Last October, near Karlsruhe, Germany, Thomas Senkel completed the first manned flight of an electric multicopter, flying it 10 feet off the ground for 90 seconds. Senkel, a physicist and paraglider pilot who helped found the company E-volo to build the craft, invented it after seeing a YouTube video of a German hobbyist's remote-controlled hexacopter in action.
Multicopters are more stable and easier to control than helicopters. They're also potentially safer: The craft can land even after four of its 16 rotors, each of which has its own battery-powered motor, have failed. Multicopters could also be fitted with a parachute (which would be caught in the overhead rotor on a helicopter). E-volo says it will build a two-seat multicopter by the spring and begin selling the craft for recreational purposes next year.
I have been wanting to see something like this for a while.
If only I could have one of these to fly around :D
Interesting and promising, but there are a few key issues.
1) Profile. To be useful to the masses the design would need to increase area to increase lift - how many places would be left to land the thing? Could potentially fix with a frame that could be "folded up" to a standard parking spot size - thus requiring a landing/liftoff pad rather than full area parking.
2) Lift. Two passangers plus gear means 600lbs+ lift. How will that scale with current lift?
3) Durability. This would need some kind of outer duct to protect props from brushes with trees, rising into power lines, or the other stupid things people would be prone to do.
4) Range. You would need signifigantly more charge, since for practical use you would need to clear tree and the power grid (80' lift) and sufficient duration to get from point A to B and back again (at least 40 miles distance per charge while compensating for precipitation, wind varience, temperature, etc).
If they can overcome those hurdles, it does answer one of the primary factors that has stopped air travel for the masses - catastropic failure.
shiznit! this will be available to the public masses without any licensing/training/oversight..
i smell a lawsuit, several lawsuits soon when the first kid takes it to fly over an interstate...and like the article says 4 rotors fail...lets land on a busy interstate
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I fly rc aircraft and sometimes those propellers fly apart.
@oakspar, I don't think anyone thinks this is a commuter solution. It's a recreational vehicle. Also, area is not what must be scaled to increase lift. It's HP at the rotors and the rotor cross-section that must change and RPM that must go up.
@demej, excellent point. Carbon fiber props will help but I wouldn't want any part of my body in the plane of rotation myself. I'd rather be under it and I think a parachute could still be practical with this arangement.
I myself think that this is an amazing invention, because thing of the new flying technology that can be created from this. I thinks its a good step in the right direction, aside from the failing problems, which can all be fixed to adapt the machines better! :)
-Live life to the fullest, or don't live at all-
It does not have to be a commuter solution, but if it does not meet the basic requirements of a commute, it will not make it as a rec-vehicle.
Think of antique cars - purely recreational, but people still like to take them to buy groceries and be seen on Sundays.
If you can only play with this in a large open field at low altitude, then it is a toy, and too exspensive of a toy for that level of "fun."
Also, while HP and RPM can increase lift, so does area. There are limits to HP and RPM as well as area. Bigger props move more air and cause more lift at lower RPM. As others have mentioned - props sometimes fail catastropically at very high RPMs.
I see bad things happening in the future with this. I recall not long ago reading about a guy in Australia who built a hovercraft from a kit. With this family present, he started it up and was promptly decapitated. The multicopter looks like a human sized food processor in the making.
Science always asks "can we," but doesn't seem to ask "should we."