Lonely Planet Writer

Introducing the Volocopter – the world's first flying passenger drone

If you asked people fifty years ago – what was the most likely invention for the early years of the 21st century, they almost certainly would have said a flying car. Now that Jetsons-style future finally seems to be here with the launch of one of the world’s first passenger drones.

The world's first flying passenger drone
Volocopter – the world’s first passenger drone. Image by: volocopter.com

The ‘Volocopter’ made its inaugural passenger flight last month inside an exhibition hall in Germany. The first person to board was the CEO of computer chip giant Intel Brian Krzanich who lavished praise on the drone. “That was fantastic,” he said, “that was the best flight I have ever had. Everybody will fly one of these someday.”

The ‘Volocopter’ looks like a helicopter and can be piloted remotely or on board. News of it having carried its first passenger was revealed last week in Las Vegas. The drone is designed primarily for stable and safe flight, and to be used to nip around the skies above the world’s largest cities. One of the key ideas behind it is that it’s built with lots of redundancy – meaning that even if multiple things go wrong, it can still stay airborne.

Volocopter
The Volocopter is the first drone capable of carrying passengers. Photo by: Nikolay Kazakov, Karlsruhe

The creators said: “Volocopter leverages Intel technology … [and] the smooth flight is enabled by dozens of microprocessors monitoring the environment for turbulence, winds, etc. and sending signals in milliseconds to the rotors. These can react and perform the slightest adjustments instantly [using] their battery-powered electric motors.”

The Volocopter already has a permit to fly in Germany and has conducted numerous test flights (without passengers) in Dubai. The company said their dream is of a future where every human being can personally fly their own drone, and help major cities ease their traffic woes. They hope that the first models will be on the market over the next twelve months. Powered entirely by electricity, the Volocopter at the moment can fly for around 30 minutes and with a range of seventeen miles.

Volocopter's first manned flight
First manned flight with Alexander Zosel. Photo by: Nikolay Kazakov, Karlsruhe