An artist's impression of an Orni cruising over the West Worthing seafront fully autonomously after dropping passengers off. Copyright © 2020 YAIR ENERGY LIMITED. All Rights Reserved.

Sussex entrepreneur unveils ‘flying campervan’ inspired by birds that he thinks will change the world

A Sussex entrepreneur has unveiled plans for a ‘flying campervan’, inspired by birds, which he hopes will revolutionise travel and steer humanity away from using fossil fuels.

Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 11:26 am

Alex Blok, of George V Avenue, Worthing, is the man behind the project. He said: “This is my main focus for the rest of my life. It is very important, and it is exciting.”

The ORNI – short for ornithopter – would carry up to six people, have a 25-metre wingspan and a kitchen, bathroom and sleeping space on board. It would be charged by electricity, with solar panels to top up fuel levels, fly between 100 and 150 miles per hour and have adjustable wings, with the capacity to dive through the sky at speed and soar at up to 30,000ft.

Alex also planned to release a smaller, two-person version called the ORNI Chick and build specific airports, called Yairports, in or around Worthing and elsewhere.

The 57-year-old first thought up the idea of a flying machine as a child, inspired by Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Thunderbirds. But it was in 2007, while walking on the Brecon Beacons in Wales, that he saw a buzzard in flight and the ‘egg’ of ORNI was laid in his mind.

Since getting involved in radio-controlled aircraft in 2014, the Sussex Radio Flying Club member has fine-tuned his knowledge of aerodynamics and is working on final designs.

Fellow club member Fraser Johnston will help with 3D-printing and making a small prototype model of the craft. The names have been trademarked but patents are pending on the designs, Alex said. He aimed to make a full prototype in a few years.

The software designer said he worked in the same circles as Elon Musk in California before the Tesla billionaire got famous – and hoped to follow in his footsteps.

“People will laugh because aircraft are very hard to design. There will be a lot of skepticism,” Alex admitted.

But he is still determined to make his dream a reality – and his 84-year-old environmentalist mother proud in the process.

His father also worked on the Vulcan bomber, used by the RAF for decades, and it was his parents’ passion for the countryside which inspired Alex to launch a green business.

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