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Indian inventor dies in homemade helicopter accident (thenationalnews.com)
179 points by skbohra123 66 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 170 comments

He didn't have a helmet or so much as a seatbelt in the helicopter. The tail rotor flew off, hit the main rotor at a high speed, which knocked him sideways, out of the fuselage. It was at this point his head came into contact with the spinning main rotor, likely killing him instantly. A seatbelt seems like it would have saved his life.

It was recorded, which is how I know this, I honestly wouldn't suggest looking for it as it's pretty horrific. It's sad that such a smart person didn't apply the most basic of safety protocol though.

I am also a farmer and inventor based in India.

Problem is that we do not have many tools, indian made tools cost 3-4x of Chinese tools and have 2x worse quality on average

80% things which exist in West (made in China) does not exist in India on top India doesn't make many things. Plus we suffer from too many middlemen problem, where the end product is inflated away beyond the affordability of masses.

Not everything is available in India, when I lived in US and Germany, I felt as if I was living in heaven I could order any part and it will be at my desk within a day or two but here in India you can have money yet you'll not find what you need.

India doesn't have any marketplace for makers like Ebay or even McMasterCar.

In small cities getting even the right size bolt, nut and screws is damnn too difficult let alone compression fittings etc.. which are more involved.

Surprisingly no startup has taken this issue seriously.

As the inflation has increased, labor cost has also significantly increased and more Indians are forced to take DIY approach thanks to abundant wealth of knowledge available from youtube and reddit experts (now even homeless people on streets can be seen chatting on WhatsApp with their friends, data has got so cheap)

Material availability still a major problem outside of the big cities with 10 million+ population. Most startup founders (people with resources, knowledge, network) also live in big cities so they don't really know what problems 70% of Indians face who are still living in villages, towns and small cities.

This is so true.

It sucks India does not have a hardware ecosystem similar to Shenzhen. There is no capital available for independent innovators who want to build hardware products. There are few skilled engineers who can develop the tooling required to make parts like screws, fittings etc. at a scale and price that makes sense for the market. Import duties to encourage import substitution have only made parts more expensive and made logistics more complex.

I think the attention given to IT services and software companies and startups has left the hardware industry without talent or capital. If you can make 5-10x as a software engineer than a tooling engineer, it makes zero sense to study mechanical engineering.

Google T-Works Hyderabad

He was able to procure helicopter parts, presumably he was able to procure a rope to tie himself down.

Yep, less of a parts and more of a culture issue w.r.t. the lack of safety mechanisms, though the difficulty in sourcing quality parts certainly played its part in this incident.

All the cars have seat belts, so it would’ve been pretty easy to obtain one compared to the rest of the parts involved here.

None of the auto rickshaws have seat belts, for example, and lots of construction workers forgo helmets. No one cares, and furthermore people exacerbate the issue by trying to fit as many people as possible into these vehicles.

It’s a miracle that people wear helmets from time to time, though it’s still quite rare for pillion riders and whole families try to sit on two wheelers.

Human life is cheap in India.

>Yep, less of a parts and more of a culture issue w.r.t. the lack of safety mechanisms, though the difficulty in sourcing quality parts certainly played its part in this incident

Who doesn't want to live longer? I even know a local welder who went to local welding supply store and all they had was shade 11 lens, through which he couldn't see a damn thing and now he welds without any shade. That's the state of affair in India.

Sure in factories, boss doesn't pay for protective gears so the people who need the job have to do without it.

Most autorikshaws are not driver owned, they are owned by some guy who probably owns a bunch of them and rents it out to drivers. Drivers get penalty left right on road from traffic police and lose a lot of money to repairs, rickshaw owner, fuel theft etc. At the end not much is left for the driver let alone for safety installs.

As people become richer they stop using rickshaw and drive their own cars.

Lot of people don't wear helmet because it's hot and humid in India and its really hard to wear it in 38*C in bright sun on 70% RH.

An average person in India has so many problems, the general mood is agitated and forgetful as a result. Most look for escapes and might not even be paying attention to things on road.

> Who doesn't want to live longer?

You answer your own question here:

> Lot of people don't wear helmet because it's hot and humid in India and its really hard to wear it in 38*C in bright sun on 70% RH.

and here:

> Most look for escapes and might not even be paying attention to things on road.

This culture is not amenable to valuing lives very highly.

I've noticed that a lot of comments here echo the sentiment above and you're the only person defending this attitude as being borne out of the lack of convenience (which no one is arguing with, however, that's no excuse in places where human life is actually valued).

All very good examples of the increased difficulty of life for the group of people you are talking about, @wolfretcrap.

I wonder if this overall difficulty shapes a person's attitude to be more risk-tolerant?

Like, "I haven't died yet from XYZ, and I might die from ABC tomorrow, so therefore I am comfortable participating in risky behavior PQR today!"


Sorry to hear that. It’s definitely a tragic story. I ordered some things from McMaster Carr just the other day and it arrived within a few days. I get frustrated sometimes when the parts I need have to ship from China and take a month. But they are cheap and they’ll arrive eventually.

It’s definitely sad to see genius wasted because the tools just sometimes aren’t available in places like India.

Thanks for this information, it’s easy living in the US to forget just how easy our lives are in so many different ways.

>I get frustrated sometimes when the parts I need have to ship from China and take a month. But they are cheap and they’ll arrive eventually.

