Aircraft

Flying electric scooter aces 46-minute maiden test flight

Thomas Senkel flies Skyrider One on its maiden test flight at La Palma in the Canary Islands
Thomas Senkel flies Skyrider One on its maiden test flight at La Palma in the Canary Islands
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Thomas Senkel is a picture of relief after safely landing his Skyrider One prototype
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Thomas Senkel is a picture of relief after safely landing his Skyrider One prototype
Thomas Senkel comes in for a beach landing on the Skyrider One flying electric scooter
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Thomas Senkel comes in for a beach landing on the Skyrider One flying electric scooter
Thomas Senkel's Skyrider One electric flying scooter
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Thomas Senkel's Skyrider One electric flying scooter
Thomas Senkel takes flight aboard the Skyrider One electric flying scooter
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Thomas Senkel takes flight aboard the Skyrider One electric flying scooter
Simple, practical multi-mode transport: the Skyrider One electric flying scooter
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Simple, practical multi-mode transport: the Skyrider One electric flying scooter
Once the chute is above the rider, the propeller motor can be switched on and the bike is ready to lift off
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Once the chute is above the rider, the propeller motor can be switched on and the bike is ready to lift off
Skyrider One takeoff process: first the riderputs the paraglider canopy out on the ground, then he accelerates using the hub motor to fill the chute and lift it up
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Skyrider One takeoff process: first the riderputs the paraglider canopy out on the ground, then he accelerates using the hub motor to fill the chute and lift it up
Thomas Senkel lays out the paraglider canopy as he prepares to fly Skyrider One
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Thomas Senkel lays out the paraglider canopy as he prepares to fly Skyrider One
Senkel says the bulky propeller and metal cage will be replaced with folding props and no guard cage on the next prototype, to make it less cumbersome on the road.
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Senkel says the bulky propeller and metal cage will be replaced with folding props and no guard cage on the next prototype, to make it less cumbersome on the road.
Skyrider One: the paraglider canopy currently lives in a separate bag. Senkel says pretty much any tandem paraglider rig will do.
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Skyrider One: the paraglider canopy currently lives in a separate bag. Senkel says pretty much any tandem paraglider rig will do.
Thomas Senkel flies Skyrider One on its maiden test at La Palma in the Canary Islands
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Thomas Senkel flies Skyrider One on its maiden test at La Palma in the Canary Islands
Thomas Senkel flies Skyrider One on its maiden test flight at La Palma in the Canary Islands
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Thomas Senkel flies Skyrider One on its maiden test flight at La Palma in the Canary Islands
Thomas Senkel flies Skyrider One on its maiden test at La Palma in the Canary Islands
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Thomas Senkel flies Skyrider One on its maiden test at La Palma in the Canary Islands

The German physicist behind the Evolo manned multicopter and the Volocopter 2-seater has just taken his first flight aboard another remarkable aircraft: a flying electric scooter. Thomas Senkel flew his Skyrider One prototype for some 46 minutes in the idyllic surroundings of the Canary Islands, marking what he believes is the first electric, road-registerable two-wheeler to take to the sky.

If flying car proponent Dezso Molnar is on the money, we should be thinking less about flying cars, and more about roadable aircraft. Simple, single-seat designs that can straddle the gap between the road and the sky to achieve multi-mode transport in the most efficient way possible.

On that axis, Thomas Senkel's Skyrider One scores very highly as a practical, simple and elegant design. It's a simple two-wheel electric scooter, with a 6-kW (8-hp) hub motor to drive the rear wheel, and a 13-kW (17-hp) motor driving a large rear-mounted propeller. A regular tandem paraglider canopy can be unfurled when you want to fly, and then it's a matter of gaining enough speed in scooter mode to fill up the 'chute, lifting off, then engaging the propeller drive to give you power in the air.

Flying prototype aircraft – especially hybrid designs like this one – must be a nerve-wracking experience. Indeed, as Senkel told us, "I was very nervous in the beginning and at the landing. I have some experience with powered paragliders," said Senkel, "but the behavior of the Skyrider One was unknown. After landing, I was relieved that everything went really fine. The next flight would be a lot easier."

Senkel sees simple designs like the Skyrider One as the quickest and easiest way to achieve flying car-like capabilities.

