Aircraft

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

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
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The VC200 is the latest in e-volo's development of an electric multicopter
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The VC200 is the latest in e-volo's development of an electric multicopter
The VC200 is an electric copter with 18 rotors and numerous redesigns of traditional systems
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The VC200 is an electric copter with 18 rotors and numerous redesigns of traditional systems
A close-up of one of the VC200's rotors
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A close-up of one of the VC200's rotors
The 18-rotor electric Volocopter has taken to the air for the first time
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The 18-rotor electric Volocopter has taken to the air for the first time
E-volo is a company creating electric copters similar to quadcopters
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E-volo is a company creating electric copters similar to quadcopters
The e-volo team with the Volocopter inside the dm-arena in Germany
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The e-volo team with the Volocopter inside the dm-arena in Germany
The Volocopter during its maiden flight in the dm-arena in Germany
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The Volocopter during its maiden flight in the dm-arena in Germany
The Volocopter during its maiden flight in the dm-arena in Germany
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The Volocopter during its maiden flight in the dm-arena in Germany
The e-volo team prepares for the Volocopter's test flight.
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The e-volo team prepares for the Volocopter's test flight.
The Volocopter during its maiden flight in the dm-arena in Germany
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The Volocopter during its maiden flight in the dm-arena in Germany
The VC200 Volocopter can seat two
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The VC200 Volocopter can seat two
The VC200 Volocopter is easy to learn to fly, according to the company
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The VC200 Volocopter is easy to learn to fly, according to the company
The VC200 is the latest in e-volo's development of an electric multicopter
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The VC200 is the latest in e-volo's development of an electric multicopter
The VC200 Volocopter is an electric copter with 18 rotors and numerous safety systems
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The VC200 Volocopter is an electric copter with 18 rotors and numerous safety systems
The VC200 is the latest in e-volo's development of an electric multicopter
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The VC200 is the latest in e-volo's development of an electric multicopter
The team prepares the Volocopter before one of its first test flights
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The team prepares the Volocopter before one of its first test flights
The e-volo team checks the Volocopter in preparation for its first flights
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The e-volo team checks the Volocopter in preparation for its first flights
The e-volo team checks the Volocopter in preparation for its first flights
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The e-volo team checks the Volocopter in preparation for its first flights
The e-volo team during the Volocopter's maiden flight in the dm-arena
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The e-volo team during the Volocopter's maiden flight in the dm-arena
The Volocopter's maiden flight in the dm-arena
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The Volocopter's maiden flight in the dm-arena

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

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 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

Volocopter VC200 First Flight

21 comments
Jabboson
Shut up and take my money!
Grunchy
Well done! This looks like a lot of fun.
DLK811
The question is, can it do an auto-rotation? .... apparently not
Jakob Carstens
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.
Mzungu_Mkubwa
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?)
BigGoofyGuy
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.
Grunt
Excellent! Would a set of stub wings off-load the multiple props in forward flight, thereby extending the range or duration perhaps?
piolenc
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.
Jakob Carstens
There is not just one battery, piolenc, there are several to create redundancy.
Germano Pecoraro
Before giving an opinion I would like to read a table on performance, weights, actual costs, etc.