A German company called e-volo has successfully raised €1,2 million in a crowdfunding offering on Seedmatch.de for a crazy 18-propeller electric helicopter. Called the “Volocopter,” the e-volo team thinks this new approach to manned aerial flight can revolutionize the way we live and travel.
The Volocopter is in a new category of aerial vehicles called “multicopters.” They get the name from the use of multiple smaller propellers. In the case of the prototype pictured above, called the VC200, 18 electric propellers power the craft. There are various benefits to this design according to the e-volo team. First, they’re quiet. In flight, the VC200 is almost eerily quiet when compared to any gasoline-powered helicopter. Second, the use of multiple smaller propellers saves energy and makes the craft’s electrically-powered design possible. Third, it gives the multicopter great control. The team says the Volocopter can be flown using just a joystick, and that it is as easy – or even easier – to drive than a car.
Of course, redundancy is also a nice thing to have when your life essentially depends on what is spinning over your head. Lose your propeller on a helicopter and you’re in a boatload of trouble. Lose one propeller when you have 17 more? Not the end of the world. This contributes greatly to the safety of this design.
As projects like this always do, the Volocopter started with a prototype. In October of 2011 e-volo’s Thomas Senkel flew a prototype electric multicopter called the VC1. 90 seconds of flight boiled down to what the e-volo team calls “the first manned flight with an electric multicopter.” The idea for the Volocopter was born.
The video (embedded, right) let the e-volo team know they were on to something. It has received over 8.6 million views to date. Obviously, the design struck a chord.
Attention then turned to developing a production-quality version of the multicopter. This resulted in the VC200 prototype, a two-seater multicopter that e-volo tested in November 2013.
The video of the flight is amazing. The VC200 seemed extremely stable in the air and was able to hover effortlessly.
In order to fund the run-up to production of the VC200, e-volo turned to Seedmatch to solicit funding from the crowd seeking a minimum investment of €100.000. They raised €500.000 within a few hours, and went on to max out the offering at €1,2 million. 749 people participated in the campaign, representing an average investment of about €1.600.
e-volo plans to sell production-ready multicopters for somewhere in the neighborhood of €250.000, placing them at the upper range of currently available, commercially-viable private aircraft. They’re predicting somewhere in the neighborhood of €2,2 million in sales in 2016.
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