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Volocopter: Dawn of a New Era

 

First manned flight with Alexander Zosel.
April, 2016: The world’s first multicopter, Volocopter VC200, in its inaugural manned flight. (Photo: e-volo GmbH)

It’s a new era in aerial transportation! The world’s first certified Multicopter, e-volo’s Volocopter VC200, made its premier flight in Karlsruhe, Germany in April this year. The introduction of manned flights marks a step forward in urban mobility.

The Volocopter is a personal aerial vehicle designed to be so easy and safe to fly that anyone can command it. Due to its electric propulsion, it has no tailpipe emissions and is impressively quiet. For the first time, dreams of personal flight as a daily routine have become attainable. As such, it not only offers more widespread use in conventional aircraft domains, but also brings the industry another step closer to air taxi services and entire transportation systems in the third dimension.

Thanks to its innovative flight control, the vertical take-off and landing aircraft (VTOL) is extremely easy to fly. The Volocopter is piloted one-handedly with a single joystick and significantly reduces the most common cause of accidents in conventional helicopters: human error. During the inaugural flight piloted by managing director Alexander Zosel, Zosel released his hand from the joystick to applaud his team while the Volocopter automatically held its position. A comprehensive redundancy concept compensates for any failure by critical components, including the loss of several motors. This was demonstrated exhaustively during the certification process. Furthermore, the Volocopter is quiet, and due to its fully electric motor and interchangeable battery system, it is also absolutely emission free. 

Technology assistance was provided by German drone manufacturer Ascending Technologies, which has recently been acquired by U.S. chip maker Intel Corporation.

At the invitation of NASA, Florian Reuter from the e-volo management team presented the newest developments in the Volocopter to experts from air and space travel at the On-Demand Mobility workshop in Washington, DC. The judicial framework, which would have to be adjusted internationally to allow individual flight in urban areas for everyone, was also discussed at the workshop. In advance, NASA had published a study addressing this topic, which highlighted the positive contribution such a system would have on the alleviation of the daily traffic congestion in the Silicon Valley region in California.  

volocopter-timeline
(Photo credit: e-volo GmbH)

The Volocopter is made of a light-weight fiber composite material. In addition to cruise flights, it can also take off and land vertically, as well as hover in the air. The VC200 Volocopter runs on all-electric motors. The electric motors of its 18 rotors are powered by nine independent batteries. When in a floating state and with a 450 kg take-off weight, the VC200 requires about 45kW, depending on the air pressure/temperature. Its redundancy concept helps ensure stability, even if parts of the system were to fail. This principle is used in all system components that are necessary for safe flights. The necessary thrust required to provide buoyancy is achieved through several independently driven rotors, each with two fixed blades. Unlike a helicopter, the blade angle on the VC200 cannot be adjusted. The amount of thrust produced depends solely on the rotation speed of the different rotors. 

Although the Volocopter initially exhibits what would seem to be unstable flight characteristics due to the relatively high number of rotors with a fixed blade angle, its multi-redundant flight control system helps ensure precise altitude control and positioning stability. It is actually much more stable than conventional aircraft. It adheres to the pilot’s specifications and compensates for external effects independently. This makes flying it much easier, and the pilot can control the Volocopter safely, even in adverse environmental conditions. 

The Volocopter is operated with one hand using a joystick. The pilot intuitively controls all flight axes through rotational movements of the joystick’s axis. Rising and falling commands are given through an altitude control thumb button. In order to land, the pilot only needs to press and hold the button down until the Volocopter is on the ground. Once it nears the ground, the control system automatically slows down the Volocopter to help ensure a gentle landing. 

e-volo’s next goal is to receive a type certification and to produce the Volocopter in large quantities. In the next two years, they will enter the well-established air sports market, similar to the introduction of the gyrocopter and the helicopter.  The next anticipated application is air taxi services with predetermined routes and destinations at airports.

For more information and updates visit e-volo.com.

2 comments

  1. Wow, really cool development! I’m interested in knowing the flight times. Do you have that info?

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