e-volo makes manned electric multicopter first flight

It looks like this whole battery-powered-vehicle business is going to continue extending to more and more types of transportation. The latest to fall to the liquid fuel-free fad is the multicopter, and its first airborne efforts have been caught on video.

Developed by e-volo in Germany, the 80 kg (176.4 lb) prototype uses 16 propellers to push itself aloft and balances itself on all three axes by altering the speeds of the individual motors. Ingeniously, it incorporates a yoga ball to soften the landing.

Having previously undergone unmanned test flights, it was finally decided that a guinea pig human should get on board and make history. The natural choice of pilot was Thomas Senkel, the man who conceived and constructed the craft, and who also happens to have some experience with more traditional ultralights.

Although this first flight lasted a mere minute and 30 seconds, the e-volo flying machine is said to be capable of flying for 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the weight of the payload. Improved future performance depends, of course, on the advancement of battery tech, but they envision eventually having multi-seat multicopters with the ability to stay in the air for an hour or longer.

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