German physicist Thomas Senkel adds another invention under his belt – a flying scooter. There is no denying that the physicist is head-over-heels with Science and took his expertise to create a unique aircraft that could wow the flying enthusiasts and the tech-hungry individuals. His flying scooter prototype aptly called Skyrider One flew into the air for an impressive 46 minutes. The flight took place in the picturesque Canary Island. Senkel also believes that he was the first to accomplish such impressive milestone in the realm of land-transportation-turned-aircraft. The flying scooter is the first two-wheeler land transportation that is powered by electricity to take flight.
A Closer Look at the Skyrider One
Simple and practical – these are just two of the adjectives Senkel used to describe his invention. The scooter is also designed elegantly as well. In a nutshell, the electric scooter is equipped with a hub motor with a power of 60kW or 8hp that operates the rear wheel. Another motor is used to operate a large propeller mounted at the back and with a power of 12-kW or 17hp. At first glance, it looks like a typical two-wheel scooter, but this prototype has an attached paraglider canopy attached to it. When the driver intends to fly, he can unfold the paraglider by gaining enough speed and momentum. Speed is paramount as it would necessary for the lift off and for the power he needs to take the flight.
Aside from having immense power for the propeller to work and enough speed for the chute to unfurl, the Skyrider One also has to take its flight by facing a little headwind, not the crosswind. When the scooter gets in the air, then the motor could be switched off. The thermals will keep it afloat for a longer period of time. This essentially means that the flying scooter could be used without draining the battery quickly. The prototype that took the test flight was built with lithium polymer-type batteries of 3kWH each. These batteries could be utilized for up 60kmph. When the power’s nor turned off, the batteries could last up to 30 minutes with the constant use of the propeller. The scooter can be used in any airstrip and can be powered in any flat terrain.
The Test Flight Experience
So, was Senkel nervous about testing it? The answer is YES. The physicist mentioned that he was quite nervous at the beginning of the flight, and was just as nervous when trying to land it. Despite having solid experience in navigating powered paragliders, he was still unsure of the Skyrider One’s behavior when it goes up in the air. Sending off prototype aircraft, particularly hybrid ones, prove to be one of the most challenging in the history of flight. After letting the flying scooter glide for 46 minutes and landing it safely and successfully, Senkel added that he was quite relieved. He is also confident that the next attempt would be a lot easier. He also sees simple designs as the way to go when it comes replicating flying cars.
The flying scooter is also designed in such a way that people can simply drive home with it after using. This specialized scooter also emits minimal noise and has virtually no emission as it is electric in nature. The minimal requirement of having only two wheels is sufficient. The interesting part of this scooter is that it needs you leg power during the take-off and the landing. His flying scooter is believed to be world’s first and is going to give the flying car concept an interesting competition. The scooter and the attached paraglider all weigh around 108 kgs only. This is extremely light for a flying transportation and a key feature which makes it stand out from other aircraft.
The flying scooter vs. the flying motorcycle
Yes, there is an existing competition. Prior to the flight test of the Skyrider One, a California-native had already created a somewhat similar concept. His name is Dezso Molnar. He had created his first GT which ran in 650 cc capacity and equipped with a cylindrical Rotax engine. It also makes use of GSX-R1000 high-powered motorcycle engine. It is also considered as the fastest flying fuel-powered motorcycle to date. At present, Molnar is working on his next generation flying motorcycle which he intends to equip with a 162-hp motorcycle engine. His main goal is to put up a racing fleet using his inventions.
In terms of weight and design, the flying scooter live up to its name. Having a compact design is still yet to be achieved by the American inventor. However, the flying motorcycle can outdo the scooter. With the scooter, only one person can navigate and use it. On the other hand, the motorcycle can still accommodate two passengers at a time. However, the biggest advantage of the scooter is that it is electricity-powered. The rechargeable lithium batteries make it energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, and economical in the long run.
Senkel’s Other Inventions
German physicist has made quite a number of contributions aside from inventing the world’s first flying electricity-powered scooter. Back in 2011, a local German aircraft maker E-Volo led by Senkel developed what was called the Multicopter. The group successfully took Multicopter’s first manned flight on October 21st . This is the first of its kind in the world. The flight did not last as long as the electric scooter did as it only stayed afloat in the air for roughly 90 seconds. Senkel himself maneuvered the flight while sitting at the center of the Multicopter. The test flight took place in the Southwest part of Germany. Despite the short time, it stayed in the air, Senkel still considered a successful test.
It did not take long before Senkel and E-Volo unveiled their next invention. Just two years after the successful flight test of the Multicopter, he launched the ‘Volocopter’. The Volocopter is an electricity-powered , 2-seater machine that looked quite close to the helicopters and quadcopters. It has an 18-rotor VC200 engines placed at the juncture of each extended arms. The appearance is quite similar to the earlier prototypes such as the Multicopter. E-Volo disagreed with many who wanted to classify this as a helicopter. According to the aircraft manufacturer, the Volocopter features design choices and safety guidelines which makes it truly different from a typical helicopter. The first test was performed in an indoor arena in the city of Karlsruhe in Germany on the 17th of November, 2013.
So, how does the Volocopter fly? It has six blocks of battery power which make the rotor works for 20 long minutes. Due to the use of batteries, the flight was virtually emission-free. Although the test flight was performed indoor, the design team of the Volocopter was targeting a flight altitude ceiling for 6,500 feet and a minimum speed of 62 mph. More importantly, the Volocopter is also aimed to be the word’s safest air sports equipment. Equipped with computer sensors to determine the flight conditions, the Volocopter is relatively easier to navigate. According to Senkel, pilot training is also expected to be simpler when the Volocopter becomes commercially available.
Senkel’s contribution to the design of the Hendo Hoverboard is also one for the books. He is one of the members of the design team which was put together to build the Back to the Future-inspired hoverboard. Senkel is one of the founding members of the Arx Pax founded by Greg Henderson, an architect, engineer, and a former ranger in the US Army. Alongside his wife, Jill, they were determined to develop a technology that would eventually protect buildings from earthquakes. The same technology is aimed at different applications including manufacturing and transportation. With all Senkel’s contribution and design, one cannot help but get excited at what he would be presenting next. Just like the electric scooter, it would be interesting to see how his next creations will unfold.