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Microsoft Flight Simulator’s futuristic new helicopter is very Westworld

The VoloCity is a next-generation electric air taxi

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

The developer of Microsoft Flight Simulator is fulfilling a promise to its fans by adding helicopters to the game in late 2022, but at least one could arrive by November of this year. It’s called the VoloCity, and it’s an 18-rotor, all-electric air taxi first flown in the United States in July.

Designed and built by Germany’s Volocopter, the VoloCity is designed to ferry people and goods around crowded modern cities. According to the manufacturer’s website, the electric vertical take off and landing (eVTOL) craft has triple-redundant systems throughout, making it one of the safest airframes in the world. One of its most publicized flights took it through the center of Singapore, a scene eerily similar to a sequence from season 3 of Westworld. Just last month it flew in the United States for the first time.

What makes the VoloCity unique is how its 18 rotors work together to stabilize it during flight.

“This is a helicopter-like,” said Jorg Neumann, head of Microsoft Flight Simulator at Xbox Game Studios. “The rotors actually keep you level. [...] It does a lot of this stabilizing work that’s actually hard with a real helicopter. [...] It’s almost like a helping hand — a starter helicopter.”

Neumann went on to explain that the team at Asobo Studio is going to great lengths to refine the flight model for helicopters in Microsoft Flight Simulator. When they were introduced in Microsoft Flight Simulator 10, he said, they were a bit of a hack, with only a single aerodynamic control surface tracked by the simulation. When developers are finished, there will be many points along its helicopter models that will be tracked in real time. The complexity will mirror the dramatic improvements made to the game’s traditional, fixed-wing aircraft.

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