I was musing half awake about "electrostatic lifter" demonstrations, where high voltage ion-wind can make a grid of foil and balsa wood fly in the air.
How could we make this effect more robust? Increase the ion current: use radioactive corona wires, or corona wires coated with radioactive paint.
No no no! Instead, BEAM SOME POWERFUL X-RAYS ALONG EACH WIRE! This would create a region of ionized conductive air which would then be accelerated by the strong e-field. And if the x-rays were somewhat collimated, and the x-ray generator was connected to the high-volt drive (and was otherwise electrically floating) then you might not even need the wires. The x-ray beams BECOME the lifter wires. It's a powerful "electric fan" with no moving parts. If this ionizes many cubic meters of air and provides a huge air flow, maybe we could build an "electrostatic helicopter" based on Lifters and x-rays.
And then... and then... Suddenly I see it.
AH EEGORE, I SEE IT HERE BEFORE ME IN ALL ITS FULL DETAIL!!!!!
Here are some of the side effects of such an aircraft:
1. a fuselage to intercept ions: no-tail helicopter. A disk.
2. it hovers silently except for unfiltered PWM power supply hum
3. the top of the craft glows slightly: violet-green from corona. Hard to conceal!
4. the top of the craft contains x-ray emitters covered with some sort of weatherproof cowling (dome!)
5. it fairly reeks of ozone. And nitrogen oxides.
6. the air downwash is laminar, so it hovers with no wind noise
7. air is pulled down from above. No downwash below our hovering disk
8. maybe a donut-shaped fuselage would work better than a disk?
9. the fuselage always remains charged to DC high voltage, so landing is a big problem.
10. it spews intense x-rays, so it sets off geiger counters
11. it has a natural plasma sheath, so it might fly transonic wo/sonic booms
12. enough x-rays will ionize HV insulation, so cars and radios malfunction
13. if forced to land it leaves behind charred and sterilized grass patterns (!)
14. Don't stand too close during takeoff. Sunburn or radiation sickness!
15. if no weighty shielding, pilots have shortened lives and defective children
16. early prototypes require a highly-insulating "landing cradle" at Wencelas mine site
17. during partial malfunction, two disks can touch to share fuselage charge
18. Nonconducting landing gear? why not inflated rubberized canvas hemispheres below. (!!!!!)
19. like helicopters it flies by tilting. No blades, internal gyroscopes *required*
20. put small x-ray "lifters" on the rim for station-keeping. They flicker and "chase," like a movie marquee
21. Oh and the sound is a high-freq whistle from the main HVPS, plus a deep hum from PWM power control.