When you are developing an entirely new type of flying machine, you need a little help from the regulatory authorities responsible for deciding what can be flown when, where and by whom.
Germany's E-volo, which is developing the first purely electrically powered vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft - the Volocopter - is getting just that kind of help from the country's Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development.
VC200 (Concepts: E-volo)
Karlsruhe-based E-volo says the Ministry has commissioned a two- to three-year trial program to create a new category of ultralight aviation to cover the two-seat VC200 rotorcraft now in development. In Europe, ultralights are aircraft weighing less than 450kg and carrying up to two people.
In place of a conventional helicopter rotor, E-volo's Volocopter has a fixed branch-like structure on which is mounted an array of battery-powered, electrically driven, individually controlled, multiply redundant mini-rotors.
Under the trial program, the German Ultralight Aircraft Association, Sport Aircraft Association and Federal Aviation Office will work with E-volo to create a manufacturing specification, legal regulations and training requirements for the new "Volocopter" ultralight rotorcraft category.
E-volo flew the single-seat proof-of-concept VC1 in 2012 (video above), and has received a €2 million subsidy from Germany's Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology to help build the two-seat VC200, designed to fly at speeds exceeding 50kt and altitudes up to 6,500ft with a flight time of more than an hour.
Under the trial program, E-volo says, the plan is to grant the VC200 a provisional airworthiness certificate after endurance testing of the rotor array, passenger cabin and landing gear. This is targeted by mid-2013 to allow flight tests to begin at Bruchsal, home of DG Flugzeugbau, which is to produce the V200's carbonfiber airframe.
At the end of the trial program, according to E-volo, prototype certification of the VC200 under the new Volocopter ultralight category will enable production to begin. E-volo says the Volocopter is very easy to fly but, in Germany at least, flying a VC200 will require a private pilot's license.