not seriously expecting getting back the money from the "flying motorcycle" (and even if they do for this, there are other case where it's obvious nothing will come out), I wonder what the scheme is -- e.g. it's other people's money, there are some kind of subsidies, -- or are the investors just so rich they don't care?

It looks like the the rider/pilot is expected to ride hunched over the ducted fan (?) intakes. I suppose it offers a lower center of gravity and is safer than the open rotors of the "flying motorbikes" the Dubai police were testing to much marketing fanfare, but... it still looks wrong from a human factors standpoint.

Edit: turbine intakes, FTA.

It’s not too different to riding a motorcycle. You can rest across the engine intake protection grills and not uncomfortable.

They are requiring drone pilots to be licensed and these guys think an ultralight version of this won’t require a license.

Yes no licence needed to fly our ultralight version JB10 and JB11 Jetpacks. Same rules apply to ultralight version of the Speeder.

How do the jetpacks comply with 14 CFR 103.1(e)(4) which requires powered ultralights to have "a power-off stall speed which does not exceed 24 knots calibrated airspeed"?

Same way our jetpacks were accepted. Our stall speed is zero and with an engine out we can still control our flight path.

Boeing is going in with an air taxi https://www.flyingmag.com/boeing-air-taxi-prototype-test-fli...

They are already talking about cargo is more likely than passengers. Ever the same story in transportation.

We have a cargo version that will carry up to 450-600lbs and faster than any existing helicopter and way way faster than any e-VTOL

Good, because as much as people talk about personal transport, the cargo story is the one that makes the money.

Can you imagine how noisy everywhere would be if these became a commodity like cars? No thanks, do not want.

While most people are focused on how it will work for commute and day to day activities, even if it doesn't work for those use cases, it is great for theme parks, adventure rides type of use cases. People spend millions of $$ every year on those "weird" roller coaster rides and theme parks.

We opened our experience center in socal Nov 2018. Can come test out a real JetPack. Think the ifly model.

For anyone wondering about the price[0]:

Experience Day fees start from only $10,000 per person per day with possible discounts for groups and full training costs approximately $60,000.

[0] https://jetpackaviation.com/fly-a-jetpack/

As seen on twitter, and I fully agree.

This is the biggest problem in the world, according to YC. As befits the title “moonshot,” it’s the most pressing problem we face. It’s SO HARD that we might not ever fully solve it, but it’s SO IMPORTANT to society that we should fund it anyway.

Homelessness? Hunger? Nope: A flying motorcycle.

Where did YC state it's the "biggest problem in the world"? Where did YC use the term "moonshot"?

This is just one of about 200 companies YC has funded in this batch alone. Some of the other ones are working on humanitarian problems, and over the years YC has funded many non-profits and companies working on humanitarian problems, as well as putting huge funding towards research into basic income and medical challenges.

There's no opportunity cost issue here: YC seeks to fund every project - commercial or humanitarian - that seems to have some chance of succeeding or leading to some kind of valuable breakthrough.

You should point to a case where they've failed to do that if you know of one - I'm sure YC would like to know about it.

Well, idea, instead of selling them, you could rent them like "Byrd" or similar.

Since the sale price is in the order of magnitude of 1,000 times that of an electric scooter, the cost of a ride should roughly go from US$1+0.15 per minute to US$ 1,000,00+150,00 per minute ...

Wow. That thing looks amazing! I'd probably rather have something like the Surefly (hybrid electric octocopter, largely autonomous) for boring commuting, but this looks like an amazingly fun vehicle for recreational riding.

Lift Aircraft already built working eVOTL for 1 passenger. 16 engines. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSbynmTcAYk

Yes they are and it’s great but...it suffers the same limitations as any open rotor drone configuration, it’s really slow and really large

I hope by “flying” they mean “levitating”. I can barely fly my toy drone without getting pinged by Government about how I am violating airspace rules. Can’t imagine there will be flying bikes in next 50 years atleast. I am in EU.

IDK why YC lets stuff like this through when they always say they're struggling to fund nonprofits, things benefiting underrepresented groups etc. Its like, ya, because you're funding stupid shit like this

Interesting. Their concept seems like an extension of existing hoverbikes:


So if you lie on top of a ducted fan like that, how is it not going to impede airflow?

Also what happens if you have a loose thing on your person that gets sucked into the fan.

The image looks nice and Sci fi, but that design isn't practical.

The airflow works, we’ve modelled it. Pilot needs to wear similar jacket to current standard motorcycle jacket. No loose change in pockets

Thanks for your reply.

If you've tested it and works, I retract the last paragraph, still looks Sci fi though.

Have you tested for a coin strike? For a plane you're going to have an upper bound for what your going to get in the engine, because it has to be picked up by the engine. This design, anything could fall in, potentially quite dense.

What's the fail safe for aircraft with this kind of thrust?

Planes can glide after a loss of power, helos autorotate, do these just fall out of the sky on a nice ballistic arc?

Maybe one of those whole plane parachutes?

Ballistic parachutes above approx 150ft. Working on two alternative solutions for the “red zone” ie zero - 150 ft. All the eVTOLs makers need to solve same issue and we plan to offer it to them.

Such a parachute would be prohibitive in term of weight, so no. I suppose the pilot could wear a personal parachute, and hope to ditch far from people or property, but I think the odds are...

"In the very unlikely event that all four engines fail, we’ll go straight into the ground like a fucking dart." -Billy Connolly

Spot on. Two parachutes for over 150ft. One for Speeder and one for pilot. Under 150ft see earlier answer.

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