The E-Volo Volcopter VC200 takes its maiden manned flight.
Flight may never be the same again...
A little under a month ago, in a field in Germany, a quiet revolution in aviation technology took a giant leap forward…
For the past 6 years, the engineering team at E-Volo have been working towards a goal that, until recently, seemed to belong to the realm of science fiction:
We were never satisfied with what is feasible but pursued the vision of developing a helicopter that offers zero emissions, is easy to fly and very safe: the VC200.
The result is the Volocopter VC200 – a 100% battery powered, 18-rotor multicopter that has the potential to completely change the way we think about getting around. It’s not quite the magically gravity-defying flying car we’ve grown used to seeing in futuristic films, but the Volocopter might just be the next best thing.
It’s no secret that piloting a traditional helicopter is among the most difficult aviation skills to master, so the idea that they could one day become as ubiquitous as the family car appears to be completely unfeasible. But the Volocopter is a different animal altogether. Taking inspiration from multi-rotor drones that have exploded into the public consciousness in the past few years, E-Volo have created a vehicle that has the hovering and manoeuvrability of the helicopter but which overcomes the enormous hurdles of safety and accessibility. Simple to fly with a single joystick control, this machine is also about as safety-conscious as an aircraft can be.
The multiple rotors mean that the Volocopter can afford to lose function in several motors without any dramatic impact on its flying ability. Since each rotor is individually controlled by sophisticated software, the pilot can take his or her hands off the controls and the aircraft will simply hover in its current position. Anyone who has ever tried the hover challenge in a helicopter will know that this is quite a feat in itself!
Initial low-altitude test flights are limited to speeds of 25km/h (15mph) – demonstrating the Volocopter’s ability to travel safely even in urban environments. Eventually though, the aircraft is expected to achieve 100km/h (62mph) at higher altitudes. This might seem slow, even compared to a car, but when you can travel as-the-crow-flies, getting from A to B is a doddle. Of course, as with any electric vehicle, the big obstacle to making this a realistic option for everyday travel is range. However, battery technology is currently receiving more investment than almost any other area in energy tech, with companies such as Tesla making huge strides which should see the range of electrical vehicles extend massively over the coming years.
Admittedly, it’s unlikely that we’ll see the Volocopter replacing cars on any kind of scale in the near future. We don’t yet know how much the aircraft will cost, but it’s unlikely to be cheap, and there are still huge legal and safety hurdles to overcome before we start seeing this type of aircraft in cities. But with continued innovation and hopefully co-operation from governments, its not inconceivable that you could be jumping in a Volocopter air-taxi within the next decade!