With its white spiderweb design and 18 rotors humming gently, it looks like it was plucked straight from a science fiction book.
This is the world’s first electric two-seater helicopter, which could soon be flying over your house after online investors raised £1 million in just three days.
Instead of a traditional combustion engine, it uses an battery pack on the back of the aircraft to power the 18 rotors arranged on top. Its inventors say it will be the most environmentally-friendly helicopter ever created.
They also claim it will be the world’s safest because it is unlikely to crash if a rotor fails.
The design is so unusual that authorities in Germany, where it is being developed, have had to invent a new class of aircraft for it to get a license to fly. When the Volocopter VC200 is completed, it will be able to fly at 6,500ft for up to an hour weighing a maximum of 450kg including crew and kit, about half the weight of a Nissan Micra. After the successful test flight last month, inventors Thomas Senkel, Alexander Zosel and Stephan Wolf put out an online plea before Christmas for money from internet investors. Their ‘crowdfunding’ attempt on the website seedmatch.de was so successful it smashed all records in Germany – earning them 500,000 Euros in just two and a half hours.
By the time they reached their total of 1.2 million Euros in three days, nine hours and 52 minutes, they had been handed money by 750 different investors ranging from 250 to 10,000 Euros.
Zosel, the managing director of E-Volo, the firm behind the aircraft, said, “There are already numerous requests for the Volocopter from around the world. The money raised will now serve to optimise the first prototype of the VC200 and, as part of the testing scheme, conclude a comprehensive test flight program for this new aviation category. After that, we will build a weight-optimised prototype of the VC200. With multiple flights lasting several minutes reaching the nearly 22m high ceiling, including a number of smooth takeoffs and landings, the Volocopter concept exceeded all expectations. The result of the first flight created a euphoria among the entire project team.”
The idea has been several years in the planning and previously won a 2 million Euro grant from Germany’s federal ministry of economics and technology. Test flights were conducted in Karlsruhe, Germany, including of a 16-rotor prototype last year with room for just one brave pilot.
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