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  • Volocopter - Safety and Simplicity in Numbers
    Posted by Graham Warwick 7:29 PM on Apr 20, 2012

    A strange, 16-propeller vertical take-off and landing craft has been awarded the Lindberg Prize for Innovation at the Aero-Friedrichshafen 2012 airshow in Germany. It is an example of the unusual configurations made possible by distributed electric propulsion.

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    Photos: e-volo

    The VC1 was first flown by Karlsruhe-based e-volo in October 2011 as a proof of concept for its Volocopter, an aircraft that uses multiple small, electric-powered, fixed-pitch propellers for lift and flight control. The array of battery-driven props provide redundancy for safety and are individually controlled via a fly-by-wire system to provide flight control via differential power by varying motor rotational speed in response to joystick inputs.

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    The single-seat, four-armed VC1 measures 17ft x 17ft and weighs 80kg empty, and could fly for about 20 minutes on current battery technology, says e-volo. The company is now designing a two-seat VTOL aircraft, the Volocopter VC Evolution 2P, that mounts its 18 props and motors on an umbrella-like structure above the helicopter-style fuselage. The aircraft is being designed to comply with European ultra-light (ULM) regulations.

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    Concepts: e-volo

    Fitted with a pusher propeller for forward flight, this aircraft will have a take-off weight of 450kg, speed exceeding 54kt (100km/h), altitude capability of at least 6,500ft and a flight time of more than an hour thanks to a serial hybrid power system - with a "range-extender" internal-combustion engine that will recharge the batteries in flight.

    In addition to being able to land safely with several props failed, the VC Evolution 2P will have additional batteries in case the range extender fails, and an airframe parachute to lower the aircraft to the ground is all else fails - an additional layer of safety not possible with a helicopter or autogyro because of the rotor, e-volo notes.

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    Awarding the prize to e-volvo, Erik Lindbergh (Charles Lindbergh's grandson) said: "We believe that the development of the Volocopter holds significant promise to radically change short-distance transportation." The Lindbergh Foundation's prizes are intended to promote advances in green aviation.

    Tags: awt, VTOL, propulsion

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