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! Before the summer holidays, I started training as a youth trainer at Dronemasters, who helped me build the VoloCity. Here I met other youth trainers 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 trainers/my mentors during these courses. At the moment, I am planning my semester abroad in Canada.
We’re honored that you have chosen our VoloCity for your model. Today we saw it fly live for the first time. What did you like most about the VoloCity concept that inspired you to rebuild it?
The vision behind it and the possibilities it offers! But the safety concept is very interesting to me, as well.
What was the biggest challenge building your VoloCity?
Well…there were many, but one of the biggest was wiring everything properly. We had 18 motors and each of them had three cables that all had to be sorted properly, so 54 cables in total. Before the first engine started, we took a lot of photos because the model was almost finished on the outside and we were afraid that just one wrong cable could cause a short circuit and everything would go up in flames, lift-off uncontrollably, or break somehow. It’s been similar with the first take-off: at first, the VoloCity only made small leaps, then at some point, one of my mentors managed to have it lift off properly.
Do you fly your VoloCity yourself now?
Yes, another thing I learned in the summer courses…I practiced flying the Volocopter with one of my mentors quite a lot during breaks, also to prepare for our visit! 😊
What was the most important thing you learned from your project?
I can’t name one main thing. I learned so much during the project and still am learning. There was so much input on soldering, 3D printing, grinding, wiring, testing, flying, but also on how exhausting it can be to teach children (which is also a lot of fun!). Even my English has improved. I hope to take all this with me into the future and hopefully continue growing and learning!
We have a feeling that you already have version 2.0 in mind. Have you already made any improvements to your aircraft?
Yes, definitely! In version 2.0, the entire upper part will be printed from one piece, and we now have a larger 3D printer available for this. This will make our model more interchangeable, but, at the same time, it will mean that we won’t be able to replace individual arms if something happens. In that case, we’ll have to replace the whole upper part and mount the motors, etc. 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 were definitely awesome to see, but also the department for the development of autonomous flight, the headquarters, battery production, the marketing strategy, and everything else was also great! Thanks again to everyone who showed me around and explained everything and overall thanks for the amazing day!
What fascinates you more about Volocopter: the technology or the vision of the future?
Like I said before: 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 other people). The first time I saw a Volocopter, I didn’t think “What great technology this is,” but rather “How cool would it be to fly with it or to just book one instead of a taxi!” The design also got me 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 trainer, and maybe giving my own course at Dronemasters at some point. I also have my six months in Canada coming up, where I’ll be learning more, even if it doesn’t have much to do with technology.
Thank you Nelli for showing us your awesome project and allowing us to get to know you a little better! We can’t wait to see what you’ll come up with next.