This remind me of the time when some local makers were ordering parts from aliexpress it was talking on average 30-40 days to arrive at their door and they were only ordering the parts that could not be substituted easily.

Then one day government of India decided to ban aliexpress.

I was not aware Aliexpress got banned. What is the next best alternative?

Banggood ships to India, they don't have everything that aliexpress has but I've been able to source stuff not available locally.

Perhaps Taobao?

Even in Europe we don’t have an equivalent to McMaster Carr. We can certainly procure the materials we need, but as far as I know there’s nothing quite practical like that US shop.

Can you recommend a few places? I really struggle getting specific parts in LT.

Agree with this completely.

Moreover, India as a country has a lax attitude towards safety. When you are fighting to get the basic stuff, the safety aspect does not even cross most people's minds. This can be observed pretty much everywhere. In most construction sites here we don't see the workers wearing hard hats, which are seen as a bare necessity in developed countries.

As someone pointed out, in this case the accident could have been prevented by forming a makeshift seat-belt out of cloth, but the inventor probably wasn't thinking about safety at all.

>In most construction sites here we don't see the workers wearing hard hats

Well they do it mostly because laws are not strict in India even if they are its easy to bribe off the enforcer and this saves the contractor money while he maximize the profit.

It's not that average Indian is more greedy than average European it's just the enforcement system in India is easy to bribe away, so risk for not following proper safety guidelines is less in India and an open opportunity to save money on protective gears.

The true failure comes from average Indian not being able to demand better standards from those in power like Europeans have managed to.


Thanks, I knew it sounded a bit odd. :'D

Yes, this is a very good point. Access to good tools is essential to do this kind of work safely, you can have all the knowledge in the world, if you can't measure accurately, test your welds non-destructively, machine things without adding stresses that the material is ill equipped to handle and assemble properly then it is very easy to mess things up in a critical way. Miss an inclusion in a weld (which could very easily happen), have some vibration due to imbalance, a hairline fracture from metal fatigue and with a helicopter as your project it can only end in one way.

One would assume that if you have the resources to attempt to build something that resembles a helicopter, you would have a way to source a cloth strip to tie yourself to the seat.

Not trying to diminish the magnitude of the disaster, but I think your argument does not apply in this case

I think they were saying for the cause of the accident, not the seat belt part.

sorry, i think you don't get it - the point is that you don't have all the necessary things. Which things out of the missing things were really necessary - that is rearview 20/20. This time it was strip of cloth, other time it may be something else.

I think there’s a counterpoint which is “while you may not have everything, it seems wise to use those things you do have.”

I cannot fathom that a person with the skills, resources, and tenacity to DIY a helicopter could not lay their hands on at least a car seatbelt and a scooter helmet during the course of the project. I wouldn’t be surprised if the crash scene was within sight of both of those items.

“Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.”

If you don't have all the necessary parts for your helicopter, you shouldn't be trying to fly it. Maybe there are things that you don't truly need, but this is a terrible way to figure which.

It's also not just a strip of cloth - it's a decent strip of cloth, fasteners, nuts, bolts, washers, something to fasten the seatbelt etc.

Which isn't a lot and I think this is an unfortunate oversight, but I can see it being a bit difficult to do properly.

Of course, doing it improperly with a rope would probably have been better than not at all.

When I visited India, I drove by this area where there were there were stalls with Indians breaking up old rusty equipment back into parts. Much respect. I think people in the west, don't have a clue how hard some people work for so little return.

As a noob robotics learner I ran into tools challenges very early on. There are some online places but as you pointed out the quality is outright bad. I just gave up that hobby as i didn’t find it worth all the frustration.

During a business trip to Berlin I visited a typical departmental store and was absolutely blown away by all sorts of tools being sold. I was like a kid in a candy store. I mean it wasn’t even a specialized store but a Walmart kind of generic store. Imagine how it’d be in a dedicated hardware store!

> Surprisingly no startup has taken this issue seriously.

There are few tiny startups catering to small niche e.g. https://diy-india.com sells tiny screws, shafts etc. for reasonable price. But they hardly get the support needed to scale up to something like McMaster-Carr, Which the startups emulating western startups or EdTech startups get in India.

With Chinese eCommerce sites banned, The time for entering this market has never been more lucrative.

P.S. I run a validation platform and I have started to track this need-gap - https://needgap.com/problems/284-online-marketplace-for-hard...

While there's some truth to this, I think there's often too much regard for 'jugaad' in many parts of India which sometimes just manifests as 'penny wise pound foolish' behaviour.

I believe you when I read this, but my primary takeaway is that given these constraints, you should not try to build a homemade helicopter

>India doesn't have any marketplace for makers like Ebay

Never going to forgive flipkart for killing ebay india, it was a heaven for tinkereres.

Has there ever been an attempt at solving the problem with a cooperatively owned retailer? They're a little old school but useful for changing markets that are dysfunctional, and overcoming a lack of capital by allowing members to combine their (individually too small) means.

Similarly, are there groups where people with these interests communicate about how frustrated they are?

I read somewhere about the postal network in India and how it suffered from a widespread lack of organized addresses. If it's still true, perhaps this is a contributing factor to why it might be hard to keep up and achieve scale for eBay clones?

No logistics is no longer the issue. Arrival of amazon and Flipkart fueled lots of logistics companies, now it's all sorted and amazon delivers to even the remotest villages in India.

Remote villager here and no, amazon doesn't deliver here (have to go to nearby town). But I agree with your broader point.

