Viral video of man flying in his homemade drone is incredible – but not new

Video footage of a man flying a homemade drone above his yard has gone viral for two good reasons. First, the pilot is actually in the craft, as a passenger, as he over-flies the swing set. Second, no information is given about the enigmatic drone builder, where his backyard is located, or whether his presumably hearing-damaged neighbors are complaining. The blend of tech marvel and personal mystery was a surefire hit – though digging by DroneDJ indicates the footage isn’t new.

Mystery pilot flies himself in DIY drone – in 2019

The astonishing but enigmatic video was posted on an f-word named Reddit subgroup Saturday by someone known only as u/MechanicOpposite445518. The minute-long footage shows a bundled-up gent seated between four large aluminum hoops, each strung up to hold 18 two-foot-ish long propellers. Pilot and craft then rise from the lawn, hover around a bit, and after performing a 180 or two (and nearly blowing the Christmas lights off the house) set back down. 

Fueled by social media posts, the video quickly took fire. But it turns out the mysterious footage is a ghost in the internet machine: an extract from 2019 video of Swedish engineer Axel Borg’s flying chAIR.

Borg has been working on the modular craft for over half a decade, and has improved it since the now viral shots were taken. It is assembled around the pilot’s seat – which is itself designed to motor across the ground when detached from the rest. The four hoops and their lattice of propellers are fixed to the chAIR, and from there all that’s needed is a flick of a switch (and considerable noise) for the flight to begin.

Building drones for fun, not profit

Borg, the creative force behind YouTube channel AmazingDIYProjects, has written a book on building the chAIR. He developed it on a $10,000 budget, and time taken between responsibilities of a full-time job and raising two children. He provides specs and other information on the craft in this video of his first speed test.

Borg on a more recent test flight of his chAIR

Borg tells DroneDJ that the chAIR has been “retired due to metal fatigue due to unresolved resonance issues.” He’s now deciding whether “disassembly and selling off parts or offering it to a local aeronautical museum” is his next step (though he playfully doubts the latter will be interested).

He acknowledges, however, that “the drone fever really never passes,” and that he’s still “in the process of figuring out (building scale models for the time being) what composition of tech results in the absolute ‘best’ personal flying device. The holy grail being endurance AND failsafe with prep time, size and noise as other important design criteria to score as high as possible on.”

He also notes he’d built an earlier, gas-powered version of chAIR.

Asked if he’d been surprised at the renaissance of his chAIR video this week, Borg says it’s just something that happens now and again – or so he’s told.

“I have a friend that from time to time says to me: you know you are a legend over at reddit, right?” Borg confides. “However I always kind of think he is exaggerating so I don’t pay much attention to it really. But each time he brings that subject up it seems likely the reason is that something I posted on youtube re-surfaced again on reddit.” 

And Twitter, and Facebook, and in articles across the web….

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