It’s definitely more than meets the eye, as a team in Germany has connected 16 small, battery-powered propellers together to form the “E-Volo Multicopter”—described as “an innovative, vertically starting, human carrying transportation device” on the team’s website.
The machine has some important safety features, too, such as the ability to “safely land even if up to four of its sixteen motors should fail,” according to the site, and the added security of being able to use a parachute since “there are no propellers blocking the deployment area above.”
(PHOTOS: Technology in the Sky)
As you can see in the above video (with its intense Terminator-like soundtrack—skip to around 1:50 to see the actual flight) the multicopter is navigated with a remote control held by the pilot, who’s strapped into a chair connected to what looks like an exercise ball.
Currently the multicopter’s flight time is limited to less than 30 minutes “depending on the payload and the capacity of the lithium batteries,” but future versions could contain hybrid engines for more time in the air.
The team envisions multicopters eventually being used “for air sports equipment and in the leisure sector”—multicopter racing, anyone?—as well as for aerial photography. What’s more, a multi-seat version could be put to good use “for sightseeing flights, air ambulance, or air taxi” scenarios, according to the team, adding, “There most certainly will be entirely new use areas that no one has yet imagined.”
Though there’s no commercially-available version yet, the weekend’s coming up, so swing by your local superstore and pick up an exercise ball, 16 battery-operated helicopters, and some aluminum piping if you’re feeling especially ambitious. Then laugh maniacally on Monday morning as you whiz past all the suckers caught in rush-hour traffic.