(Credit: Witold Mielniczek)
Is it a car? Is it a quadcopter? It's not quite Superman, but it does transform into both.
Called simply "B", the toy, which is currently being funded on Kickstarter, is the creation of Southampton, UK, computational engineering PhD student Witold Mielniczek. Unlike other remote-controlled toys out there, it's also a multitalented piece of gadgetry that's able to traverse both ground and sky.
Most quadcopters we've seen to date have four "wheels" at the corners, horizontally aligned with helicopter blades spinning inside. Mielniczek has tilted the wheels upright — and made them functional for ground-based driving.
It has vertical take-off and landing, transitioning on the move and an on-board 1280x720p camera on board for recording as it goes — and it can go fast. But what happens when it crashes, as it inevitably does? Well, with a body shell built of polycarbonate, the material used in protective goggles and riot shields, it's built to take a beating.
"The chassis when combined with the body shell not only forms a rigid and light construction that maintains its shape when flying or driving, but is also flexible enough to absorb excessive forces generated during crash landings," Mielniczek said. And the blades are protected, too: "The wheels naturally guard the blades around them. If an impact occurs on the side of the vehicle, the prop saver will protect the blades."
It only has enough battery life for 15 minutes of action on full charge, but Mielniczek doesn't see this as a problem. "Could B fly for 25 to 30 minutes? ... Yes, with carbon-fibre body and custom-made propellers, top-end electronic components, etc, but the model would cost three to five times more! I do not believe anyone would like to spend that much for extra 10 minutes of fun," he said.
The thing looks slick, and seems to work brilliantly. You can see it in action in the video below, starting at around 50 seconds. It's a little on the pricy side, starting at £125 (around AU$200) for just the car, with the ability to upgrade in the future. An assembly kit for the flying version is £320 (AU$500), and the full monty comes in at £400 (AU$630) — but Mielniczek is dreaming big.
"If B becomes a commercial success, I want to reinvest to use B as a way to help people," he said. "You never know; one day, I may even be able to live out my ultimate dream and make a life-sized model that can carry people!"
Head on over to the B Kickstarter page if you want to pledge your support.