Agree so much. There is a huge gap in availability of quality components in India. Very difficult to get and even if we get, very costly.

But I guess it is time for us to have stores like the ones in US, large hardware stores.

Where you can't find anything including anyone to help you?

I have to source various hardware for building projects and with five big box stores within a few minutes of my house it is always an absolute pain, if not impossible, to find what I need. I walked into Menards the other day and couldn't get 2" cabinetry screws...a commonly stocked basic fastener. Our big box hardware stores have turned into seasonal home goods stores.

What do you farm and invent?

I work in Ag-Tech and I've got some interest in India, seems like a growing country (though still with a lot of issues as you point out...)

Would love to hear about what you do.

Back in college, one of my advisors was a control systems engineer. He showed me the matrix of PDEs for the helicopter & the control system. There was also a simulator where the height of the helicopter was fixed and you could just tilt the main rotor forward or back to move and you could try this with or without a control system.

The helicopter was completely uncontrollable without the control system. In the simulator you'd just end up spinning around or something, but that was only because it held you at a fixed height for demonstration purposes.

Seeing that demo made me realize how incredible it is that people have made helicopters work to begin with. They really don't seem to be very cooperative without a lot of work in controlling them.

Nowhere near the same level, but one of my proudest moments in gaming as a teenager was being able to complete a single mission in Search and Rescue 4. It took many, many hours of futzing with the game interface, and even more hours reading up on helicopter controls on the Internet. Without the latter, I couldn't really understand what's going on with the controls.

I know it's just a videogame, but it gave me a deep respect for helicopters, in a way that normal flight sims didn't give me for jet planes.

In the process, I've also learned a bit about the mechanics surrounding the drive train and the main rotor blade, and to this day I'm impressed by how it was made to work. You have a couple tons of metal, + fuel and people, hanging from the sky off a spinning rod with lots of tiny, rotating parts. The more I think about it, the more I realize I still don't have a good intuition for strength and wear-resistance of materials involved.

I wish I could fly one for real. Maybe in another life, when I'm someone with more time, money and risk tolerance. For now, I'll just wait for someone to build a nice VR simulator, and maybe my friend and I can resume our high-school competition in autorotating after simulated engine failure in bad weather.

> I wish I could fly one for real. Maybe in another life, when I'm someone with more time, money and risk tolerance.

That dream is much more attainable than you might realize. "Discovery flights" are pretty cheap, and of course you're going up with a seasoned instructor who guides you through a few maneuvers. Highly recommend it!

Thanks! I didn't realize "discovery flights" are a thing!

>but it gave me a deep respect for helicopters

You should check out Felix Baumgartner and Fred North on Instagram.



(login required, unfortunately, or you can get Barinsta from F-Droid)

I haven't tried it myself but DCS supposedly has a fairly accurate helicopter simulator.


The old line of rotary-wing aircraft "beating the air into submission" is so gloriously accurate on every level. Those pilots are wired different, kind of like submariners (checklists, roles/responsability, ...) in order to deal with their complex environment.

There still are helicopters that are controlled purely mechanically with no assistance from electronics etc. There are lots of small helicopters, not unlike the craft in the article, flying every day.

Flying helicopters is pretty difficult (I've only done it in sims, and I'm moderately good at it after a lot of hours), but most of them are not like unstable jet fighters that can't fly without computer control.

That said, autopilots and gyro stabilization are pretty common in modern helicopters.

There's an old joke that anyone who studies physics knows that helicopters are imposible.

I saw those scary looking matrices and the stack of papers you needed to understand to do anything with them, so I can believe it.

Was he smart?

I give credit to him that he is intelligent, dedicated, hard working, etc.

But smart? If he was smart, he would know that a helicopter is one of the most complex flying machines ever designed. Everything is so critical, from design of the mechanical system, right down to quality of welds and quality of material used.

I have seen pics and video of the copter. Its a frame, and some blades, welded in some shop. Not safe.

Also, there is a reason individual components are extensively tested before final assembly. He should individually have spun the rotors and blades in a separate fixture, beyond their design limits to assess quality. Looks like he made some designs, built them, and directly assembled them, without any plan or purpose. That is appalling.

I feel sorry for his loss of life, his efforts could have been used somewhere else. There are many people cheering him on. But I strongly believe, being an Indian and living in India and being in an engineering industry, this sets a very bad example. How long before students and amateurs see the amount of media attention he is getting and try to emulate him, hurting / killing themselves and others in the process?

> I have seen pics and video of the copter. Its a frame, and some blades, welded in some shop. Not safe.

Not only that, but how well did he really know how to fly a helicopter or any other aircraft? It's pretty bold to be your own test pilot when you haven't had instruction in the first place.

Here's why you don't try to fly an unfamiliar aircraft without instruction, even if you have a pilot's license: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAwwKoz8Diw

Years ago, when I was taking sailplane lessons*, someone brought his brand-new autogyro to the airport. For all practical purposes, it was just a frame with a pilot's seat and a column for the main rotor. He fired it up, started down the runway, pulled back on the stick too soon and too far, and went tumbling when the main rotor contacted the ground. He was securely belted in and didn't get hurt, but his brand-new toy was a total loss.

* I got cold feet after a scary but harmless crosswind landing.

The same could be said for nearly every pioneer of the sky (and sea) and for most explorers in general. Many died, and we celebrate the successes for de-risking that frontier for the rest of us.

> his efforts could have been used somewhere else.

