If you're wondering why there are electric planes, electric cars, and all kinds of other electric vehicles floating around, but no electric helicopters, it's because these lean machines require a lot of battery power to take off, hover, and land. So when Solution F commissioned electrical and aerospace engineer Pascal Chretien to build an electric helicopter, he knew he needed to replace the most energy-intensive functions, such as the tail rotor and cyclic control, with ultra-lightweight alternatives that would reduce the battery load. And he was successful! Beating aviation giant Sikorsky's record, the manned electric prototype flew untethered for 2 minutes and 10 seconds at considerable personal risk to Chretien, an experienced helicopter pilot.
Instead of a tail-rotor, which exacts a heavy load on the helicopter’s battery, Chretien’s helicopter uses a coaxial design with 2 counter-rotating rotors on top. This is a torque-balanced program that only requires a simple lightweight tail in the back in order to maintain its balance. Further reducing the load, Chretien created a new weight-shifting system that replaces cyclic control and variable blade tilting with a big set of handlebars!
Although these interventions helped Chretien achieve optimum weight reductions of nearly 5kg, the handlebars increase the risk factors since the controls are reversed from standard helicopters. In order to make sure that he didn’t react the wrong way while flying his fully-electric prototype, he trained himself on a self-built pendular machine that conditioned his responses to correspond with the new controls. If things had gone wrong, which they didn’t, the French pilot said he could have landed up in “kebab form!”