Imagine, if you will, a quadcopter drone, that’s able to take off and land vertically, hover and fly autonomously in any direction. Now, imagine that this drone has two seats, 18 rotors and a joystick, that’s ready to carry you and one other person anywhere that you want to go. While you may think that sounds unrealistic, it describes a product currently being developed by the German company e-Volo, the Volocopter. The prototype flew for the first time in 2013, and the team is now working toward the first manned flight sometime in the next few months.
While it technically isn’t a flying car, since you can’t drive it on the road, the Volocopter has the potential to bring together numerous features expected in a flying car from the future: it’s stable, simple to fly, has 18 rotors that provide a lot of redundancy against system failures, doesn’t require a runway and is powered by batteries. In preparation for the first manned flight, the e-Volo team is working on an upgrade for the entire system. The structure and architecture are more-or-less the same as they were in 2013, but the inner workings have been thoroughly upgraded. The company has been assembling a new electronic flight-control system, in addition to a new battery system. According to e-Volo CEO Alexander Zosel, the cockpit has a lot of new features; the electronics are completely new, and the propellers now have more power.
The company has been working with the German government to revise current aviation rules, which don’t yet have a category for a light sport multicopter, a process which is going forward hand-in-hand with the certification process. The initial two-seat design uses battery packs, with a flight-time duration of just 20 to 30 minutes. According to Zosel, it will be certified by flying, and he intends to sell the copters for about $340,000. He’s also working to develop a hybrid power system that would extend flight time to over an hour. However, that’s just the beginning, as Zosel aims to change the face of mobility, whether for fun or getting work done. Zosel has envisioned a larger version for commercial use, that could carry four to six people. While the aviation rules will have to change to allow that, Zosel believes that will happen over the next decade or so.
Zosel has yet to share new photos of the copter, although promises that e-Volo will have cameras everywhere during the first flight. Unlike the first remotely-piloted flight, which took place inside a hangar, the aircraft will be flying outside this time. By next summer, Zosel hopes to bring the aircraft to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the biggest air show in the world.