I take your sentiment to be heartfelt, but putting one's competitive advantage to the collective above one's dreams sounds rather joyless. Anyway, the Market provides ample incentive to abandon dreams and chase one's maximum value; perhaps it just wasn't offering enough in this man's case.

It seems rather unlikely that others would be encouraged by his death.

Don't you think there will be others who will think "he was killed because of X Y Z, I can do better" ?

Well, if they choose to take the right lesson, like "safety matter", then it might be a good thing.

True that. Most important part that is not taught in engineering is, testing. Anybody can make anything, even rockets are not so difficult, but creating a testing and checking framework around the build system takes all the efforts. Elon musk said that, almost 100 times more efforts go towards design and making system that make rockets than actually designing rockets. Some conveniently forget the first ( most Tesla and spacex competition ) and fails miserably.

Urf I did go looking for this and found it. You’re spot on.

India is not known for looking at what can go wrong. There are many YouTube videos out there showing you how to make things with electricity which can kill you dead instantly. What’s worse is they never discuss safety and you only get to see the survivors.

My favourite is the (now removed) video of repairing a switch more power supply. The guy has a mains lead made up for his oscilloscope with no earth and is handling the probes and casing on live mains connected SMPS with no isolation transformer. One slip and he’s dead. I did wonder how many people he’d killed who watched it and did the same.

So many Indians die for easily preventable accidents. LiveLeak is full of them. You shouldn't even think about their train rides and their adrenaline games.

Ah yes a colleague of mine is Indian and he said trains are a major natural predator of his race :)

Safety comes last in India. Everywhere from construction to road, safety is usually the last thing people spend money on. I'm saying this as an Indian living in India.

Safety costs money.

All those masks, gloves, helmets are not cheap in India. Saddest thing is even if it's being made in India the raw material for making this comes from China and taxed by Indian customs.

If you've choice between buying yourself protective gears vs a new welder to weld the rotor which one do you think will be take him one step closer to his dream?

Sure protective gear can give him more time but most have choices to make, if he could fly this helicopter off the ground, highly likely he also knew about the protective gears yet he choose to not have any maybe because he didn't have much money.

Another factor is that safety gears (atleast what is available in India) is not developed keeping the weather condition in mind. On construction sites, I have observed that in hot and humid weather, the workers hate wearing safety gears as it makes them very uncomfortable. Some even fear that it'll give them a heat stroke in such conditions, and thus avoid it.

Ballistic protection (and much more rigorous materials and component testing) seem like they'd have played a more critical role than a seatbelt in this particular instance.

That's not to say that personal restraint system isn't a critical component of safety equipment. Just that its role in this specific mortality mode would be negligible.

Helicoptors are complex. There are many ways they can kill you (or those around you).

In this particular case, his neck wouldn't have been hit/cut if it had stayed inside the plane of the open frame door.

Anything could have happened. But for what did happen, a 4 point belt would have sufficed.

helicopter accidents are notoriously hard to survive though, seatbelt or not.

I saw the video. The rear propeller disintegrated during operation, seemingly from material failure. Two of the blades shot out to the ground and the third went into the main rotor a short while after, unbalancing it and causing the blades to hit the fuselage and the helicopter to jump, twist and throw the pilot out.

Very sad accident indeed. It makes one think that maybe the ”hero inventor” stereotype does not lend itself well to our current level of technology: it’s too easy to fatally overlook something vitally important.

> It makes one think that maybe the ”hero inventor” stereotype does not lend itself well to our current level of technology

I'm sure if you look at the history of inventors there are many people who were killed along the way. The Wright brothers were heavily inspired by Otto Lilienthal, who was killed in an accident flying one of his gliders.

Of course this doesn't make this any less tragic, my prayers go out to this man's family and friends.

What he means is, we already invented the helicopter and it is very advanced machinery. I wish instead of a helicopter, this inventor chose something like a glider or a plane.

There's a list of inventors who were killed by their own inventions on Wikipedia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_inventors_killed_by_...

You can build your own aircraft, you just can’t shoot from the hip.

From the description, the man wasnt killed by one mistake but at least a dozen at the same time, and all of them avoidable by a one man operation.

You don’t design an aircraft to fly, you design it to fail in ways and for reasons that are very well understood, then you design several ways for each impossible failure to happen gracefully.

Helicopters are particularly unforgiving in this respect.

Yep and it's always tempting to push the envelope and attain a tantalizing achievement, even though the safety precautions necessary would cost more than you can afford.

All those OSHA rules are "written in blood" as they say - and there are reasons for "stupid" rules like seatbelts and such - likely he would be alive had be been solidly strapped to the machine (thought of course he could have died other ways).

If not on this flight then on one of the subsequent ones, experimental helicopters are not something for those not schooled in materials science. The good news is that nobody else got injured or killed, that could have easily happened.

When I built that windmill I spent hours planning individual welds, ensuring no inclusions, grinding the mating surfaces to get a perfect fit before welding, annealing them properly, magnafluxing them afterwards to make sure that it wouldn't come apart due to some weld inclusion. It had a safety factor of four because there was a house within throwing range of the blades, and a variable pitch windmill is essentially a helicopter in a different plane. Design speed was 600 RPM, the hub was spun to double that with some weights attached and the plane of rotation angled such that even if it came apart the debris would not cause any damage.

As soon as you start spinning large things fast you need to be really careful.

