Drones

First-ever manned flight of an electric multicopter takes place in Germany

First-ever manned flight of an...
German aircraft company e-volo has accomplished what it claims is the world's first manned flight of an electric multicopter
German aircraft company e-volo has accomplished what it claims is the world's first manned flight of an electric multicopter
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A rendering of a commercial version of the multicopter
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A rendering of a commercial version of the multicopter
German aircraft company e-volo has accomplished what it claims is the world's first manned flight of an electric multicopter
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German aircraft company e-volo has accomplished what it claims is the world's first manned flight of an electric multicopter
German aircraft company e-volo has accomplished what it claims is the world's first manned flight of an electric multicopter
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German aircraft company e-volo has accomplished what it claims is the world's first manned flight of an electric multicopter
German aircraft company e-volo has accomplished what it claims is the world's first manned flight of an electric multicopter
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German aircraft company e-volo has accomplished what it claims is the world's first manned flight of an electric multicopter
The e-volo team, Stephen Wolf (left), Thomas Senkel and Alexander Zosel
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The e-volo team, Stephen Wolf (left), Thomas Senkel and Alexander Zosel
German aircraft company e-volo has accomplished what it claims is the world's first manned flight of an electric multicopter
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German aircraft company e-volo has accomplished what it claims is the world's first manned flight of an electric multicopter

By now, most readers are probably pretty familiar with quadracopters - small hovering unmanned electric aircraft, which get their lift from a set of four propellers. Well, make the whole thing larger, boost the number of propellers (and accompanying motors) to 16, and you get what German aircraft developer e-volo calls a multicopter. While the company has previously demonstrated unmanned drones, on October 21st it accomplished what it claims is a world first - a manned flight.

The flight took place at an airstrip in southwest Germany, and lasted one and a half minutes. Thomas Senkel, a physicist and designer/builder of the multicopter, piloted the aircraft from a center-mounted seat, using a handheld wireless control unit. The flight consisted mainly of maneuvering the multicopter around within a fairly small area - no sense in getting cocky.

"The flight characteristics are good natured," Senkel said afterward. "Without any steering input it would just hover there on the spot."

German aircraft company e-volo has accomplished what it claims is the world's first manned flight of an electric multicopter
German aircraft company e-volo has accomplished what it claims is the world's first manned flight of an electric multicopter

According to e-volo, its multicopter is simpler in construction and mechanics than a helicopter, and safer - it can reportedly land even with up to four of its motors failed, and its propellers experience much less wear. Onboard computers running custom firmware control the rotational speed of the propellers, dictating the attitude (horizontal orientation to the ground), altitude and direction of travel of the aircraft.

Potential flight times range from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on payload and battery capacity.

The e-volo team are also working on a commercial version of the manned multicopter, which they hope will be ready for the marketplace "at an affordable price" within the next few years. They state that a gas/electric hybrid model is a possibility, to increase flight time to at least an hour.

The first manned electric multicopter flight can be seen in the video below.

The world's first manned electric helicopter flight was achieved earlier this year. Technically, at least by current definitions, there's no such thing as a multicopter, but we expect it will become part of the language eventually.

Interestingly, e-volo's Stephan Wolf went to great pains to point out that the company's new flight machine was not a helicopter. "It uses a completely different technology compared to standard helicopter technology, which we now consider obsolete", he said.

World's first manned flight with an electric multicopter

31 comments
socalboomer
LOVE the exercise ball landing gear! That\'s awesome - find the simplest solution and run with it! That thing is great - SO want!
Randolph Directo
Looks like one of those murderous contraptions from \"Saw.\"
Harpal Sahota
That seems like a fun way to enjoy a lazy sunday afternoon...as long as one does not go to heavy on the roast!
Mr Stiffy
I think this is brilliant - but I can\'t help thinking that taking a few feet of metal pole up the arse - as a way to die in a hard landing - would make that my first choice in aerial transport.
MD
Congrats with the great new toy... Murderous maybe (Im sure that they will put the rotor axis up \'out-of-the-way\' for a retail version), but, who ever said that RC flying has no relevance to the real world... This is part of the future... Blurring of the lines between Radio control and piloted.. Also a blurring of Autopilot and Manual control..... With stability controlled at all times by the computer. (much better than the dumb ass at the stick... Imaging using similar as a skydiving launch vehicle, fly it up, jump out, and have it return to base... great fun.... (just have to avoid the sharp blades in this model) (Note all mechanicals and electricals here appear to be exactly the same as used in Electric RC planes....outrunner brushless motors, composite props, SS gyros etc.)
yrag
Funny, only a few days ago I was wondering what would happen is someone created a manned quadracopters and now I see the manned multicopter! It currently looks like those wacky experimental flying machine from photos at the first years of the 20th century - but hey - it flew! Congrats Mr. Senkel and team e-volo!
Beau Hughes
Best not fall out of the seat in this one...
Facebook User
Why not carry the rider under the propellers and carriage? The arms could be shorter, and the rider would not be near the blades. It should improve wind drag figures when the craft is moving forward.
Chanoch Prati
That thing looks like it\'s a ground effect machine - I suspect it hasn\'t solved the issue of what happens when the ground stops offering it resistance via \'reflected\' air - that probably means that it wouldn\'t work with the passenger suspended. And with those figures, I guess we\'re all still waiting for 1000x lectric storage improvements (Watts per kg, cubic inch and $) - could take some time. A lot of fun though.
Stephane Arsonneau
Looks like an early 1958 Curtiss Wright VZ-7 flying platform, from which it shares the same design flaws, that is being unable to autorotate in case of TOTAL power failure (all propellers are fix pitch). Motor redundancy does not cover all failure scenarios (eg: lightning strike), and is not necessarily a practical solution. As it stands, this concept cannot be certified as per FAR part 27. Helicopter is not dead yet