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I'm designing a drone to use a relatively new form of propulsion, electrostatic fluid propulsion, which requires extremely large voltages (in the order of 10-100kV) running through a wire to ionize the surrounding air which is attracted to a positively charged collector below.

The issue, however, comes from the power source. I've never worked with voltages of such a high magnitude before, and even though I'm going to limit the current to infinitesimal ranges, I want to be absolutely certain that there is no chance of injury or death if someone were to come into contact with a HV wire. As far as the power source goes, I'm running current from a standard house outlet (120V) through a rectifier, and then a 4-stage transformer, wherein the voltage is stepped up by a factor of six in each stage. To martial the current levels, I'm using 15 1MΩ resistors in series, for a estimated current of 1mA (and a total power draw of 150W).

Is that combination of amperage and voltage is particularly lethal? Is there a better way to step up the voltage or martial the current?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What 15M resistors are you using specifically? \$\endgroup\$
    – Andy aka
    Dec 10, 2014 at 10:32

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Check online and on YouTube, you can find dozens of articles and videos concerning Ionocraft, also known as Lifters, all of which utilize what may be similar thrust production as the drone you are contemplating. All use high voltage, and ALL require extreme safety measures. The actual thrust factor to all of them, so far, is quite small, so the craft themselves need to be very light. I'm not too comfortable with your idea of using electricity from your home's standard AC outlet, due to possible high-voltage kick-back into your home's wiring, which would definitely fry it or any T.V.'s, computers, stereos, etc. At least equip your experimental wiring with safety inductors or diodes to try to keep that from happening. Instead, I would highly recommend a dedicated, separate voltage supply source bought from an electronics supply shop. Not cheap, but hey, rewiring your entire house and electronic plug-in toys would be far far more expensive. Also remember that any high voltage values which would actually produce thrust WILL MOST DEFINITELY kill you or at least make your eyes fall out of their sockets! SAFETY FIRST, read up on lethal voltage and amperage values which can be found all over the internet. Here's a good short article on lethal voltages: https://www.physics.ohio-state.edu/~p616/safety/fatal_current.html

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