|VC Evolution VC2 project, one seater- part 103 and two-seater LSA.
By Marino Boric, EAA European Correspondent
Perhaps one of the more innovative, high-tech flying machines present at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2012 is the brainchild of German engineers Thomas Senkel, Stephan Wolf, and Alexander Zosel. The trio is exhibiting their VC2 Volocopter, a single-seat rotorcraft powered by multiple electric motors and an electronic flight control system. Its predecessor, the VC1, first flew in October 2011; the VC2 will be used for additional development and a two-year flight-test program in collaboration with the LBA (German federal aviation office) and the DULV (German ultralight aircraft association).
According to the company, autonomous test flights over uninhabited areas for days on end are planned in order to test and demonstrate the reliability of the electronic steering and the diverse safety concepts in an uninterrupted flight.
The VC1 is one result of collaboration between Senkel, Wolf, and Zosel, which began with the three corresponding in online forums. From there it was a small step to the design and development of the first model.
The e-volo VC1 proof-of-concept prototype measures approximately 16 by 16 feet, has four jibs (with four propellers each), and a basic weight of about 175 pounds, including batteries. As such, it's a real ultralight aircraft. It has a payload about the same as its empty weight.
While the VC1 and VC2 design will attract lots of attention, it's also relatively easy to build. The company says it's also relatively safe, thanks to its electronic flight control system and ability to land safely even with a malfunction of up to four electric motors. Lithium batteries of sufficient capacity and number to enable a flight time of up to 20 minutes, depending on payload, supply electric power.
About that flight control system: A position sensor ensures the correct position in space and permanently balances position changes with rotary speed adjustment. These design features allow the VC1 to establish and remain motionless in a hover.
Think of a Segway for the air: Its stability is automatic. In the event of control malfunction, the e-volo VC1 lands automatically. Meanwhile, its use of multiple motors and rotors isn't revolutionary since smaller multi-rotor craft have been designed, built, and used by hobbyists for years. But e-volo succeeded for the first time ever to fly the configuration with a human pilot aboard.
Like the VC1, the VC2 is an advanced proof of concept, made of aluminum, but much stronger and lighter. It's powered by 18 electric motors, each turning two-blade propellers, mounted to an aluminum framework with three inflatable balls serving as the landing gear. The technology features several separate and mutually monitoring onboard computers controlling the precise rotation speed of each motor for attitude and directional control. The custom, German-made electric motors produce 2 kilowatts each. No serial production of this model is planned.
E-volo also announced a rigorous flight-test program will start in September. "We will extensively test all the developments in the field of safety techniques, electric motors, steering controls, and BMU (battery management unit)," the company stated.
Together with a network of notable partners from the fields of research and industry, e-volo will press ahead with the development of the technology for the Volocopter during the next years. The aim of the collaboration is a one- (VC Evolution 1P) and two-seat (VC Evolution 2P) Volocopter complying with current regulations.
The VC Evolution 2P is expected to demonstrate a speed of more than 54 knots, a cruising altitude of at least 6,500 feet MSL, takeoff weight of 990 pounds, and greater than one hour's flight time.
For the U.S. market, e-volo is working on the VC Evolution 1P, a single-seat version with and without a pusher propeller, which the company plans will comply with FAR Part 103. The VC Evolution 2P will be a two-seat Volocopter with pusher propeller squarely in the LSA category.
E-volo is a winner of the ninth Lindbergh Prize for Innovation that was presented during the AERO show this year in Germany. Visit the e-volo team in Innovation Hangar South or go to www.e-volo.com.