Aircraft

eMagic Aircraft unveils tandem-wing air taxi prototype

eMagic Aircraft unveils tandem...
Tandem wing configuration develops a ton of lift, and Senkel says the airframe is nearly impossible to stall
Tandem wing configuration develops a ton of lift, and Senkel says the airframe is nearly impossible to stall
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Germany's eMagic has come out of stealth mode with a fully functional eVTOL prototype
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Germany's eMagic has come out of stealth mode with a fully functional eVTOL prototype
Flight testing the eMagic prototype in CTOL mode
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Flight testing the eMagic prototype in CTOL mode
Michael Kügelgen, seated, and Thomas Senkel
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Michael Kügelgen, seated, and Thomas Senkel
A large conventional prop for forward thrust
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A large conventional prop for forward thrust
eMagic's Michael Kügelgen, left, and Thomas Senkel
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eMagic's Michael Kügelgen, left, and Thomas Senkel
The eMagic One has flown many times in CTOL configuration, and via remote control in hover mode
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The eMagic One has flown many times in CTOL configuration, and via remote control in hover mode
Tandem wing configuration develops a ton of lift, and Senkel says the airframe is nearly impossible to stall
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Tandem wing configuration develops a ton of lift, and Senkel says the airframe is nearly impossible to stall
The eMagic One claims a 60-minute range at a 90 mph cruise speed
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The eMagic One claims a 60-minute range at a 90 mph cruise speed
Senkel's custom-designed propulsion units weigh just 5kg including motors, props and controllers, and each develops 100 kg of thrust at 13 kW of power
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Senkel's custom-designed propulsion units weigh just 5kg including motors, props and controllers, and each develops 100 kg of thrust at 13 kW of power
Conventional takeoff and landing will conserve a lot of energy where it's possible
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Conventional takeoff and landing will conserve a lot of energy where it's possible
The e-volo accomplished the world's first manned flight of an electric multicopter in 2011
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The e-volo accomplished the world's first manned flight of an electric multicopter in 2011
View gallery - 11 images

When the emerging history of electric VTOL aircraft is written, Thomas Senkel will undoubtedly be one of the first names that comes up. You might recognize him better sitting in a chair on top of a levitating yoga ball in the Wright Brothers moment of the eVTOL world; back in 2011 he became the first person ever to take flight on an electric manned multicopter.

The team that built that flying yoga ball called themselves e-Volo at the time, but soon changed their name to Volocopter and were one of the earliest companies to strike out after the goal of building an electric air taxi. Senkel parted ways with Volocopter in 2016, unhappy with the comically short range the company's Volocity aircraft would offer. "I've always been unhappy with pure multicopters," he tells us, "because they are so inefficient. There must be a better way: combining an efficient aircraft with VTOL props leads to five times more range and endurance."

If he had stuck around a few more years, he might've had his chance to work on something closer to what he was thinking; earlier this year, Volocopter announced a longer-range lift & cruise winged aircraft called the VoloConnect. But Senkel was long gone, and after a brief diversion into flying electric para-scooters, he teamed up with engineer, entrepreneur and pilot Michael Kügelgen in 2018 to create a more efficient, transition-capable winged eVTOL from a blank sheet.

The e-volo accomplished the world's first manned flight of an electric multicopter in 2011
The e-volo accomplished the world's first manned flight of an electric multicopter in 2011

A veteran of several manned and unmanned airframe designs, Kügelgen had also developed and built some of the automatic production line equipment SpaceX uses to make its rocket parts, as well as having built the world's largets steam autoclave, a 12-meter (39-foot) tall monster weighing 65 tons empty.

Kügelgen came up with a concept and design for a tandem-wing lift & cruise aircraft. The large rear wing and thinner front wing would be joined at the outer tips by rails, each holding four large lift props for VTOL operation. A regular propeller at the front would provide forward thrust, either taking over as the aircraft moved from VTOL into cruise mode, or allowing conventional takeoff and landing where runways were available. Slightly flexible landing gear would offer some shock absorption on landing.

eMagic's Michael Kügelgen, left, and Thomas Senkel
eMagic's Michael Kügelgen, left, and Thomas Senkel

While Kügelgen got to work on the airframe, Senkel got to work on the electric drivetrain, starting from first principles to design his own motors, using a Halbach array magnet configuration. Adding the lightest controllers on the market and a huge set of specially designed, thin-bladed, 2.25-meter diameter props, he tells us each propulsion system weighs in at just 5 kg (11 lb) including motor, controller and prop. At 13 kW of power, each creates 100 kg of thrust.

"The parallel development and independent testing of aircraft and copter was a huge advantage," Senkel tells us, "which probably saved us many expensive carbon fiber parts." It also gave him the chance to bust out a bicycle helmet and get crazy again. In true Senkel style, he tested the propulsion system on a bare-bones steel frame earlier this year, strapping himself to a seat and flying a few gentle maneuvers at heights that make it clear that the 10 years since that first yoga ball flight have done little to tarnish his cojones.

eMagic Copter 2021

At the same time, Kügelgen was regularly flying the prototype of the main airframe as a fixed-wing, and Senkel's had a crack at that too. "The tandem wing configuration gives excellent flight characteristics," says Senkel. "It's impossible to stall it. It softly goes into a higher sink rate when the stick is pulled, but it remains controllable all the time. This behavior is very useful for transition between flight modes."

