Everybody’s buzzing about Amazon Prime Air, which will bring the products you order from the mega-retailer to your doorstep in just 30 minutes via helicopter drone. So how else is helicopter tech – both manned and unmanned – moving forward into the future? These 15 designs include pedal-powered flying machines, electric helicopters, self-assembling drones and the world’s most expensive helicopter at $21 million.
Amazon’s Flying Robot Delivery Drones
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed the possible delivery method of the future for its Prime consumers: helicopter drones, from the warehouse to your doorstep in 30 minutes. Showing off the prototype on 60 Minutes, Amazon announced that its Prime Air program is slated for rollout in 2015, pending FAA approval. So just a half hour after you hit the ‘buy’ button on a product page, the item you want is dropped off by a propeller-powered robot.
eVolo 18-Rotor Electric Helicopter
An 18-rotor electric helicopter made its maiden flight in late November, reaching heights of nearly 22 meters (72 feet.) The eVolo VC200 is capable of carrying two passengers for distances of up to 100km and flight altitudes of up to 6500 feet. It can be disassembled, with all parts connected to an ‘intelligent mesh network’ so that if one or several components fail, the aircraft can still land safely. It’s the first electric helicopter to lift off successfully.
eVolo Personal Helicopter
Another eVolo design, the Personal Multicopter, can elevate a single passenger into the air with a joystick steering system and sixteen propellers. A team of German professionals completed the first prototype and test flight, and envision its use in the entertainment arena as well as for aerial photography, inspection and short-distance travel. A one-hour flight is estimated to cost just about 6 euro’s worth of electricity, and it can land safetly even if up to four of its motors fail.
Hermes Luxury Helicopter
Perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising that fashion designers are getting in on the game of designing luxury helicopters, since people with tons of money are always eager for prestigious labels. French fashion company Hermes teamed up with Eurcopter to create L’helicopre par Hermes “for the discerning luxury traveler.” It features a spacious cabin for four, a minimalist color palette, Hermes signature upholstery and calf’s leather banquettes.
The world’s first solar-powered helicopter isn’t going to lift much of anything up in the air – but it does work. It’s basically a remote-controlled solar panel liftable via four propellers. This project by masters students at Queen Mary University of London may be small, but it could become the basis for larger and more complex designs.