Volocopter: Electric Helicopter Piloted with a Joystick

Small and very lightweight helicopters have been around for decades for enthusiasts to enjoy just for fun. A company called e-volo has been working on something it calls a multicopter. It looks more like a giant drone-aircraft than a machine designed to carry human occupants. This flying machine is called the Volocopter VC200 (VC200) and this spring e-volo has announced that it has conducted its first manned flight.

With e-volo's managing director Alexander Zosel in the cockpit, the truly strange-looking aircraft took to the skies above an airfield, hovered for several minutes, and then landed. It wasn't the most ambitious flight, as you'll see in the clips below, but it shows exactly what the extremely stable, drone-like vehicle can do.

The Volocopter VC200 is a twin-seat, 18-motor, all-electric helicopter under development. The helicopter is intended to be used as a new type of urban transportation platform. The VC200 helicopter is constructed using a light-weight fibre composite material. It is a vertical take-off and landing platform with hovering capability. The design can serve as a base platform for developing manned aircraft or heavy-duty drones.

The company claims its ultralight "multicopter," which is electric, emissions-free, and easy to operate thanks to its touchscreen display and joystick control, marks "the first time humans' dream of personal flight as a daily routine becomes attainable." The company also claims that NASA is interested in the Volocopter as a means of alleviating traffic congestion in Silicon Valley.

The designers still have to ramp up their tests to the point where the Volocopter hits its full 60MPH top speed, but they're now confident enough that they hope to take pre-orders later this year. In its first manned flight, the Volocopter only ascended several meters off the ground. E-volo says its next test will include higher altitudes at speeds of 30 mph. The third testing phase will attempt the Volocopter's top speed of 62 mph. E-volo's engineers built the Volocopter with assistance from drone company Ascending Technologies, which is owned by Intel.