Helicopter giant Sikorsky has been trying to get its Firefly electric chopper off the ground for over a year, but now a French guy named Pascal Chretien has beaten the company to the punch by flying his own lightweight electric creation.
The electronics and aerospace engineer built his craft almost entirely by himself, and last month he took it up into the air for two minutes and 10 seconds. That might not sound like much, and he only got three feet off the ground, but it's better than the Connecticut helicopter giant has managed to get from its much ballyhooed Firefly.
The problem with full-sized electric helicopters, is that the batteries required to power a big enough electric motor are really heavy. With a little R/C copter that weighs just one ounce this isn't a problem, but if you want to lift a person, you need to shed weight elsewhere.
Unlike Sikorsky's Firefly which is based on a conventional gas powered model, Chretien went for ultra light construction and maximum efficiency. By using a coaxial design with two counter-rotating rotors, he eliminated the power robbing tail rotor so all the motor need to provide is lift. He even replaced the complex cyclic control with a simple weight shifting system, although this made his machine especially hard to control. Chretien admitted that the tricky controls made the flight pretty dangerous, saying "in case of crash I stand good chances to end up in kebab form."
Chretien said after the flight that he actually had power to spare, so he's considering adding a conventional cyclic control stick for future tests. We wish him well.