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All about the Flyboy

The Flyboy is a self-balancing battery powered electric vehicle suitable for low speed personal transportation. It is broadly based on the Segway (PT) Personal Transporter which was the brainchild of Dean Kamen in the USA. The Segway first appeared in 2001. It has been produced in New Hampshire by Segway Inc and the name means 'smooth transition'. The Flyboy is manufactured and assembled in the East. It is about the size of a skateboard and weighs only 10 kg, and has no handle bar.

The Flyboy operating system works on similar principles to the now familiar Segway. At the base of the machine is a strong metal casing housing the electronics and the powerful batteries. These are purposefully positioned close to the ground to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible. The wheels are the actual motors and the drive force is produced by electronically affecting the strength of an array of embedded Neodymium rare earth magnets. The electronics all works together to keep the foot platform level when powered on with the self balancing features enabled. In order to make the machine move forward or backwards the rider simply leans forward or leans back, which produces a shift in position of the weight on the platform.

The machine relies on a number of technologies to keep the rider standing upright and balanced. Through linking the output of five gyroscopes, strategically placed pairs of accelerometers and simple pressure pads beneath the feet the system computes and produces the electronic pulses that are responsible for keeping a human upright or moving in a chosen direction with very little physical effort.

The gyroscopic sensors are used to reference an artificial horizon at all times. The pressure pads detect the change in centre of gravity of the rider. The built in accelerometers detect the resulting changes in pitch and acceleration and the combined electronic outputs of the other sensors are computed in milliseconds and cause adjustments to the impulses which flow to the wheels (the motors). By changing the output to the motors the vehicle will either accelerate or brake. This allows the rider to establish and then maintain a preferred speed by adjusting how much and by how far the weight on the pressure pad shifts.

To turn and steer a Segway the rider shifts the handlebar to the left or right. The Segway responds by adjusting the speeds of the wheels in opposite directions causing it to accelerate on one side and slow down or even reverse on the other. So if not traveling forward or backward it is able to turn on the spot. Since the Flyboy has no vertical handle, turning is achieved by activating the swivel joint located between the two halves of the machine. This is done by applying some pressure to the ball of the foot while pressing down gently on the heel of the other. To turn in the opposite direction, do the opposite. The Flyboy will also turn on the spot. For safety reasons the Flyboy is governed electronically to a maximum speed of 10 kph and with a little practice and some confidence this speed can be achieved relatively quickly.

The Flyboy uses only phosphate based Samsung Lithium-Ion batteries charged with a special adapter from a 220V wall plug. Charging can reach 80% capacity in 40 minutes and full charge most often takes less than two hours. On smooth flat ground (like in a shopping centre) the Flyboy will last for between two to five hours and will likely cover a distance of 15 to 20 kilometers. In outdoor use with rougher terrain this time and distance will be greatly reduced. Other factors that play a notable role in battery life include the weight of the rider, the incline, ambient temperature and the temperature of the battery itself. A battery that is not abused should last for about 1000 recharges before needing replacement.

The Flyboy was originally designed for commuters to quickly cover 'the last mile' on their way to or from work. Because of its size it is not a problem to carry onto a taxi, bus or train. Since its recent launch the popularity has grown and it is now also being used by security guards, for stock picking in warehouses, by managers in large factories, in hospitals, at airports and of course socially by ordinary people wanting to just have some outdoor fun.