Could this electrically-powered and unconventional-looking "multicopter" replace the car as the future of personal transportation? Hovering over a field, the sixteen-propeller machine took off for its first manned flight in Germany earlier this week, staying in the air for about a minute and a half before touching down. Here’s the video:
According to the company E-volo, the multicopter is an ultra-light, “vertically starting, human carrying transportation device."
Though it looks like bunch of flying blender blades and an exercise ball, the e-volo is actually more low-maintenance than a helicopter, and fares purportedly better in situations of emergency eject, with no blades above to block a potential parachute deployment:
The e-volo’s sixteen propellers allow it to take off and land similar to a helicopter. Its massive plus points compared to a helicopter are the simplicity of its engineered construction without complicated mechanics and its redundant engines. Should anything go wrong, e-volo can still safely land even if up to four of its sixteen motors should fail.
The company describes the multicopter’s electrical system as “economically cost-efficient,” using the equivalent of 6 euros of electricity stored in lithium batteries for a hypothetical one-hour flight. But this prototype’s current flight time lasts only ten to thirty minutes -- which is not great, but the company hopes that future developments in more long-lived batteries or hybrid systems will help overcome this limiting factor.
More over at E-volo.