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The First Manned, Untethered All-Electric Helicopter Flight Takes Off

• www.popsci.com

It’s an aviation story so cool we’re kind of upset we didn’t hear about it a month ago when it happened. Back on August 12th electrical and aerospace engineer Pascal Chretien, working with the backing of French company Solution F, made the world’s first untethered, all-electric manned helicopter flight. And it didn’t even show up on our radars--probably because he only reached an altitude of about one meter.

The helicopter was one of Chretien’s own design that he patched together nearly completely by himself in about 12 months. And his 2 minute and 10 second flight means he beat helicopter powerhouse Sikorsky to the prestige of being the first to get a manned, untethered electric helicopter off the ground.

But it wasn’t easy. Helos aren’t really great candidates for electrically-driven power plants because they are so power hungry. While airplanes and cars require a lot of juice to get moving, both of them can coast on momentum. An electric airplane sucks up a lot of power during takeoff, but once airborne it can cruise and then land with relatively little power suck.

Helicopters, on the other hand, are pretty much fighting gravity all the way through a flight. So when Solution F asked Chretien to build and fly the first manned electric helicopter, he got to work putting together the leanest, lightest, most efficient design he could conceive of.

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