Thomas Senkel of the German company e-volo recently became the first to pilot an interesting craft – a so-called electric multicopter with 16 rotors.
With a single seat placed in the center of those blades, the 80-kilogram (176-pound), all-electric vehicle may look a bit frightening to the risk-averse eye.
According to e-volo, the multicopter is mechanically simple, freeing its pilot from much of the worries of conventional flight. The propellers of the multicopter lack pitch control, and altitude and directional control are maintained by onboard computers that determine the appropriate rotation speed of the props. E-volo says the multicopter can land safely after the loss of four motors, giving it “massive plus points” in comparison to conventional helicopters.
Strapped directly in the middle of the multicopter’s spinning rotors late last month, Senkel completed the aircraft’s first manned flight, which lasted a total of 1 minute, 30 seconds.
According to Senkel, “The flight characteristics are good natured. Without any steering input it would just hover there on the spot.”
Depending on battery capacity, e-volo says the multicopter can fly for 10 to 30 minutes. The company hopes to develop a commercial version of the single-seat vehicle, as well as a multi-seat version.
The first manned electric helicopter flight also recently took place. Read more about it and see photos here.