A windgust managed to overspeed it (it is very impressive to see your homemade windmill break the sound barrier at the tips) and the machine survived without any damage at all.

That was very briefly the most power that it ever made. When the storm died down we pulled it down and modified the governor to ensure that that would never happen again, better safe than sorry.

How much power did it generate?

Nominally 2500 Watts (design power), in practice about 1500 to 2000 Watts, during that gust it maxed out the meter at 5 KW, so no idea how much more but quite a bit more (I never expected that or I would have picked the range a bit different).

There is nothing inherently safer about using seatbelts per se.

In fact seatbelts can kill you. I have a friend that went out with his has car and a friend 20 years ago, they did drink too much and had an accident. He was expelled by the acceleration the car had(because he used no seatbelt) while his friend burned alive inside the car.

What makes seatbelts generally safer is that it is a single point of failure, you leave only one possibility for the position of occupants, so you could put a team of engineers working around this single point of failure and develop solutions for that, like now that you know all your occupants remain inside you can make the deposit to absorb impacts, or you can use airbags, that are useless or even dangerous without using seatbelts.

Without seatbelts , there is almost infinite possibilities and combinations of failure, and you can not design against that.

But a solo enthusiast in India has not this luxury.

> There is nothing inherently safer about using seatbelts per se. In fact seatbelts can kill you. I have a friend that went out with his has car and a friend 20 years ago, they did drink too much and had an accident. He was expelled by the acceleration the car had(because he used no seatbelt) while his friend burned alive inside the car.

When assessing safety we can’t argue from anecdote like this. Getting ejected from a car is almost always fatal. Accidents involving fire are pretty rare. Your anecdote is so far from a norm as to be a ridiculous example to assess the safety of seat belts.

Making the "thrown clear" argument in 2021 is bold if nothing else. Showing that there are circumstances where a seatbelt would be detrimental to safety does not disprove their overall safety. You could find examples of any safety apparatus being more dangerous in some select situations. People are choked by their helmet straps. Safety garments gets sucked into machinery. It's just the law of large numbers.

I was watching the Stuff Made Here Youtube channel (amazing channel btw) and was getting tempted by Shane's (guy running said channel) shop tour ([1]). Surely I could get tool X and operate it safely? But yeah .. I'd likely get myself maimed or worse. YouTube makes this sort of stuff seem so accessible, this is a reminder of the obvious .. power tools and moving parts can kill. As software people, we sometimes don't realize this. Stay safe y'all!

I'm also curious how one builds up strong manufacturing skills safely? I thought high school shop class no longer exists. Makerspaces sometimes have kind souls willing to help but I have seen people do dangerous things happen.

[1] just to be clear, the channel's author does talk about the importance of safety and doesn't promote recklessness. It is just me getting tempted to replicate.

> I thought high school shop class no longer exists.


I graduated high school in 2015 and had woodshop, auto shop, and metal shop classes. Also welding, and, for what it is worth, cosmetology. This was at a public school in Houston. We had wood and metal shop in middle school, as well.

These classes are still offered at my school according to my relative who still works there.

Very common in rural areas too - I wonder if it's mainly being able to find someone to teach it.

From what I understand, I am amazed we have anyone willing to teach in New York (the city) public schools. You need a master's degree and more than three (not sure) certifications. It is insane. Yes, I agree we should have some standards but too many restrictions and I am afraid only a certain kind of personality can survive as a teacher in the city.

This has been the requirement for teachers in Germany since WW II. 5 years of university plus 1 year following an experienced teacher with a practical exam at the end.

Teachers are generally well paid, though.

You may find if you carefully checked that a number of people who you would think are "teachers" are technically some other classification because they don't have the required paperwork.

Sometimes the requirements are and/or, and sometimes they let you slide if you're "working on the masters".

Yeah, my middle school wood shop teacher was a “coach” and we called him coach. Don’t think he coached any school sports though.

> Yes, I agree we should have some standards but too many restrictions and I am afraid only a certain kind of personality can survive as a teacher in the city.

The biggest restriction is lack of decent pay relative to the quality of life and liabilities of the job.

> I'm also curious how one builds up strong manufacturing skills safely?

Doing a trade apprenticeship is the common way to do it, but not an option for people looking to get in as a hobby. But even as a hobbyist, an "apprenticeship" is helpful if you can make friends who already have the experience you're after and are willing to hang out and build things with you.

You can learn a lot on your own, but you will miss some important safety and productivity tips that just aren't obvious except through experience.

And slightly off topic, but power tools are honestly not what frighten me - it's dust and chemical exposure that keeps me awake at night.

You have to learn to respect your tools. In a society with guard rails everywhere and children who grow up in bubbles, it is a bit more difficult. But you do and then it becomes normal to understand that you are standing next to something that can kill you in seconds and your awareness and thoughtfulness change dramatically.

I've met enough old blokes missing fingers from workplace accidents to know that's not the case.

Yep ... most commonly accidents with table saws ... easily preventable by just not putting your fingers in the way of the blade.

Just keep fingers away from moving things in general.

There's a lot of edge cases where you can get away with it but it's a bad habit to get into.

That said, the people who complain that literally every bit of content with a power tool doesn't start with the introductory lecture about safety need to go stick their hand in a wood chipper. That's like asking for every math class to start by reiterating basic arithmetic. It's an unnecessary drag on everyone for nothing. The people who need to be told to wear safety glasses aren't watching a youtube video on how to build a race car cage, they're not at that level, and the people who are watching it don't need to be told.

