Nov. 21 - A prototype electric 'volocopter' has completed its first public test-flight in Germany. Inventors of the VC-200 say their emissions-free aircraft will one day become as ubiquitous as cars on the road. Jim Drury reports.
According to its designers, the VC-200 prototype volocopter could be the future of commuter transportation. Unlike a conventional helicopter, the VC-200 runs on 18 electrically-powered rotors, each of which is controlled by onboard computers. Providing overall direction to the computer software is the pilot using a joystick. Alexander Zosel from developer E-volo, says he has high hopes for the craft which he says is clean, quiet and practical. SOUNDBITE (English) CO-INVENTOR OF VOLOCOPTER AND MANAGING DIRECTOR OF E-VOLO, ALEXANDER ZOSEL, SAYING: "The Volocopter is a vertical take-off and landing aircraft, it's like a helicopter, it can fly like a helicopter......we believe that in thirty years, about that, just everybody can fly with it - like you have a car, you have a Volocopter." Zosel says the VC-200 is safer and simpler than a conventional helicopter. SOUNDBITE (English) CO-INVENTOR OF VOLOCOPTER AND MANAGING DIRECTOR OF E-VOLO, ALEXANDER ZOSEL, SAYING: "It's so safe because it's very easy to fly - and why is that so? Because the aircraft fly by himself (sic). The pilot is only saying 'I want to go there and there with the joystick', and the system do the work, and you can develop a really safe system". Instead of one combustion engine propelling it, the independently controlled rotors lift the volocopter into the air. It can fly for up to 20 minutes on battery power, with the machine's computer systems taking care of speed, direction and control according to the pilot's instructions. E-volo say it should be capable of reaching a speed of 100 kilometres per hour and an altitude of 6,500 feet. Further tests with on-board volunteers are planned before the two-seater goes on the market, but E-volo is confident it will provide an attractive, emission free alternative in future transportation.