At the end of October 2011, Thomas Senkel of e-volo made the first manned flight with an electric multicopter at an airstrip in the southwest of Germany. The flight lasted one minute and 30 seconds, after which the constructor and test pilot stated: "The flight characteristics are good natured. Without any steering input it would just hover there on the spot". This could be the future of flight, piloting a device as simple as a car.
80kg machine can take off vertically like a jump jet
Powered by Lithium Ion batteries
Inventor claims the 16-rotor machine will make helicopters 'obsolete
Could be used for 'air sports' - or even as a flying car
It might look like as space hopper surrounded by model helicopters, but the 16-rotor E-Volo is an entirely new kind of helicopter - which can hover motionless in the air without input from the pilot
Its bold engineer, Thomas Senkel, took the machine on its first manned flight this week - lasting 1 minute 30 seconds.
It's not the first electric helicopter flight - but this is a new kind of machine, steered simply by joystick, with the pilot sitting above the rotors. Senkel says it could revolutionise transport.
The multicopter is currently only able to fly for around 20 minutes because it runs on lithium-ion batteries.
But E-volo hope rapidly developing technology will mean they can complete hour-long flights in the near future.
A hybrid drive, in which a conventional internal combustion engine generates the electrical power, would already show an hour-long flight time.
A one-hour flight would cost around six euros in electricity. The machine has few parts, which could wear out, meaning the aircraft needs little maintenance.
E-volo say their aircraft is special because of the 'simplicity of its engineered construction without complicated mechanics, and redundant engines.'
In an emergency, it can land even if four of its 16 rotors fail. And since the propellers sit below the pilot, a safety parachute can also be deployed.
The controls could be integrated with GPS software, the three friends claim, and the machine could even automatically avoid obstacles and direct itself to pre-determined locations. E-Volo have already completed several successful 'drone' flights with the vehicle, controlled remotely from the ground.