Decision time? Check out our latest product comparisons

E-volo’s 18-rotor electric Volocopter makes maiden flight

By

November 21, 2013

The 18-rotor electric Volocopter has taken to the air for the first time

The 18-rotor electric Volocopter has taken to the air for the first time

Image Gallery (20 images)

E-volo recently celebrated the maiden launch of its electric two-passenger, 18-rotor VC200 "Volocopter," touting the vehicle's safety and simplicity after an indoor flight inside the dm-arena in Karlsruhe, Germany on November 17. While the copter is similar in form to both quadcopters and helicopters, the company resists the helicopter label, pointing out the numerous radically different safety and design choices that set the vehicle apart.

Following on from earlier prototypes, the overall design resembles a quadcopter – or, more aptly with its 18 separate rotors, an octodecacopter. On the Volocopter, six arms extending from the central part of the rotor ring split into twelve more arms, with rotors placed at each juncture.

The VC200 is an electric copter with 18 rotors and numerous redesigns of traditional syste...

For power, six battery blocks power the rotor drives for about twenty minutes of emission-free flight time, with an hour anticipated in the future. Additionally, range extenders are envisioned for the final design. The team is aiming for a cruising speed of at least 54 knots (62 mph / 100 km/h) and a flight altitude of 6,500 ft for the production version.

E-volo emphasizes the redundancies in the battery system. Each rotor arm is powered by three batteries, so two nonadjacent batteries could fail and the Volocopter could still land safely. In even more dire straits, a ballistic separation system deploys a parachute.

These measures are a part of e-volo’s larger goal that the “Volocopter must become the world’s safest piece of air sport equipment.” Pointing out that most helicopter emergencies stem from pilot behavior, e-volo designed the Volocopter with onboard computers sensors that assume the role of determining and compensating for flight conditions, while the pilot “merely” controls the direction. Because of this design decision, the Volocopter is also easy to fly and pilot training is simpler.

Finally, the electronic systems of the Volocopter are different from traditional designs. Instead of the classic fly-by-wire computer systems, the Volocopter has twenty independent computers which could theoretically each fly the computer solo.

The e-volo team checks the Volocopter in preparation for its first flights

The team conducted multiple remote-controlled flights lasting several minutes each under the dm-arena's nearly 22 m (72 ft) ceiling. E-volo hoped to test several things during the VC200’s launch. Even in simulations it was impossible to predict if the lightweight carbon construction would produce vibrations, which can be annoying and loud, or even deadly. However, no vibrations were evident, even through the HD camera mounted on the exterior rotor ring.

Additionally, though previous tests had shown that the overall noise level would be quieter than a traditional helicopter – not a difficult feat to be sure – the team was still surprised that the vehicle were quieter than expected and had a pleasant rich sound.

The overall flight was several minutes long and included several takeoffs and landings. Highlights of it can be watched in the video below.

Source: e-volo

About the Author
Heidi Hoopes Heidi measures her life with the motley things she's done in the name of scientific exploration. While formally educated in biology and chemistry, informally she learns from adventures and hobbies with her family. Her simple pleasures in life are finding turtles while jogging and obsessively winnowing through her genetic data.   All articles by Heidi Hoopes
21 Comments

Shut up and take my money!

Jabboson
21st November, 2013 @ 08:59 pm PST

Well done! This looks like a lot of fun.

Grunchy
21st November, 2013 @ 10:07 pm PST

The question is, can it do an auto-rotation? .... apparently not

DLK811
21st November, 2013 @ 10:12 pm PST

1st: If you are from Germany OR have a German bank account: you can invest in e-volo / the Volocopter team starting from 250€ here: www.seedmatch.de/e-volo

2nd: @DLK811 - it has a parachute for the worst case. and if one rotor fails, you still have 17 others.

Jakob Carstens
22nd November, 2013 @ 12:50 am PST

I'm sorry, why are they arranging the layout and form to almost exactly resemble a helicopter again? The helicopter's shape and arrangement is that way because it mostly *has* to be... with this paradigm the arrangement can be (almost) anything you can imagine! (see the newer Gizmag post about the Zee.Arrow as an example...) Did they do it this way because they thot the sprirograph pattern of the engine/prop support cage looks pretty? Awwww... how sweet...

I can understand if they intended that huge disc to double as an airfoil with good glide characteristics, in the event of total power loss, or some such practical purpose... as it is? sure, it's allowing stable flight, but quite unwieldy, too... not to mention expensive to manufacture and structurally suspect.

How about at the very least making it collapsible, so the vehicle could be more easily garaged or ported (or even roadable, maybe?) via a Hoberman sphere like mechanism or similar...

Sorry for all the negativity... I do LOVE the concept, and I believe this multi-copter-style direction is *the* future of personal flight! Kudos on the excellent progress, and I'm looking forward to the first manned flight! (Can we just think a tad outside the box, guys?)

MzunguMkubwa
22nd November, 2013 @ 05:03 am PST

I think that is way cool. It seems like a logical next step for quadcopters.

I agree with Jakob, since it has many rotors that take up for any couple that fails, there is no need for auto-rotation. I think the BRS is a good idea.

