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Several months ago, Canadian designer and engineer Charles Bombardier created a lot of buzz with his concept supersonic jet, the Skreemr. His vision involved a jet that would be shot out of a magnetically charged electric launch system. From there, the aircraft would ignite liquid oxygen in order to rise in speed and altitude until it was moving at such a rate to successfully compress incoming air for engine combustion, burning hydrogen and compressed oxygen to accelerate to roughly 6,600 m.p.h. at 40,000 feet. While the concept impressed, it also left difficult design issues on the table (such as the overheating of the aircraft and sonic boom produced from such incredibly fast speeds). But all that might have changed, as Bombardier went back to the drawing table, creating a new private jet concept that fixes many of the issues the Skreemr couldn’t solve.
The Antipode, as the new concept is called, was made possible in part by the attention the Skreemr received—in particular, from Lunatic Koncepts founder Abhishek Roy and a team from Wyle (a firm involved with life science research, space operations, and aircraft technology, among other areas). Working in collaboration with them, Bombardier conceived a luxury business jet capable of reaching Mach 24, over twice the speed of the Skreemr and nearly 12 times faster than Concorde. The Antipode would be able to transport a maximum of ten people up to 12,427 miles in under an hour—that’s New York to London (3,460 miles) in 11 minutes, or New York to Sydney (9,930 miles) in 32 minutes.
Can you tell us what you do?
Abhishek Roy tries ridiculously hard to underplay his achievements. Roy is part of Canadian engineer-inventor-investor Charles Bombardier’s Antipode project, which seeks to develop a luxury aircraft that can fly from New York to Dubai in 22 minutes, or do a transatlantic flight in half that time, cruising at 24 times the speed of sound. The 27-year-old is the only designer in the team.
“The design that you see of the plane – I drew them. It’s a very ‘dumb blonde’ sort of an input,” Roy said of his contribution to the project. “You take it to an aircraft engineer, he may crumple and throw it away.”
The hypersonic aircraft that Bombardier is imagining to make will be launched by reusable rocket boosters. Counter-flowing jets of air on its leading edges will reduce heat and the sonic boom – the enormous amont of sound energy created by objects travelling faster than sound. The concept on many accounts is an improvement on the Skreemr, another hypersonic aircraft project Bombardier announced just last year. The Skreemr could do Mach 10, or ten times the speed of sound. The maximum speed of the Concorde, the supersonic airliner that was discontinued in 2003, was Mach 2.
How did you get associated with this project?
Roy’s association with the Antipode project started with a mail from Bombardier in early 2014, when he was designing special shoes for the blind with a wearable technology startup called Ducere.
Bombardier contacted Roy after studying his college project: a snowmobile which runs on compressed air, as an alternative to the two-stroke engine, thereby reducing noise. Bombardier’s grandfather, Joseph Armand Bombardier, the man who founded Canadian aerospace and transportation giant Bombardier Inc, was also the inventor of the snowmobile.
Roy worked initially on some of Bombardier’s projects, including the Vigilante, a three-wheeled, hybrid-engine powered vehicle designed to help the police, especially in cities such as Mumbai, as Bombardier wrote in an article. The futurist vehicle would be equipped with small cameras, a precise GPS chip accurate to within three feet, and a basic defence system such as fingerprint protected pepper spray canisters. Then, Bombardier broached the Antipode to Roy.
“At first I didn’t understand what it was all about,” Roy said. “Then I grasped the idea behind it – why this man was making these things and putting them out there.”
Several email exchanges followed. Roy got to know the rest of the small team that is working on the project. He spent months studying up aerospace designs and then another month and half before his working sketch for the Antipode finally got approved.
In an emailed response to ET’s queries, Bombardier said Roy “is helping a lot” and that “it’s good to introduce new elements and encourage new ideas.”
Your background and how did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
Despite being in love with planes and locomotives, and being part of a project to develop the fastest passenger aircraft, Roy is a nervous flyer. Once in the window seat on a flight, he noticed a loose screw beneath the aircraft’s wing. He called the pilot, took him to the back of the flight mid-air, and drew him a diagram explaining why the loose part could be a potential danger to the flight.
He liked to know how things worked, butdespite being a designer of futuristic stuff, he never liked science and studied commerce in college.
“I was never really good at studies, so I found time for other things,” Roy said.
A docile boy, the only child of a Bengali lower-income middle-class family, Roy said he preferred to sit at home and his toys were mostly old clocks and machines that needed fixing, as his parents shifted from Kolkata to Delhi and then to Mumbai.
“I was fascinated by our landlord’s Maruti Esteem … I drew the front and side views of cars and designed their interiors. Those must have been really bad sketches,” he said.
What did you do after graduation?
After graduating in commerce, he went to Raffles Design Institute in Singapore.
He got a job at a company in Bengaluru when he returned before he moved to Ducere, the wearable technology startup. Meanwhile, not surprisingly, the idea of his own venture started taking seed.
“In both my jobs, I always thought, ‘I can do this better, and that more efficiently.” That led to the birth of Lunatic Koncepts, a company he started with friend Philip Thomas. Bombardier is now a client of the company. Among other projects, Lunatic Koncepts is now working on an electric two-wheeler, which Roy claims will be “unlike any other seen yet”.
As far as the Antipode is concerned, Roy said people are “very trigger happy”, in already celebrating it.
“Give it some time. The technology is still being worked on. The idea is to go back to it again and again and again, until one day I get a call saying, ‘yes we can use this one.”