The hot new trend in aeronautics these days is VTOL (pronounced vee-tol), which stands for “vertical take-off and landing.” These aircraft are known colloquially as “flying cars,” but we should probably think of them more as drones crossed with helicopters. Uber is working on a VTOL project, as is Airbus, DARPA, and Google co-founder Larry Page. Because nothing says “I’m very rich and I hate traffic” like a flying car project.
E-volo, a German aviation startup, has been pursuing ultralight, electrically powered “multicopter” technology for several years now. The company’s Volocopter VC200, a 18-rotor drone-helicopter hybrid, took its first crewed flight last year. Today at AERO, Europe’s largest general aviation trade fair in Friedrichshafen, Germany, E-volo revealed its first production model: the 2X.
To be sure, the fiber-composite 2X is no aviation powerhouse. It has a maximum range of 17 miles when flying at a speed of 43 mph. It’s maximum flight time is 27 minutes at an optimal cruise speed of 31 mph. But if range were no concern, the 2X can fly at a maximum speed of 62 mph.
The entire aircraft stands at just over two meters tall, and it can carry up to nine lithium-ion battery packs. It takes about 120 minutes for the batteries to fully charge at a conventional power outlet. And oh yeah, did I mention this thing has 18 rotors?
The 2X is easy on the eyes, too, with glazed doors and leather upholstered seats, of which there are only two. So clearly E-volo is emphasizing the ride experience, especially in light of the aircraft’s autonomous capabilities. The company says the technology “allows for” remote-controlled and autonomous flying. E-volo says its flying taxi pilot projects, which will commence in 2018, will still be pilot-controlled due to the currently applicable regulations.
The company claims its aircraft, which is electric, emissions-free, and easy to operate thanks to its touchscreen display and joystick control, marks “the first time humans’ dream of personal flight as a daily routine becomes attainable.” The company claims that NASA is interested in the Volocopter as a means of alleviating traffic congestion in Silicon Valley. So don’t be surprised to see one of these buzzing over the rooftops of the headquarters of Google and Facebook in the years to come.