"You can drive to your airstrip, fly to somewhere, and drive home after landing," he says. "With all-electric drive, it's quiet and doesn't make any pollution. It can be used in areas where combustion engines are not allowed. And two wheels are enough, no need for more. Take off and landing is easy with some help from your feet."

Skyrider One can take off on any flat terrain or airstrip. The rider needs to face into a slight headwind; crosswinds aren't suitable. Once in the air, it's possible to switch the motor off altogether and ride thermals to keep yourself aloft for potentially hours at a time without draining the battery.

The prototype has just two small 3 kWh lithium polymer batteries, giving it a total range up to 120 km (75 mi) on the road with a maximum speed around 60 km/h (37 mph) or 30 minutes of powered flight if you run the propeller constantly.

Senkel believes it's the world's first flying electric two-wheeler: "All other powered paragliders I know come with three or four wheels and a combustion engine," he tells us. It's also extremely light, weighing in at just 108 kg (238 lb).

Senkel is now looking for production and marketing partners to take Skyrider One to the market. The production version will use a folding prop with no surrounding cage in order to make it easier to ride on the road, and Senkel's already thinking about what other improvements can be made between now and then.

Even though we're just at the dawn of the electric aviation age, Thomas Senkel has already built himself a pretty astounding CV. He's on the bleeding edge of the manned multirotor movement with the Evolo and Volocopter projects, and now with this small, practical electric flying scooter he's broken new ground in the multi-mode transport segment. Not to mention his work on the Hendo hoverboard and anti-gravity devices. We're officially putting him on our list of inventors to watch out for!

Senkel's maiden flight on the Skyrider One can be seen below.

More information: Skyrider One

Skyrider One - Very First Flight of the Electric Scooter & Paraglider

18 comments
Deres
Very nice innovation ! Being able to use the vehicle also on road will be very practicle. The scooter should also be able to transport the wing. Maybe a conventional fuel scooter would be a good idea to increase range and to recharge the battery for the powered fly on site.
christopher
"doesn't make any pollution" - LOL - it's amazing how short-sighted otherwise intelligent people can become. Less than 5% of world energy comes from renewables, so there's a 95%+ chance his joy-ride spewed twice as much pollution into the atmosphere as a non-electric engine would have done (accounting for transmission and generation losses). The "+" is because I'd wager he recharged where he flew (La Palma - Torre del Time), and they have 4 power stations there, one coal and oil powered, and 3 gas turbine.
swaan
christopher - I understand what you mean but calling others names is not going to help the fact that pure electric propulsion has the highest end to end efficiency unless you really use an internal combustion engine to generate that power. Versatility to use coal if you must but also solar photovoltiacs , for example. ICE's are really heat engines that almost as a byproduct get you moving.
Mihai Pruna
I hope the production version will have something between the pilot and propeller :)
wle
there isn;t going to be any 'thermal riding' with the vehicle weighing 240 lbs, and the non-wing shape of the kite part... wle
Robert Bissett
Some comments indicate a misunderstanding. This a very cool idea, but never intended to be "practical". More like a sport or hobby. A quick search shows that powered paragliders are very limited. Are there times and conditions when I cannot fly? Yes, the fact that you are flying a very light airplane means that you are limited to light wind conditions up to 10 mph and morning and late afternoon flying. The mid-day skys are generally too rough to enjoy this type of flying. The exception to this is beach flying where you can fly all day long as the air is not disturbed by the ocean as much as it is by land.
Bob Flint
So it works great as long as you have a hill or small mountain on your route to where you are going. Cliff diving is not something you would want to do on a regular basis, or as part of an integrated transportation system.
chidrbmt
Second your opinion,Swaan. There's several advantages of electric over ICE. 90% vs. 25% efficient,much quieter,reliability,easy starting and cleaner energy/less pollution,depending on the source. Here in Mt. our electric is produced by hydropower. Only 5% renewable is the fault of U.S. short sightedness and power/control of the oil/gas/utilities monopoly. That said,this is one cool ride & fly.
Michael Crumpton
This could be a very useful vehicle in areas where roads are intermittent or bad, for example for a doctor visiting remote villages in Africa. Although the destination would have to have electricity so you can get home.
Jonathan Colvin
Launching a PPG with a two wheeled scooter is already sketchy as heck. Doing it without a cage around the prop sounds like a recipe for mangled lines.
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