It takes an amount of inspiration to decide to build Ghana’s first helicopter, especially as a young man who just started his undergraduate degree. This is the story of Joe Nii Amartei Amarteifio, the Ashesi student who will be the first to build the first ultralight man-made helicopter in Ghana.

In his sophomore year in 2019, Joe embarked on this project to design and build a life-size helicopter. As daunting as it was and surreal, he was very determined to make it work.

An inspiration, which arose from a conversation with a friend, quickly boosted his desire to break the narrative that a young African needed to be older to achieve any feat. To young master Amarteifio, any young person, especially Africans can achieve anything they set their minds to.

With this, he decided to start “TakeOff” – the project that will lead him to go against the narrative and break grounds against the misconception.

Ghana's first helicopter

The Journey

Enrolled as a mechanical engineering student of the class of 2021, Joe’s project fell in line with his field of study. He started to read around ultralight helicopters and the physics around them. His excitement led him to the Ashesi D: Lab, the university’s hub for design thinking and innovation, to flesh out his project and bring it to life.

The Ashesi Design Lab, in its mission to encourage individuals to design, think and innovate, had Nii Amartei’s project as one the lab supported and helped become a reality.

The project involved extensive research into aeronautics and mechanical engineering, areas Nii has a lot of interest in. The research yielded results, which led him to draw up sketches and build 3D models of the aircraft, all of which required his extensive knowledge of Mathematics. Nii Amartei would stop at nothing to ensure the project started coming to life.

Challenges in building the helicopter

COVID-19

He faced a myriad of challenges all through the various stages of his project, especially with COVID-19. The pandemic came right in the middle of the time he had scheduled for the first test flight. School had to go down, and he had to find other means to continue his tests and prototyping.

The D: Lab, however, during the period did not give up its unrelenting support to ensure he had everything he needed to continue testing and building. All through the lockdown and its lifting, Nii Amartei’s dream kept firing on all through to his final year in school.

Weak prototypes

Some of his prototypes were not good- from parts being too weak/ weighty to inaccurate dimensions and profiles. Despite that challenge, Nii Amartei saw a real-life picture of what his simulations and models were, which helped to develop its upgrades.

Gains and Wins

‘Mark V’ prototype

After several tests and trials, the fifth prototype, ‘Mark V’ was successful in many of the trials in September this year. Even though some issues like the engine’s makeup and others showed up, the results were outstanding.

Meet the Ashesi student who is building Ghana’s first helicopter

Mech Haven

Along his journey to building Ghana’s first ultralight helicopter, he started a school for young minds and young creatives called Mech Haven.

Mech Haven is an engineering summer school program that seeks to give students practical experience in engineering.

The program ran for 8 weeks, during which students learnt basic manufacturing & fabrication skills such as welding. His vision is to create a healthy environment that allows young African minds to think free and wild and make their wildest dreams a reality.

Where he is now

Currently, Nii Amartei is undertaking his National Service with the Ghana Airforce after bagging his BSc. Mechanical Engineering.

Future of TakeOff

TakeOff is also in its final stages, according to a tweet thread he posted about a month ago.

About 4 years ago in my freshman year at @Ashesi, I began research on rotary-wing aircrafts, specifically ultralight helicopters, and this led me to build one myself. The first prototype was built a few days after the project started, of course, out of sheer excitement. (1/5) pic.twitter.com/r1gAF9wjSE

— Amartei (@nTRAPPreneur) September 15, 2021

The country will soon have one of its young and dextrous minds be the first to successfully build it’s first helicopter, which means a lot for the future of technology and engineering in Ghana and on the continent of Africa.

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