The e-volo multicopter is an experimental electrical aircraft that achieves lift by way of 16 rotors that spin around below the pilot. At first glance it looks kinda goofy, but on closer inspection it just might work.
While the e-volo looks like a complicated mess, it is designed to be simple to fly. The aircraft’s onboard software makes flying more intuitive turning it into a Segway for the skies. The weak point, naturally, is battery life. It runs on lithium-ion batteries and a full charge only manages around 20 minutes of powered flight (until they degrade and give you even less). That isn’t much, but when battery technology starts getting better, the e-volo might be a viable option.
The real selling point for the e-volo is the running cost. To stay airborne for around an hour costs around 6 Euro ($10) – US electricity prices are most likely cheaper. Robinson Helicopters estimates the fuel cost for keeping their most efficient two-seater model airborne for one hour to be around $38 (PDF). With real-world gas prices it is closer to $48. When maintenance costs are factored in, the difference is becomes much more pronounced. For the e-volo the math, at least, works out.
It remains to be seen whether potential buyers can be convinced that sitting above 16 scary-looking rotor blades is a good idea.