Volocopter, The Fully Electrical Helicopter
With the growing problems and concerns related to fossil fuels and the environment, researchers are always trying to develop new ways of powering our world. Nowadays society is becoming more aware about such problems, causing a turning point in terms of the way we use energy, and what the sources are.
In a recent article I mentioned a 100% electrical van, developed by Nissan, which is important for the automotive industry and its dependance from fossil fuels. However, today I bring you some exciting news from another industry: an 100% electrical and functional helicopter.
Developed in the University of Stuttgart, Germany, Volocopter is an helicopter with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), man-controlled and, according to its creators, it "cannot be classified in any known category", due to the fact that it is a purely electrically powered vehicle, setting it apart from the other aircrafts.
It is also not hard to see that it also looks different from the helicopters we are used to see - in fact, it has 18 propellers, which replace the traditional combustion engine. In the video below you can watch Volocopter's first flight, in a closed environment, as well as some other behind the scene features:
You might have seen this other video, from 2011, where a man takes off in a not so safe looking helicopter-like structure. Well, the truth is that it was a creation of these same researchers, which is now a company called e-volo, developing Volocopter a couple years later. After raising US$1.64 million (€1.2 million) in under four days trough crowdfunding, the team headed up and optimized VC200 prototype, the first Volocopter model.
The aim for the VC200 model, with two seats, is to reach a cruising speed of 54 kn (100 km/h), a maximum altitude of 6500 ft (1980 m), a maximum take-off weight of 450 kg (992 lbs) and an autonomy of over one hour of flying time. However, for the moment the six battery blocks can only power the 18 rotors for about twenty minutes.
It seems clear that, for the moment, Volocopter is not able to replace other helicopters, but is does give positive impressions for the future. Anyway, it can be used as it is for some specific purposes - for example, the Brazilian city of São Paulo has lots of helicopters, due to the fact that its traffic is absolutely chaotic. So, wealthy people often travel by helicopter. For short travels, Volocopter can be a perfectly good alternative.
But Volocopter will surely be further tested and optimized, so that in a few years it can have higher flight times and, who knows, more room for passengers, making it a suitable replacement for the transport helicopters we have nowadays.
What do you think about this aircraft? Let us know in the comments.
Diogo Costa • International Innovations