BigGoofyGuy
22nd November, 2013 @ 05:34 am PST

Excellent! Would a set of stub wings off-load the multiple props in forward flight, thereby extending the range or duration perhaps?

Grunt
22nd November, 2013 @ 06:08 am PST

Elegant? Sure. Low noise? Yes. Safe? NO.

Conventional helicopters can autorotate to a safe landing even with total loss of power. If you run into a battery problem in flight with this thing, you are coming DOWN - you have no lift and no control. If you put a valuable payload into this thing - like your precious butt - you had better plan on a very large reserve of battery capacity just to be sure.

piolenc
22nd November, 2013 @ 06:16 am PST

There is not just one battery, piolenc, there are several to create redundancy.

Jakob Carstens
22nd November, 2013 @ 06:36 am PST

Before giving an opinion I would like to read a table on performance, weights, actual costs, etc.

Germano Pecoraro
22nd November, 2013 @ 09:02 am PST

Is there more rotor surface area ? I would also like to see a stall test done, is this less likely to generate static ? this might be more user friendly for them lucky guys that work on power lines.

Also this kinda reminds me of the first airplanes with 10 wings stacked up, sure the looked cute, but actual flight wasn't in the future.

Jay Finke
22nd November, 2013 @ 10:42 am PST

Piolenc did you miss the parachute part?

"In even more dire straits, a ballistic separation system deploys a parachute"

Karl L
22nd November, 2013 @ 11:20 am PST

@ Karl L

The ballistic parachute helps you survive a crash. Controlled unpowered flight helps you avoid a crash.

Slowburn
22nd November, 2013 @ 12:07 pm PST

Finally, the backyard "helicopter" we've been promised by Popular Mechanics since the 1940's! Affordability will follow eventually. It is touted as being quiet enough and green and automated enough to allow the average driver to operate. However, practicality as your daily commuter is in doubt as (picture this) thousands of the vehicles in the air over the city at the same time seems a scary prospect! But, in the movies like The Fifth Element, even a lug head played by Bruce Willis could fly a cab in aerial rush hour with ease in the 23rd century. We'll see.

Safety would seem to be built into the design. Everything is relative, as nothing's 100%, not even in modern cars. True, autorotation is not possible. But the redundancy of multi-rotors/motors, -batteries, -microprocessor systems, etc. are reassuring. The same can be said for the ballistic parachute system. As in helicopters, a "dead man's zone" would be prudently avoided.

As an RC multi rotor flyer with some Schweizer helicopter flying experience, I can't wait.

Nostromo47
22nd November, 2013 @ 01:52 pm PST

Even if they're able to get actual usage time up to 1 hour... it will be an expensive toy. Which all points back to storing and converting energy... we need at least 4 times current capabilities before ideas such as this or electric cars even, really make sense.

Dana Lawton
23rd November, 2013 @ 04:58 am PST

Does the ballistic parachute come with a power line avoidance system, or does it set you down on a busy highway ? last I checked these chutes are heavy and rather spendy, and heli's fly close to the ground, makes me wounder if it would be effective at say 75 feet in the air, or give it the trebuchet effect actually increasing the speed to ground ? but the ballistic parachute would have worked well for John Denver's plane, (maybe).

Jay Finke
23rd November, 2013 @ 07:22 am PST

"Stall test"? It's doesn't have wings. Stalls are not a factor. Autorotation doesn't help if you have any kind of rotor failure. If we ever get 'flying cars' they'll be something like this. Vertical take off and landing and as simple to fly as a car is to drive, and redundancy in everything critical.

Mike Kling
23rd November, 2013 @ 08:29 am PST

I guess 18 rotors could allow autorotation, but at the expense of much more complexity. Nothing simpler than a direct connection. I think a range-extender is a must-have, both for time and distance.

Bruce H. Anderson
23rd November, 2013 @ 10:04 am PST

German eh! Watch closely for this population to regenerate its massive scientific reputation of the past, and perhaps even help the western world to see a new future on the other side of the McScience Age.

Bruce Miller
23rd November, 2013 @ 10:21 am PST

Watching the video of the first flight of the VC200 was highly reminiscent of the pre-WWII film of the demonstration flight of the Focke Achgelis Fw 61 helicopter. In 1938 the Fw 61 was flown by German test pilot Hanna Reitsch indoors in front of an audience at the Deutschlandhalle sports stadium in Berlin. At the time, the Fw 61 was perhaps the most advanced helicopter in the world sporting dual main rotors mounted at the ends of lateral truss-like spars. The rotors did not tilt, but their arrangement were not unlike that in the V-22 Osprey.

Nostromo47
24th November, 2013 @ 10:36 am PST

@ Mike Kling

oh ok, dead stick,catastrophic motor failure or engine stalls. obviously it not a airplane, it's a air car with 18 power windows, what could possibly go wrong

Is there gears in these rotor heads how much resistance do the motors have, if the rotors can't turn, that's kinda like a stall, and a quick trip to the ground is in this birds future !

I would be interested to see if a pilot can do a Lomcovak in one of these, now that would be impressive .

Jay Finke
25th November, 2013 @ 10:11 am PST
Post a Comment

Login with your gizmag account:

Or Login with Facebook:


Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our 28,993 articles