GLENDALE, Wis. — A Glendale teenager has plans to fly high, literally, and will do it in a machine he built with his own hands.
Ethan Zentner, 17, has been building a hexacopter for about six months. It's like a large drone with six propellers. It's big enough for him to sit in it. Zentner is one of the only people and the youngest to ever build an aircraft like this.
"One of my biggest challenges in this project was the documentation. There’s so little resources on making multi-rotors at this scale, and I would love to make what I’m doing open source to democratize the access to information," he said.
The senior at Nicolet got interested in building this after flying with much smaller drones. He would put on a headset that would allow him a first-person view of what the drone saw. After doing that, he was hooked on drones and flying. Zentner did all the coding, electrical wiring, and even learned to weld to build this aircraft.
Future of Transportation
Zentner sees the hexacopter he is building as the future of personal transportation.
"That this type of aircraft, electric vertical and take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, are our specie's first step to the utopia shown in the Jetsons where everyone has a flying car."
Zentner's isn't quite ready for a manned flight. Oct. 12 was only his second time putting his hexacopter in the air. He wants to run more safety tests before he sits in the pilot seat. That doesn't mean he couldn't ride it right now. It can go more than 50 miles per hour and has a battery life of about 20 to 25 minutes.
"But that's still enough to go to school and back, lock it to the bike rack like it's nothing," Zentner said with a smile.
Build Cost and the Future
Building a machine like this isn't cheap. Zentner estimated that it cost about $15,000 to build it. He was able to pay for part of this with $8,000 he won from the International Science and Engineering Fair back in May of 2021. The rest came from his own money and help from his parents.
Zentner hopes that it is only a few more months before he can fly in his hexacopter himself. Until then he will run more tests and troubleshoot any issues that arise. As for a more long-term future, he hopes to go to a college with a good aerospace engineering program and work on building the future of transportation after graduation.