First and foremost, Volocopter is a vision of the future of mobility. Even as we’ve come quite far in making this vision an urban reality, we still get excited when we receive an echo of our ideas from unexpected places. When we heard that Nelli, a 15-year-old student from Berlin, had built a flying (!) model of the VoloCity from scratch for a school project, we knew we had to invite her over. The following interview with her was conducted after she visited us in November.
Hi Nelli, how are you doing? It’s been nearly eight months since your self-built model of the VoloCity took to the sky and wowed the Internet. How have you been since then?
Very well, thanks! Before the summer holidays, I started my training to become a youth instructor at Dronemasters, who helped me build my VoloCity model. Here I met other youth instructors with whom I have worked on preparing courses for children over the holidays. It’s a lot of fun and I’m always happy to be able to pass on something I’ve learned myself. Of course, I also learn a lot from the senior instructors (i.e. my mentors) during these courses. At the moment, I am planning my semester abroad in Canada.
We’re honored that you have been inspired by our VoloCity air taxi for your model. Today we saw it fly live for the first time. What did you like most about the VoloCity concept that prompted you to recreate it in this way?
The vision behind it and the possibilities it offers! But the safety concept also won me over.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while building your VoloCity?
Honestly, there were a few. But one of the biggest was ensuring everything was wired properly. We had 18 motors and each of them had three cables that all had to be sorted properly. That’s 54 cables in total. Before the first engine got started, we took a lot of photos because the model was almost finished on the outside and we were afraid that just one incorrectly placed cable could short-circuit the entire model and potentially start a fire, take off in an unstable way, or just break altogether. It’s been a similar story with the first take-off: at first, the VoloCity only made some small leaps, but eventually one of my mentors helped me to see it take off for real!
Do you fly your VoloCity model yourself now?\r\n\r\nYes, that’s another thing I learned in the summer courses…I practiced flying the model with one of my mentors quite a lot during breaks, partly to prepare for our visit back to HQ! \r\n\r\nWhat was the most important thing you learned from your project?\r\n\r\nI can’t name just one thing becuase I learned so much during the project and I’m still learning. There was so much input on soldering, 3D printing, grinding, wiring, testing, flying. I also discovered how exhausting yet incredibly rewarding it is to teach children. My English improved as well. I hope to take all this with me into the future and continue growing and learning!\r\n\r\nWe have a feeling that you already have version 2.0 in mind. Have you already made any improvements to your aircraft? \r\n\r\nYes, definitely! In version 2.0, the entire upper part will be printed from one sheet of material, and we now have a larger 3D printer available for this. This will mean we won’t be able to replace individual parts if something happens. But if it does, we’ll have to replace the whole upper part and mount the motors and all other parts again.
What made the biggest impression on you today at Volocopter?
I got a lot of great and impressive insights here with you and it’s really hard to say which one was the best. The flight simulator and the production facility were very interesting to see, but the department that develops autonomous flight, as well as HQ, the battery production area, the marketing strategy, and everything else was great as well! Thanks again to everyone who showed me around and explained everything – it was an amazing day all around!
What fascinates you more about Volocopter: the technology or the vision of the future?
Like I said before, it’s definitely the vision. But I’m also interested in this technology, I just don’t understand as much of it yet as I would like to. You can imagine and relate to a vision without having to know much beforehand. I think that from the beginning I was hooked by this idea (like most people, I’d imagine). The first time I saw a Volocopter aircraft, I didn’t think about how great the technology is, but about how cool it would be to fly in one, or to hail one instead of hailing a cab! The design is what got me hooked right away.
What’s next for you now? Do you already have plans for the future or even a next project in mind?
Definitely building the Volocopter 2.0, continuing to help as a youth instructor, and maybe running my own course at Dronemasters. I also have my six-month placement in Canada coming up, where I’ll definintely be learning more – even if it doesn’t have much to do with technology this time.
Thank you, Nelli, for your insights and for sharing your inspiring project! We wish you all the best going forward.