Karlsruhe, Germany – November 17th, 2013
Great news in the world of MultiRotors! e-volo just accomplished a successful series of test flights with their new full sized two seat MultiRotor, the VC200 also known as the Volocopter. Only 2 years after their first manned MultiRotor flight with the VC1 (see video below) they have completed a more refined prototype which includes a fully covered structure and a partially enclosed two person cockpit. They expect to prepare it for production in the coming years.
Indoor testing included multiple flights totaling 20 minutes of air time at altitudes of up to 22 meters. The e-volo team claims that some battery capacity did remain after the tests. Reading through their full blog post about the flight it seems that they were all quite pleased with these initial results. They were particularly surprised by the lack of visible vibrations from the on-board HD footage that was captured. They end their release with this statement: “Nearly all problems of normal helicopters are thereby solved.”
While I am thrilled to make this news posting, I would say that while they may think they’ve solved all the problems of normal helicopters, they’re about to encounter a whole new set of problems that arise when you try to throw 2 humans in a full sized MultiRotor and expect for it to fly safely for a useful period of time. My first thought is always redundancy. Before you catch me zipping to and fro in a full sized MultiRotor, waving to hot babes on the beach – we need to discuss systems. Based on my experience with real aircraft it is my opinion that there must be the following redundant systems: power supply, thrust, flight control. In the case of MultiRotors, I believe that it is imperative that these systems each be capable of operating independent from one another to keep the copter in the air in the event of single and multiple failures.
I am certain that e-volo is considering these issues as some of them are mentioned briefly on their Safety Concept page. I am very curious as to the details of how their systems operate, but for now those details are probably being kept in house. They do mention a recovery parachute, but having an old school pilot’s mentality, I would like to know that an aircraft parachute is only there as a final option if all else fails. However, technology may come far enough that a system like a dual ballistic recovery parachute system may be enough to rely upon as a primary safety measure. We’ll see as things progress.
That covers my take on safety. Once the machine is safe to fly, the next question is – can it be practical to fly? By practical I mean – 20 or even 30 minutes of flight time is not something that can be called useful. I firmly believe that the flight time question must be answered by new battery technologies. An article I read on Mashable outlines one such technology which uses 3D nano-structures in lithium ion based batteries, but the technology is still in development. No matter how great of a full sized MultiRotor any company constructs, I do not think they’ll get very far unless current battery power efficiencies are greatly improved.