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Say hello to the world's first full-scale electric helicopter

Illustration for article titled Say hello to the worlds first full-scale electric helicopter

It just so happens that hovering in mid-air is a pretty energy-intensive process. It's this fact that helps explain why helicopters — notorious for being energy-hogging little buggers — have yet to make an appearance in the recent wave of electric vehicles.

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But now, by replacing the most energy-intensive components with ultralight alternatives, aerospace engineer Pascal Chretien has designed the world's very first e-copter.

According to inhabitat's Tafline Laylin:

Instead of a tail-rotor, which exacts a heavy load on the helicopter's battery, Chretien's helicopter uses a coaxial design with 2 counter-rotating rotors on top. This is a torque-balanced program that only requires a simple lightweight tail in the back in order to maintain its balance. Further reducing the load, Chretien created a new weight-shifting system that replaces cyclic control and variable blade tilting with a big set of handlebars!

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Illustration for article titled Say hello to the worlds first full-scale electric helicopter

While the very first untethered, crewed flight of the helicopter lasted just two minutes, 10 seconds, and reached a dizzying cruising altitude of one meter, Chretien believes his work could have huge implications for hybrid power systems that could increase the safety of helicopter flight dramatically.

According to gizmag, helicopter flight is nearly 40 times as dangerous as airplane flight, and engine failure accounts for almost half of all helicopter crashes. Chretien says a hybrid power system could offer 3-4 minutes of battery-powered flight in the event of engine failure — time that would prove invaluable when trying to land the aircraft safely.

You can see more pictures of Chretien's electronic helicopter, and read more about the project, over at gizmag.

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gizmag via inhabitat
Images via gizmag

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DISCUSSION

What I find interesting is that coaxial designs have been tried a number of times before, and they've never really made it past the drawing board. Honestly, I don't know why, but I'm betting that the strength of the drive train is one reason.

The first helicopter designs also used a similar rotor control system to this "new" system here; the rotor shaft tilted, rather than the current system where the blades themselves change pitch in mid-flight, adjusting the tilt of the rotor.

The modern system in use on all helicopters today was adopted to solve a lot of problems with the tilt-shaft system, but for lightweight, coaxial rotor systems that have a rather low speed of forward travel, this should work pretty well.