Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The 18-Rotor Volocopter: The World’s Safest Helicopter?

Its aerodynamic design was said to be inspired by the inherent aerodynamic stability of quad copter drones, is the 18-rotor Volocopter VC200 the world’s safest helicopter? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Ever since Igor Sikorsky “perfected” the main rotor and small tail-rotor type helicopter near the end of the 1930s, it has since become the favored configuration of helicopters in military and civilian use since. And despite its inherent safe record, accidents still happen, but is there a better aeronautical engineering design out there that’s much safer than the “Sikorsky Configuration”? Fortunately, a bunch of Germans got inspired by the inherent stability of quadcopter drones and believe that a safer helicopter design should involve increasing the number of rotors, so they designed and built a helicopter with 18 different blades.   

It’s called the Volocopter VC200 and the German engineers have been working on it since 2010. They’ve done manned flights before, operating the craft like a gigantic 18-rotor man-carrying drone, but this time, E-Volo Managing Director Alexander Zosel got behind the controls and flew the craft himself. 

One of the biggest problems with helicopters is that they’re extremely difficult to fly in comparison with conventional fixed-wing aircraft. Helicopter configuration that’s in widespread use – the Sikorsky Configuration – only has one main source of lift and when it fails the results are usually disastrous. Multi-rotor flying craft like the popular quadcopter drones are more stable in the air, and more importantly, much easier to handle aerodynamically for inexperienced pilots. The Volocopter team wants their flying craft to bridge the skill gap between everyday transportation like cars and human flight. The Volocopter’s controls are incredibly simple – a single joystick with a few buttons – and a giant canopy of independent rotors mean it can hover almost perfectly with very little effort or skill required.  

Using current battery technology, the battery powered Volocopter VC200 only has a flight endurance of 25 minutes but if its batter runs out in flight, the Volocopter can automatically lands itself safely even with a student pilot at the helm. Currently the Volocopter VC200 costs around UK£200,000 each but E-Volo Managing Director Alex Zosel hopes that demand from interested affluent buyers and flight schools could generate enough funds for additional research and development funding for a Volocopter version with an increased flight time and greater payload. With its inherent safety and low carbon footprint are multi-rotor battery powered helicopters the future of helicopters? 

1 comment:

  1. Risk averse German engineering proves to be a winning design behind the Volocopter VC200? But one thing's for certain, the 18-rotor Volocopter VC200 is the world's most environmentally friendly helicopter.