E-Volo, the company that performed the first flight of an all-electric, 16-propeller multicopter last October, is pressing forward with the development of commercial versions of the craft and giving the public a glimpse into just what those variants might look like.
Over the next two years, the company says it hopes to develop a regulation complying two-seat “volocopter” that weighs less than 100 pounds, can go faster than 54 knots, fly for at least an hour and reach an altitude of at least 6,500 feet. In addition to the two-seater, a single-seater and an unmanned version are also in the works.
Unlike the multicopter that took flight for a total of 1.5 minutes last fall – which featured open-air seating for a single passenger smack dab in the center of those 16 spinning props – E-Volo’s new volocopter variants are designed with an enclosed cabin located beneath the propulsion units, enhancing the craft’s stability and paving the way for the addition of a whole-aircraft-recovery parachute system.
As current battery constraints force the original all-electric version of the craft to top out at 20 minutes of flight time, the commercial variants are also being designed as hybrid electric aircraft with combustion motors to bolster the crafts’ endurance.
As for the controls, e-volo’s design abides by a mantra of simplicity and redundancy, with independent onboard computers maintaining the craft’s pitch rotation speed, as opposed to mechanical pitch control featured in traditional helicopters.
E-Volo even goes so far as to call the piloting needed to control the craft “child’s play,” saying that “it takes off and lands vertically and the pilot pays little or no attention to the flight path angle, minimum speed, stall, mixture control, pitch adjustment and many other things which make conventional aviation so demanding.”
While the company’s design, as well as its development plan and timeline, may seem ambitious to many, e-volo’s efforts have definitely been attracting some positive attention. At Aero Friedrichshafen in April, it was awarded the Lindbergh Prize for Innovation for its design. The group cited the aircraft’s “breakthroughs in redundancy, simplicity of controls and inefficiencies inherent in the control surfaces normally used in aircraft” as noteworthy innovations.