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The two-person 18-prop VC200 helicopter succeeds in its early flight tests

18-propWired tells us that a German manufacturer, E-volo, has reported successful test flights of its electric18 prop helicopter, the VC200.  We’ve grown used to those tiny four prop toy ‘quadcopters’ that flit around parks, but this one carries two people and has 18 props, each powered by its own separate motor.  You steer by tilting the back rotors to alter the thrust direction, and it’s claimed to be as easy to steer as the toy ones.  I object to the description of it as an octodecacopter.  It might be technically correct, but “18-prop helicopter” is easier to say and conveys its meaning more readily.  The VC200 uses carbon fibre and has multiple batteries.  One problem that occurs to me is that all of the props will have to be synchronized with equal thrust lest it unbalances itself.  I guess this could be solved by computer controls similar to the ones that regulate the thrust of each rocket motor in a cluster arrangement.

The thing looks ungainly and massively impractical, but it has test flown indoors to 22 metres in flight that have lasted several minutes.  The aim is a cruising speed of 50 knots in flights lasting an hour or more.  One good piece of news is that it is quieter and vibrates less than conventional helicopters.  Anyone who has flown in helicopters, which I have dozens of times, will know that the noise and vibration is a serious drawback.  OK, it’s not a production model yet, but I can see these things being popular for tourist flights and sightseeing.  I doubt there’ll be much business on windy days, though.

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