One-man flying space hopper could become the 'air car' of the future
- 80kg machine can take off vertically like a jump jet
- Powered by Lithium Ion batteries
- Inventor claims the 16-rotor machine will make helicopters 'obsolete
- Could be used for 'air sports' - or even as a flying car
Emma Reynolds 4th November 2011
It might look like as space hopper surrounded by model helicopters, but the 16-rotor E-Volo is an entirely new kind of helicopter - which can hover motionless in the air without input from the pilot. Its bold engineer, Thomas Senkel, took the machine on its first manned flight this week - lasting 1 minute 30 seconds.
It's not the first electric helicopter flight - but this is a new kind of machine, steered simply by joystick, with the pilot sitting above the rotors. Senkel says it could revolutionise transport.
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Thomas Senkel, who built the machine with two friends, pilot the aircraft on its maiden 1min 30sec journey
Mr Senkel's eco-friendly contraption has 16 rotors, with each flight lasting about 20 minutes before the batteries need a recharge
The three inventors claim their flying machine could be used for inspecting pipelines, as an air ambulance or for taking aerial photographs - as well as just for fun.
Once they have solved the problem of how to keep it in the air for longer - and support more people - Senkel hopes it might replace helicopters for good.
It's far easier to fly than ordinary helicopters - it's steered by rotor speed, which is computer-controlled, so the pilot just needs to use a joystick as if playing a videogame, rather than controlling multiple complex contorols at once.
Senkel describes the easy-to-use machine as 'good-natured' and potentially capable of replacing the helicopter in many situations.
Thomas Senkel (centre) with the two friends who helped him develop the 'multicopter'
A one-hour flight would cost around six euros in electricity. The machine has few parts, which could wear out, meaning the aircraft needs little maintenance. E-volo say their aircraft is special because of the 'simplicity of its engineered construction without complicated mechanics, and redundant engines.'
In an emergency, it can land even if four of its 16 rotors fail. And since the propellers sit below the pilot, a safety parachute can also be deployed. The controls could be integrated with GPS software, the three friends claim, and the machine could even automatically avoid obstacles and direct itself to pre-determined locations. E-Volo have already completed several successful 'drone' flights with the vehicle, controlled remotely from the ground.