Behold the Hexadecacopter

Quadcopters are the hottest thing going in radio-controlled aircraft. Everybody wants one, partly because they’re new and crazy-looking, but mostly because of the insane stuff they can do. Until very recently, our mental image of a helicopter has been a thing with a single great rotor on top. But as it turns out, quadcopters have been around for a long time. Etienne Oemichen’s eponymous No. 2 goes back to 1923, while George de Bothezat in the US made the fabulous “Flying Octopus” in 1922.

I bet the most unlikely quadcopter you’ll see is the impractical but inspiring human-powered helicopter from the University of Maryland. Earlier this year it flew for a total of… wait for it… four seconds. Still! Human-powered quadcopter!

It was Igor Sikorsky who, in 1940, decided to stop the multi-rotor madness. His VS-300 was simple (relative to his competition) and practical. From that day to this, we’ve been accustomed to a large lifting rotor and small vertical tail rotor to counteract the twisting from the big blade. I love looking at those old videos of him flying because his test pilot helmet is always a black fedora. Classy!

But now, with the small robot copters leading the way, people are starting to get back into multi-rotor copters. Check out this video of a man going for a ride in a 16 blade hexadecacopter. It’s a real flying abattoir: ladies and gentlemen, please keep your hands inside the van at all times.

If you went back in time and showed this video to George de Bothezat, he’d say “I told you that’s what helicopters would look like in the future!” Back to the future indeed.

(from Gizmodo via my brother Tad)