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.


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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