German Physicist Flies First Manned Electric Multicopter

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.