I've been involved in two open workspaces / hackerspaces ... one had a very open "use at your own risk" attitude towards powertools and you just signed a waiver that they are not responsible, the other had a "you are not allowed to use our powertools" policy for insurance reasons.

Not surprisingly the second workshop was not used at all, which is somewhat of an antithesis to being an open workshop in the first place ...

> I'm also curious how one builds up strong manufacturing skills safely?

While getting mentored at jobs that takes OSHA violations seriously? Most youtube maker channels are full of comments complaining about how lacking the hosts are in their safety.

I wouldn't put much stock in those comments. Every cat video also contains comments that the cat is either about to die or the owner is abusing the cat.

Safety is pretty easy, just envision what would happen if you fucked up. Then take precautions so that when you do, you won't lose a limb or an eye.

> I'm also curious how one builds up strong manufacturing skills safely?

A lot of technical colleges/polytechnics offer short courses for skills like welding or cabinetmaking, often during the evening.

> Safety is pretty easy, just envision what would happen if you fucked up.

If you make something fool-proof, the universe will invent a better fool.

Imagining every possible failure mode is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Some modes aren't obvious until you begin using the device. Some modes aren't obvious until they happen.

>Safety is pretty easy, just envision what would happen if you fucked up

I do see what you mean, but you can still get hurt even if you do everything "right". Angle grinders, for example, can shatter even if you don't break any safety rules. Hopefully your safety equipment works, but really hard shards flying around at 10,000 rpm are unpredictable.

Or kickback from a table saw. Or when I almost took my hand off when a chopsaw hit a knot in a 4x4 with such force that it deformed the metal and bounced my hand toward the blade.

Seems like the first safety rule for woodworking should be: don’t use a table saw.

Although the only carpenter I’ve worked with that had a missing digit had ground his thumb off with a belt sander. He didn’t speak English, and mimed the accident to me with our belt sander. I felt a bit sick.

That incident with the chopsaw shook me sufficiently enough that I returned the saw and haven't used a tool with a powered, spinning blade since. If I get another power tool it will be a sawstop.

Don't be dissuaded. Just take that cautious attitude, and learn everything you can. But don't let it scare you off.

I second the channel recommendation, it is a perfect watch for people interested in hands on building.

It's kind of a problem when people don't like to RTFM which contains all the warnings necessary.

Which reminds me I used to play with my father’s power tools on my own when I was 8-10 years old. Good times.

In the modern era TFM includes so many warnings and disclaimers as to be nonsensical.

When nothing had warnings unless it needed it you took the warnings seriously. When a screwdriver comes with a warning and internet commenters get whipped into a frenzy because some youtuber didn't preface an advanced topic with an introductory safety lecture you don't know what to take seriously and you are effectively on your own. It's the same old information overload problem we've seen in other areas.

This is oh so true. Any time I buy a gadget I make sure to read the warning labels. This is only because of its comedic value. I try to imagine every mishap and threatened lawsuit that caused the labels to be justified. Hilarious, and as you say, quite tragic. It's just useless letter clutter at this point.

I bet if you trained some AI on all the manuals and BOMs you could auto-generate some of them just using the BOM. Plug -> Don't use in bathtub. Bearing -> keep spinny bits away from person, and so on.

Saw the "English version" of Indian news articles keep refering to the guy as a high school dropout in the headlines and sub headings. That's a mighty odd description that has nothing to do with the incident. I found that rather derisive and left a bitter aftertaste.

Education does not neccesarily prevent accidents. Even spacecraft, built by the best engineers in the world, with the best materials, tested for years, routinely fail and sometimes get people killed after spending 100s of millions of dollars.

I would not read too much into it. For some reason, popular media loves to refer particularly to inventors or entrepreneurs in this way.

Among the first things we learn from the media about people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg is that they dropped out of college, and Albert Einstein did badly at school -- doesn't even matter if it's true or not! I don't know where this silliness comes from, but it's not usually intended to be derogatory or have any real relationship to the story being reported at all.

And you're right, you don't need to have graduated highschool to know this was stupid and dangerous.

I’m with the sibling commentators- this phrasing is generally complimentary in the American press. It’s kind of strange cultural norm, but it’s a celebration of the “self made” aspect of what the person accomplished, not a denigration of his education level.

Perhaps it was not meant derisively but as an acknowledgement of his dedication and persistence to his goal? It's a popular meme - the school / college dropout that builds something in his garage ....

> That's a mighty odd description that has nothing to do with the incident

Being a high school drop-out is the reason he was killed. If he had been to a 4 year course in Mechanical engineering, he would be exposed to a lot of knowledge about the complexities of building machines

What a weird way of looking at things. With that frame of mind, I could explain all the issues I've had ever. "Oh, I hit that wall on the way out from the parking? Too bad I didn't have a racing education, then it would have been prevented" and blame it on lack of education.

The reason he was killed was because the main rotor hit his head. It did so because it wasn't following safety precautions. None of that has anything to do with his formal education.

The main rotor hit his head -> Because it suffered a material/design/ structural failure -> Because design validation or material quality checks or weld quality NDT checks or bolt sizing or balancing or lateral vibration suppression or a million other things were not checked -> Because you need to know to do that, and those are taught in an engineering course.

Even if you know that, failures still happen all the time because as you state, there are thousand things that could go wrong and this task could be too much for a single person.

