Two wheels in the sky

Fly­ing elec­tric scooter set to solve both con­ges­tion and pol­lu­tion prob­lems

The Witness - Wheels - - INNOVATION - LOZ BLAIN

THE Ger­man physi­cist be­hind the Evolo manned mul­ti­copter and the Volo­copter 2- seater has just taken his first flight aboard an­other re­mark­able air­craft: a fly­ing elec­tric scooter.

Thomas Senkel flew his Skyrider One pro­to­type for some 46 min­utes in the idyl­lic sur­round­ings of the Ca­nary Is­lands, mark­ing what he be­lieves is the first elec­tric, road- reg­is­ter­able twowheeler to take to the sky.

If fly­ing car pro­po­nent Dezso Mol­nar is on the money, we should be think­ing less about fly­ing cars, and more about road­able air­craft. Sim­ple, sin­gle- seat de­signs that can straddle the gap be­tween the road and the sky to achieve mul­ti­mode trans­port in the most ef­fi­cient way pos­si­ble.

On that axis, Thomas Senkel’s Skyrider One scores very highly as a prac­ti­cal, sim­ple and el­e­gant de­sign. It’s a sim­ple two- wheel elec­tric scooter, with a 6- kW hub mo­tor to drive the rear wheel, and a 13- kW mo­tor driv­ing a large rear­mounted pro­pel­ler. A reg­u­lar tan­dem paraglider canopy can be un­furled when you want to fly, and then it’s a mat­ter of gain­ing enough speed in scooter mode to fill up the ’ chute, lift­ing off, then en­gag­ing the pro­pel­ler drive to give you power in the air.

Fly­ing pro­to­type air­craft — es­pe­cially hy­brid de­signs like this one — must be a nerve- wrack­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. In­deed, as Senkel told us, “I was very ner­vous in the be­gin­ning and at the land­ing. I have some ex­pe­ri­ence with pow­ered paraglid­ers,” said Senkel, “but the be­hav­iour of the Skyrider One was un­known. Af­ter land­ing, I was re­lieved that ev­ery­thing went re­ally fine. The next flight would be a lot eas­ier.”

Senkel sees sim­ple de­signs like the Skyrider One, as the quick­est and eas­i­est way to achieve fly­ing car- like ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

“You can drive to your airstrip, fly to some­where, and drive home af­ter land­ing,” he says. “With all- elec­tric drive, it’s quiet and doesn’t make any pol­lu­tion. It can be used in ar­eas where com­bus­tion en­gines are not al­lowed. And two wheels are enough, no need for more. Take off and land­ing is easy with some help from your feet.”

Skyrider One can take off on any flat ter­rain or airstrip. The rider needs to face into a slight head­wind; cross­winds aren’t suit­able. Once in the air, it’s pos­si­ble to switch the mo­tor off al­to­gether and ride ther­mals to keep your­self aloft for po­ten­tially hours at a time with­out drain­ing the bat­tery.

The pro­to­type has just two small 3 kWh lithium poly­mer bat­ter­ies, giv­ing it a to­tal range up to 120 km on the road with a max­i­mum speed around 60 km/ h, or 30 min­utes of pow­ered flight if you run the pro­pel­ler con­stantly.

Senkel be­lieves it’s the world’s first fly­ing elec­tric two- wheeler: “All other pow­ered paraglid­ers I know come with three or four wheels and a com­bus­tion en­gine,” he tells us. It’s also ex­tremely light, weigh­ing in at just 108 kg.

Senkel is now look­ing for pro­duc­tion and mar­ket­ing part­ners to take Skyrider One to the mar­ket.

The pro­duc­tion ver­sion will use a fold­ing prop with no sur­round­ing cage in or­der to make it eas­ier to ride on the road, and Senkel’s al­ready think­ing about what other im­prove­ments can be made be­tween now and then.

Even though we’re just at the dawn of the elec­tric avi­a­tion age, Thomas Senkel has al­ready built him­self a pretty as­tound­ing CV. He’s on the bleed­ing edge of the manned mul­ti­ro­tor move­ment with the Evolo and Volo­copter projects, and now with this small, prac­ti­cal elec­tric fly­ing scooter he’s bro­ken new ground in the multi- mode trans­port seg­ment. Not to men­tion his work on the Hendo hov­er­board and anti- grav­ity de­vices. We’re of­fi­cially putting him on our list of in­ven­tors to watch out for!

Senkel’s maiden flight on the Skyrider One can be seen on YouTube.

PHOTOS: SKYRIDER ONE

Thomas Senkel flies Skyrider One on its maiden test flight at La Palma in the Ca­nary Is­lands.

Thomas Senkel is a pic­ture of relief af­ter safely land­ing his Skyrider One pro­to­type.

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