The first flight of a manned electric tricopter took place on 7th March, at Miskolc airfield in Hungary. Although it lasted just a few seconds, and the rotorcraft rose to only one metre (3 feet) off the ground, its designers see it as confirmation that their technology works.
Called Flike, this prototype resembles a drone, except for a couple of minor details : with an overall diameter of four metres (13 feet), it weighs around 120 kilos (265 lbs), and is powered by six carbon fibre rotors attached to three arms, allowing it to carry a load of 130 kilos (290 lbs). The pilot can therefore ride it or control it from the ground. The prototype is still in the developmental phase, but its speed can theoretically reach 150 km/h (95 mph) ; autonomy, on the other hand, is limited to a 30-minute flight.
The project was launched in the summer of 2014. After reading on drone devoted forums that it was impossible to build a tricopter able to support the weight of a pilot, five researchers, from the Hungarian Zoltan Bay Institute, set out to prove otherwise. They partnered with the French company E-Props, who designed the special rotors, and NT Powers, a Czech electric motor manufacturer.
Intended primarily for recreational use, the first Flike buyers will be able to feel what it is like to ride a Star Wars’ style airborne motorcycle, but its designers do not rule out its use in surveillance or assistance to disaster victims, if developments can be made, particularly with the battery.
In hoping to obtain the precious airworthiness certificate soon, and bring the project to completion, its designers are looking for investors. The minimum requirement to pilot such a machine is a ULM pilot’s license. Its marketing is scheduled for the end of next year, at the earliest, although its selling price has not yet been established.