Your answer sounds typical of someone who has never tried to accomplish anything meaningful. No shade to you personally. I have a bias and a healthy respect for people who make things with their hands, and in their own way, move humanity one step forward physically. Tangibly. My own work as a software developer seems puny and inconsequential.

The worlds best engineers with Billions of dollars in multi-year budgets, who know about and exposed to a lot of knowledge about "complexities of building machines"...even they fall short.

[Space Shuttle Columbia disaster](https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Columbia_disas...)

Spot the difference?

The engineers of Columbia are probably still alive after that monumental fuck up. Did anyone question their credentials? Education? What high school they went to? What modules they took on their mech engineering classes?

The hypocrisy of attributing a failure to a lack of education is morally inept at best, and disingenuos at worst.

But my fear is more base. My fear is that the man is from a third world country and that your answer might be drawing an already unfair conclusion from that fact. I hope my fears are wrong and you are just being objectively pessimistic.

There are lots of highly educated people in the world who have been exposed to lots of knowledge in their field and still don't adhere to best practices/common sense or even the most basic understanding of their discpline they were taught. So no, we can't say this is what killed him.

True. His ignorance proved fatal.

No, it's a compliment in this context. Like, look what he managed to do even though he's a high-school dropout.

EDIT> I mean, before he got himself killed.

>The inventor taught himself the basics of aeronautical engineering using YouTube and over two years built a single-seater helicopter using a car engine and scrap metal.

I am speaking without enough knowledge. But I have to wonder if this serves as a harsh criticism of Youtube. I do understand Youtube is a mixed bag of resources. More structured learning might have resulted in better understanding of material strengths, testing, and safety.

Inspite of the failure, I admire his pursuit and find the article inspirational.

I had this experience learning to work on cars and motorcycles. Initially I learned from videos, trial and (expensive) errors. Years later I got my hands on an official Honda tech manual and some real engineering knowledge and realized just how basic, incomplete or mistaken most of YouTube was on the topic.

Better not let the commoners learn too much. They might hurt themselves.

The problem with YouTube as an alternative to formal education is that it doesn't tell you what you don't know.

YouTube should warn people that its content shouldn't be mistaken for a comprehensive education on a dangerous topic.

> YouTube should warn people that its content shouldn't be mistaken for a comprehensive education on a dangerous topic.

You mean like those hundreds of safety warnings even for trivial appliances like smartphone chargers, which nobody ever reads? Do you think someone who builds a helicopter in their garage will be deterred by a warning "This video doesn't teach everything there is to know about mechanical engineering"? Come on.

At least one person did need to know that YouTube was not an alternative to an engineering degree...

But no, I was referring to the more general problem: how to keep people safe without withholding educational information.

Also I have no idea what warnings you're talking about. I've watched hundreds of YT videos on topics like chemistry experiments, woodworking, etc. A very small fraction of videos have warnings, and none are provided by YouTube.

I guess it's caused by not learning enough instead of learning too much?

"Knowing enough to be dangerous" is a well known phrase for a reason.

Maybe either would have worked: learning less or learning more.

No, learn too little, they will hurt themselves.

This is pure Icarus. If YouTube enables this, more power to YouTube, IMO.

It also could have been a fabrication problem. A stress riser in a highly stressed part is going to fail sooner rather than later.

Education in India is restricted to English speakers by state diktat.

The inventor noted above didn't have much of a choice - or indeed even a sequence of books he could work through.

This was my first reaction too but probably every DIY/educational video I’ve seen on YouTube has had strong warning disclaimers before introducing the material. Generally most people would be extremely cautious around industrial machinery that moves at high speeds, let alone ones that you design yourself. The higher the stakes, the higher the caution should be. I don’t know how that got lost here, he seems to have had a crew too.

People get used to industrial machinery too. Reminds me of the old saying, that a carpenter loses their finger when they stop respecting the saw.

In a professional setting, you have at least two forces ensuring your safety. Your own survival instinct is one. The other one is your boss being liable for accidents at work. Even if you feel super comfortable with your practice, there are other people who'll try to prevent you from doing something stupid - and they have power over you, because as your bosses, they can deny you the access to the workshop.

With a solo op, that second force is missing.

My grandfather was missing half of his fingers and not because he stopped respecting anything.

Simply because after working for 10 hours straight he was tired as hell. But life doesn't pause because you're tired.

Probably the number 1 accident maker - tiredness, both mental and physical. Reduces your cognition and reflexes, which results in injuries and death.

There are an insane number of bad examples to follow on YouTube around chemistry, explosives, radioactive materials, electricity, mechanical devices, high powered lasers, etc.

YouTube does occasionally take some of it down, but typically not until it's popular enough that it gets flagged by somebody that cares.

> I have to wonder if this serves as a harsh criticism of Youtube

That's not how I see it at all. The guy built a working helicopter from scratch watching YouTube; That's crazy (good). Even with structured learning he made the helicopter from scraps so it would have never been "safe" by modern standards. Plenty of other people died trying to fly their own device.

It is sad his passion to build and create ended with this accident. I have built and flown my own aircraft and even with excellent supervision and safety procedures in place, I still wonder if an improperly deburred rivet hole or a bad batch of resin will end up being the cause of my demise.

That sounds very interesting, have you written about it somewhere? I (and I’m sure many others here) would find it fascinating to read about.

I wish I had the drive and discipline to write about some of the things I have done; airplanes, software projects, etc. but I just get so caught up in the process itself, I don't have the energy to to write about the process. I love reading other peoples descriptions of their journeys and am envious they can do amazing things and also write about them during and after.

