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Innovation Design Engineering (MA/MSc)

Harry Barber

Harry is a designer and engineer who is motivated by impact and innovation. He takes a holistic approach that involves both the creativity and human-centredness of design as well as the testing and development of technical prototypes.

During his time at the RCA, Harry has designed an award winning portable renewable generator, developed a wearable that helps people to feel comfortable in hot environments, designed a system that creates value from waste for school children in Nairobi, as well as working part time for the design team at Brompton Bicycle prototyping and testing a new product.

Before joining the IDE programme, Harry completed an undergraduate degree in Engineering Science at Oxford University. In his spare time, he enjoys being outdoors, playing sport and spending time with family and friends. 


Degree Details

School of Design

Innovation Design Engineering (MA/MSc)

Sycamore providing Portable Renewable Power in a remote location

The Sycamore aircraft flying through the sky in a figure of eight pattern

Sycamore is a Portable Wind Power Generator that produces power using an inflatable aircraft that flies autonomously in a figure of eight pattern tethered to a base on the ground. The whole system can be packed down into a small box for transportation.

Sycamore is unique in two ways. The first is its portability. If you wanted to provide 10kW of power (enough to power a large UK home), you could use 70m2 of solar panels, a 15m high wind turbine, or Sycamore, which would pack down into a box the size and weight of a suitcase, making it extremely mobile.

The second way Sycamore is unique is its usability. Once I had built a working prototype of the technology, the majority of my work focused on making it reliable and easy for people to use. I did this through multiple rounds of surveys and interviews with potential users which helped me to develop the final design. The key part of the final design is the aircraft which is a blend between an inflatable kite and a drone, allowing it to launch, land and fly autonomously.

For the last 50 years, the mobile power market has been dominated by fossil fuel-dependent, highly polluting diesel generators. They are used worldwide in locations where there isn’t a power grid available or the grid is broken and some example contexts are disaster zones, construction sites, remote locations and festivals.

Sycamore is the first renewable option that has the potential to provide portable power in these contexts, and is therefore a step towards making sustainable, clean power possible everywhere.

Scale Comparison — A comparison of Sycamore with the solar panel and wind turbines that have the same average power output in normal weather conditions puts its portability into perspective.

Setting up Sycamore - Unpack, Inflate, Launch — Sycamore uses an aircraft that once inflated is effectively a hybrid between at drone and a rigid kite. It uses its drone capability to launch autonomously and once it is at a high enough altitude with constant wind, it will switch to working primarily as a kite, allowing it to start generating power.

Flight Pattern — Sycamore generates power by operating in two phases. The first phase is to fly the aircraft crosswind through the sky in a figure of 8 pattern which creates high force in the lines, pulling the aircraft out and turning a dynamo in the base station which generates power. Once the aircraft has reached its maximum extension from the base, phase 2 is to reorientate the aircraft so that it can be pulled back in quickly and with minimal resistance. Once the aircraft has returned to its starting position, the cycle repeats, with the overall aim being that the power produced in the longer, crosswind-based generate phase is much greater than the power used in the pull in phase.

Wind Availability Map — The map shows worldwide locations with enough wind for Sycamore to generate power. The reason for the high amount of coverage is that Sycamore flies above the height of normal wind turbines where wind is faster, more consistent and less turbulent.

Early Prototype Development

Early Prototype Flight Testing

Video showing a flight test with one of my early Sycamore prototypes.

1851 Royal Commission

Industrial Design Studentship


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