INDUSTRY AND COMMUNITY NEWS
Designer/builder Thomas Senkel pilots the 16-motor e-volo Multicopter on its first manned flight.
New Aircraft Arises
Multicopter flies with 16 electric motors
A GERMAN COMPANY AIMS to make “simple
flight for the average person” a reality after
successfully flight testing a new type of
personal rotorcraft. The company, e-volo,
took a significant step toward that goal
with the first flight of its prototype “e-volo
Multicopter,” a single-place rotorcraft powered by 16 electric motors. The prototype
made its first manned flight at the end of
October in the southwestern German city
of Karlsruhe. The flight lasted about a minute and a half and reached a height of
Pilot Thomas Senkel, who also designed
and built the aircraft, commented, “The
flight characteristics are good-natured.
Without any steering input it would just
hover there on the spot.” He added, “This
could be the future of flight, piloting a device
as simple as a car.”
The 16 electric motors and propellers are
mounted in clusters of four that surround the
pilot, who controls the aircraft with a hand-
held joystick. The craft is perched on an
inflatable exercise ball. “Yes, the exercise ball
works fine,” Senkel said. “Of course this was
only used in the proof-of-concept prototype
and will be replaced later.”
Empty weight is 80 kilograms (176
pounds)—including 25 kilograms ( 55
pounds) of batteries—which falls within
Part 103 parameters in the United States.
Useful load is 80 kilograms.
Several “separate and mutually monitoring onboard computers” control precise
rotation speed of each motor for attitude
and directional control. The custom,
German-made electric motors produce 2
kilowatts each. According to the company,
the aircraft can keep flying if one or two
motors fail, and it can land safely even if up
to four of the motors fail.
The company hopes to someday
develop a full-blown GA aircraft, which
would require attracting significant investor capital. Multicopter, e-volo contends,
could one day replace helicopters in certain
missions due to simplicity of operations
and cost efficiency of maintenance.
For more information and direct links to all
Flightline stories, visit www.SportAviation.org.
WHEN WE HEARD RUMORS that Burt
Rutan, in retirement, is back at the drafting table, we thought we should go right
to the source. In an exclusive interview,
he confirmed he is working on a new
design, Model 372-3. “It is a combination
wing ship and seaplane,” Burt revealed,
inspired by a Soviet “ekranoplan” he
learned about while on a trip to Russia
nearly two decades ago. But he also made
it clear we should not expect to see anything anytime soon.
Rutan saw the ekranoplan Orlyonok fly beyond ground effect
while in Russia in 1993.
Burt started thinking about the project when he and his wife, Tonya, moved
to Idaho in April. His goal is to have a
STOL seaplane that could operate out of
the many lakes and rivers in the region.
“Going out and exploring little lakes and
rivers in a STOL seaplane is a fantasy, I
think, for a pilot,” he said.
At the current time, this is just a
research project with “some unique
characteristics, particularly the propulsion,” on which Burt would not elaborate
and isn’t interested in sharing until he
can prove it works. “I don’t even know
what it will look like. I’m not ready to
build it yet,” he said. “I have about three
different options right now. This is in
very preliminary stages.”