What is round, weighs less than 1,000 lbs, has 18 electric motors, and flies? The Volocopter. After more than 100 computer-controlled test flights, a Volocopter lifted e-volo’s managing director Alexander Zosel into the air on March 30. The flight only lasted a short time. At present, the Volocopter is restricted to a height of 70 feet and a top speed of 15 mph. But it will soon be tested at higher elevations at speeds up to 60 mph — its maximum design velocity.
“It is definitely a sublime feeling to lift off, fly the first few meters, and then actually take my hand off the joystick and think that, yeah, it’s really as if I’m standing on the ground, and then I look down and there are 20–25 meters beneath me,” Zosel said. “So it’s definitely unbelievable what we’ve achieved here. It’s seriously unbelievable!”
The Velocopter is built from carbon fiber. It has 9 batteries and 18 electric rotors. Even with a human pilot on board, it is computer controlled and virtually flies itself. Eventually, e-volo expects aircraft like this to become part of a fleet of airborne taxis. Its ability to take off and land vertically means it does not need an airport to operate.
The plan is to start building the Volocopter commercially within two years. After that, sales to the public will begin. This could be just the thing for ferrying sleepy teenagers to school after they miss the bus in the morning.
The world of transportation is certainly experiencing a number of upheavals this week. Last Thursday, Tesla rolled out its new Model 3, which may be the world’s first mass-produced self-driving car. Now the Volocopter takes autonomous transportation to new heights. Computer-controlled vehicles are clearly the wave of the future. The only question is, what will people do with all their free time while they are being ferried about by machines?
The Volocopter will not have the skies all to itself, however. Other companies like China’s EHang also have autonomous electric drone-like vehicles under development. Hopefully, all those computers will keep them all from crashing into each other while in flight.