The E-Volo Multicopter, which made its first human-piloted test flight just a few days ago, has a brilliant design that paradoxically seems complex but is in fact more simple than current helicopter designs. At first, having sixteen rotor blades seems needlessly complicated, but that’s where the brilliance comes in: Each is powered by a motor with one range of motion and one job, which is to rotate in place. A traditional helicopter’s large rotor spins but also needs to pitch in order to move the craft in a particular direction; that adds a degree of mechanical complexity and an extra potential failure point.
The E-Volo, on the other hand, can pitch by varying the speeds of its various rotors to create differing degrees of lift. Software and onboard computers translate the pilot’s motion of the joystick into the required adjustments, vastly simplifying demands on the pilot. Indeed the controls look less like a fighter jock’s cockpit and more like the controls to Ms. Pac Man.