Peter Sripol on youtube has made four airplanes from scratch.

What type of rotor system did it have? Youtuber Peter Sripol has a video where he designed a rubber band powered helicopter with a working tail rotor to show the mechanics of how a helicopter works. In the video he shows and explains why a stability mechanism is important and at 2:56 in the video he says that you see all these people on YouTube making their own helicopters that don't know anything about helicopters building rigid rotors system and that he is glad the helicopters are underpowered because they would just end up killing the people around them.

Here is the video its worth a watch from the start


Helicopters are very expensive to operate, because they rely heavily on parts that cannot be allowed to fail. Hence those parts and the maintenance on them is very expensive.

A helicopter is an inherently unstable machine that wants to crash.

Back in the 70's people would design and build radio controlled helicopters. They'd wreck them constantly while trying to learn to fly them. Being able to hover one was quite an accomplishment.

Relevant (and terribly interesting) wiki page[1]. I was impressed it was already updated with this accident.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_inventors_killed_by_...

On a technicality: this wasn't an invention, this was just poor execution.

Same with the electric Tuk Tuk earlier, the line between re-implementation and invention is apparently blurring, personally I feel that the term 'invention' should be saved for things that were not done before.

These inventors are usually from very poor countries trying to replicate a known vehicle. I strongly believe most of them are doing it to get some sort of recognition or to get funded to achieve financial freedom (or to find a job?).

Tuk Tuk didn't show anything extra other than having solar panels on the sides. Simply, slapping several panels to a solar charger for lithium battery pack to operate an ebike-ish drive is not an invention in my opinion.

There are quite a few professionally manufactured solar TukTuks.

While not a helicopter, a Paramotor is surprisingly easy to build.

Homemade Electric Paramotor


It's a shame that someone so dedicated to their passions had to die young.

Did he spend any time modeling the physics of a helicopter control system? It would have to be of the most complex control systems to model. You don't just build a helicopter. Maybe he should have begun by building a scaled-down version instead. Maybe he did all of this due diligence, and just overlooked some unfortunate minor detail. Some of the comments here are blaming materials failure.

He made the helicopter from sheet metal. I don't think he really understood the high speed rotation's effects on them. A few grams of imbalance can totally destroy the rotors. Which probably what happened in this video.

Why is this guy being called an inventor? The helicopter was invented over 100 year ago (1907). He was a tinkerer or hobbyist.

Creating an almost-working helicopter with this level of resources is a huge achievement — it’s like a 5 foot guy making a slam dunk. To a seven footer it’s “just a helicopter” but honestly the world has lost a great talent.

One problem with helicopters is that even if you get it working mechanically, you have to actually fly it in a controlled manner. Having tried to fly a simulated helicopter with no control system, my conclusion is that I would've died in seconds from flipping over while trying to move forward.

So I have lot of respect for the people who worked out the math on that.

Personal achievement, definitely. For the rest of the world, it's nothing.

It's like building an E-Bike, drone, car, boat, anything else - people will say "that's nice, but you can just buy a better one cheaper". And if your design has some good ideas, a big factory will just copy them.

Tend to agree. We'll never know what other cool but smaller and safer things he would have worked on. Especially in a "Third world" country like India that still has a lot of room for low tech solutions, surrounded by a very high tech world that neglects that market.

> His friends said that the helicopter had lifted two or three feet above the ground but soon the blade tore off and struck him

Slightly inaccurate. If you watch the video you clearly see the blade tore off before it lifted at all.

Yeah this 3rd world trend of home made vehicles needs to stop. Or else prepare for a world of AFV styled compilation videos.

Rest in Peace, Ismael.

Who knows what the world has lost. Obviously a very accomplished inventor, he may have brought us great things.

Dying buy your own creation is just the final tier of fun in inventing.

Stand back, I built this sh*t myself!

RIP buddy.

There was this dude who jumped off the eiffel tower with his own -invention- flying jacket, didn't fly shit.

I really take offense with some of the descriptions in the article. He did’t learn aerospace engineering from watching YouTube. As one of my professors (who had multiple degrees from India’s finest engineering schools) put it on the first day of class “helicopters are generally a bad idea…”

Scary thing to know. I tried to make a motoglider in my teen years, and could've been doing first test flights if not for my family sending me abroad few months before I can finish it.

as unfortunate as the event is, inventor is probably not the right description.

He can be an inventor without everything he does begin an invention.


Most of the original airplane inventors died testing their inventions, and even more helicopter and submarine - and half of the X-plane pilots.

It sounds like he was using the "tie it to the ground with a rope" technique, which most of the pioneers used, so credit for that.

I'd probably go further than just a rope (a telescoping ground mounting with pipes), but note that ground resonance can still destroy a helicopter and kill you.

Building personal full-size airplane models is common across India and China, but this is the first time I heard of one with an engine and that was flyable. (In the US, most people can afford to be involved in aviation, but it's 10x outside the affordability of the average person in the developing world.)

Hanna Reitsch, the famous woman Nazi test pilot, actually became famous for demoing the first production helicopter, the Fa 61, daily at a "fair" inside a building (!), so some people are just really talented at flying.

Ironically, after being captured by the British, she was released because although she was a great test pilot at manipulating the controls, she knew nothing about aeronautical engineering beyond subjective descriptions like, "the controls were too heavy", etc.


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