Visions of the future have often imagined flying cars in the most literal sense: the body of a car with a flying mechanism attached. But perhaps the personal vehicles of tomorrow will look a little less like a car and a little more like an 18-rotor, fiber composite, electric multicopter. In short, a Volocopter.
E-volo’s Managing Director, Alexander Zosel, was the first to fly the e-volo Volocopter for its March 30 maiden manned flight. This flight marked the beginning of the Volocopter’s intensive test flight program, which entails increasing altitudes and speeds to test the safety and maneuverability of the aerial vehicle.
After landing, Zosel described the experience of flying the Volocopter as “awesome,” “tremendous,” “sublime,” and “simply unbelievable.” With that kind of testimony, it’s hard not to be at least a
What makes the Volocopter so unbelievable, you might ask? The culmination of many believable technologies: electric propulsion, vertical take-off and landing, redundant safety features, zero emissions, interchangeable batteries, and near-autonomous flight capabilities. While these are features many of us are familiar with, having them all work in tandem to create a personal flying vehicle is definitely something of a sci-fi fantasy.
Many of these features were facilitated by Intel’s Ascending Technologies, which provided technology assistance to the e-volo team. But perhaps the most amazing is the Volocopter’s autonomous capabilities. Before the manned flight by Zosel, the Volocopter was put through its paces in over 100 unmanned, remote control test flights.
Even when the Volocopter is manned, the vehicle requires very little input from the pilot. The copter is easily operated with one hand on a joystick, and lands with the touch of a button.
According to a press release, “Even before the market introduction of the Volocopter, e-volo has proven impressively that these aircraft can already fly almost autonomously today.” E-volo acknowledges that although the Volocopter is a near-autonomous vehicle, both test flight and widespread use of such features depends on updated regulations.
The company hopes the Volocopter will be certified and produced in large enough quantities to establish air taxi service within the next two years. Initially, these services will offer pre-planned routes akin to bus lines. E-volo hopes to make their vehicles “increasingly autonomous” to help shift at least part of public transport to the skies.
E-volo is just one of a handful of companies racing to become the first commercial personal aerial vehicle; companies like Ehang and Terrafugia also have test models in the works. If you’re curious about the autonomous cars of the future, grab a copy of the Drone360 May/June issue, which hits newsstands on May 3.
Featured image: e-volo
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