Now, the aircraft and the lift system have been put together, and Senkel says it's been flown as a fixed-wing with everything attached, and it's also been flown by remote control in VTOL mode. Thanks to what Senkel describes as a "nasty German winter," it'll be spring 2022 before they get a chance to flight-test the transitions between VTOL and cruise modes. "I am confident," says Senkel, "that everything will work fine. And then, we will have public demo flights to show our capabilities."

They've called their hitherto self-funded operation "eMagic Aircraft," and this prototype the eMagic One. They came out of stealth mode yesterday, unveiling the prototype for the public at the European Rotors Fair in Cologne. It's got an empty weight of just 250 kg (562 lb), a max takeoff weight of 420 kg (882 lb), and it'll cruise for a full hour at 144 km/h (90 mph) on a charge of its dual battery packs. Five times the range, Senkel claims, than a pure multicopter design can manage on the same energy.

Flight testing the eMagic prototype in CTOL mode
Flight testing the eMagic prototype in CTOL mode

This, however, is just a proof of concept. And while it might look like a competitive design to run as a buy 'n' fly personal aircraft (especially since it disassembles to fit in a trailer), the eMagic team has loftier ambitions. "The next steps," says Senkel, "will be to develop a serial production aircraft with all the lessons learned from this prototype. It will be a 3-seater, for a pilot and two passengers. That's probably the right size for use as an air taxi. We've financed the prototype out of our own pockets. But for the next steps, we will definitely need an investment round."

A piloted air taxi that can only take two passengers looks like a pretty niche vehicle at this early stage, although it's also fair to say that most regular taxi rides only take one passenger on board. It'll be interesting to see how the idea strikes investors; getting successful prototypes in the air is no mean feat, but the challenge and expense thus far pales in comparison with the task of getting a commercial eVTOL air taxi designed, built, certified and into production. As Lilium, or indeed Volocopter will attest, that's a monumental undertaking indeed.

"You know," says Senkel, "there are a lot of eVTOL projects out there. But we didn't want to show just computer animations. We wanted to have a functional prototype when we went public." That they have, and you can see it in detail in the video below. We wish Senkel and the eMagic team the best of luck bringing in the investment to take this design to the next level.

eMagic One - An eVTOL that really works

Source: eMagic Aircraft

View gallery - 11 images
13 comments
13 comments
Towerman
On the other hand i am more than happy with pure multicopters, they have come a long way, fuel cell technology and better batteries will make the inefficiencies a non factor.

This tandem wing however once again looks like an overly cluttered, inefficient plane with VTOL props.
riczero-b
Range is inherently a problem with pure multicopters, and the ability to perform conventional LTO's is valuable. This would probably sell without the lift props, it sounds pleasant to fly.
Steven Clarkson
Range is not a problem Volo, Ehang, Joby can already do hops around the city, and further out. Perfect for a market that has been long overdue needing to be filled.

Moreover starting out this is the niche that is going to get the most exposure. Long range Evtol's will follow later for a different niche. By then we will have perfected Fuel Cells, Super Caps and Batteries, and who knows what other energy systems lies down the road with at least 5 breakthroughs per month we have 100s that is up for refinement at this very moment.

Steven Clarkson
Conventional LTO's is not a selling point for EVTOL's, that is exactly why Evtols have been invented to get away from conventional LTO's conventional LTO you can only do so if you are a commercial pilot intending to land only on a few designated runways. For that we have airplanes already.
MrB
Yawn. Another VTOL idea that will never take off (pun intended). This one doesn't even have 2 seats, how is it a taxi?! I know it's good to celebrate people's achievements, and every attempt is another idea in the mix, etc, etc... but please stop. 99% of these vehicles are unlikely to EVER hold a paying passenger within a company that's achieved (VERY expensive) certification for it's design, and until I can get in one and travel more than 10 miles down the road, in safety, and do this whenever I want to, I'd rather not hear about any more of these personally. It's an awe inspiring idea that's just getting overplayed.

Bah humbug, etc...
Towerman
@mr.b
If you are bored by it don't read it, furthermore don't comment either because actual flying craft proves otherwise.

There are 3 very succesful EVTOL'S so far and 1 operating commercially proving your short sightedness wrong.

Though this design is not my favorite these craft is at the beggining stages of revolutionizing short distance air travel !

Many potential others are in the works as well.

And there is abolutely nothing that will stop the EVTOL revolution from happening on an immense global commercial scale.
Aermaco
Bah MrB its the good concept not your taxi yet, and Ric0-b & Steve are correct we cant forget the huge value of wings in LTO in;
1. the ability to land dead stick dead battery to reach a shoreline as VTOL is NG without wings,,, even between trees you can walk away.
2. Wings add range with the safety to only the multicopter formats that hold danger in cities.
Username
Nothing wrong with pursuing the air taxi market but they should commercialise this thing to private individuals. With and without the vertical props. Many small planes/ ultralights and gliders only seat one. It seems a shame to ignore this market.
Towerman
No not so wings on a high load hi drag EVTOL that will fly at low speeds will simply be a little short of useless in case of a motor failure. Your glide ratio will be worse than a microlight.

Pure multicopters will be superior with a smaller footprint lighter frame,redundant motors.

Remember this which so many people always overlook: electric motors are superior these are not ICE engibes, to have redundant electric motors upon an electric motor EVTOL creates superior redundency.

In the very rare occurance that a motor dies you simply keep on flying to a safe landing spot.

Even some quads with 4 motors are flyable with only 3 !
vince
I'd love to invest $10,000.
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