German technology start-up e-volo GmbH has made the first outdoor test flight of its Volocopter VC200 electric helicopter.
Last week’s flight was tethered, and piloted from the ground, with 120 kg of ballast (simulating a pilot) on the helicopter—which is similar in size to a Robinson R22. The VC200 uses 18 small rotors, powered by electric motors fed from a lithium battery pack. Flight control is through thrust adjustments, rather than blade pitch adjustment.
e-volo says the Volocopter uses fly-by-wire controls and is piloted with a single control stick, rather than the cyclic, collective and pedals combination of conventional helicopters. ‘Thus its handling is extremely easy by contrast with any other aircraft,’ the company says.
To prove the point, the company’s chief executive Alex Zosel, rather than a test pilot, remotely flew the Volocopter on its test flight— despite having no previous experience on type. The test flight demonstrated the Volocopter’s automatic altitude control, position hold, and landing systems. These allow the aircraft to maintain a set altitude, hover without pilot input and automatically descend and land with a downward push on a control column switch.
The aircraft is also equipped with a ballistic parachute. The prototype’s flight duration is 20 minutes, with the ambition to increase this to one hour. The company says they are developing models using serial hybrid technology, using a combustion engine to generate electric power. These will be able to fly for several hours.
Flight Safety Australia first reported on the Volocopter last year in Electric dreams.