Electric vehicles go airborne with the first battery-powered helicopter

Mike Wehner, Tecca
Technology News Blog

Sure, your Nissan Leaf might let you jet around town with nary a drop of fuel, but can it lift off straight into the skies above to give you a bird's-eye view of your surroundings? Of course not. But don't feel bad, since up until just a few weeks ago there wasn't a vehicle on this earth that can do what Pascal Chretien's brand new electric helicopter can. With no connection to the ground and only a lightweight skeleton to support him, Chretien took to the heavens in the first ever manned battery-powered helicopter flight.

It's somewhat surprising that helicopters are one of the last vehicles to take the futuristic step of going all-electric, but as Gizmag explains, the nuances of helicopter flight take up a massive amount of energy. That didn't phase French technology company Solution F, which contacted Chretien — an aerospace engineer — and gave him the ambitious task of building a battery-powered helicopter capable of an initial goal of 10 to 12 minutes of flight time.

Chretien set to work, building an extremely lightweight frame out of high-strength aluminum tubing and attached to it a coaxial twin-rotor propeller. The craft uses rechargeable lithium ion battery cells to power DC motors which turn the props. The setup offers 87.5% efficiency from the batteries to the rotors, meaning that nearly 90% of the power in the craft goes to keeping it in the skies. In its initial untethered test flight, the featherweight flier took off for just over 2 minutes, but Chretien is still tinkering. He's currently working on making the craft safer and more stable in the air, but as he has just set the world record for first battery-powered helicopter flight, we think he deserves plenty of praise already.

[Image credit: Gizmag]

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This article originally appeared on Tecca

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