Up, up and away: even hot air balloons are going electric

13 Aug 2022

If the idea of floating around the sky in a hot air balloon entirely at the mercy of the wind doesn't appeal, then FlyDoo's steerable balloon with electrically powered propeller could be the answer. 

Chiefly for use at low altitudes, the propeller and motor are attached to the side of the balloon basket where they provide low-speed manoeuvring such as circling or steering assistance during a descent. Owing to the high drag and poor aerodynamics of a balloon, what FlyDoo calls the Vectored Thust Unit (VTU) cannot be used for cruising.

Electric news, reviews and features floating into your inbox: it's the Move Electric newsletter

"It is purely for manoeuvring but offers balloonists a new level of freedom," says Leandro Corradini, founder and CEO of FlyDoo. Corradini came up with the idea in 2016 when creating a new type of compact and ultra-lightweight balloon aimed, primarily, at newcomers to the sport and which he calls the WeDoo.

"Traditional balloons are bulky with a large, heavy envelope. I wanted to innovate and save weight which is why the WeDoo is around half the weight of a typical balloon and more portable."

Corradini also set out to give balloonists greater freedom of manoeuvrability, which is how he came to design the VTU. Based around a 10kW brushless electric motor manufactured by Rotex Electric, it features a 140cm composite propeller and including the battery and attachments, weighs 25kg. Its safe flying speed is 10kph.

Corradini says that while there's no altitude limitation to the VTU it is intended only for low-level flying, when precise manoeuvring is required.

The VTU can be used with the WeDoo and homebuilt balloons but not with conventional, manufactured balloons. This is because a VTU-powered WeDoo or self-build balloon is certified by aviation regulators as an 'ultra-light motorised' (ULM) craft rather than a conventional balloon, which cannot be motorised. In addition, it is permitted to carry only a two-person basket. 

Corradini admits that these limitations, plus the £10,500 purchase price of the VTU and, should it be required, £25,000 price of the WeDoo, means his craft is quite niche. However, the public's positive reaction to it and his own experience encourage him to press on.

"At the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, I piloted the WeDoo with VTU amid 500 other balloons with much greater control, especially when landing in the city. There's nothing else like it. A drone can hover and take aerial footage but fitted with the VTU, so can a WeDoo balloon, while carrying two people and being a part of the story." 

John Evans


Subscribe to the Move Electric newsletter


E-cars news and reviews

Toyota bZ4X review

UK charging networks: complete guide to every provider

New Cupra UrbanRebel is a bold EV supermini with 273-mile range


E-bike reviews and news

Whyte E-160 RS e-bike review

10 fun things to try on an electric bike

Living with a Gocycle G4: how easy is it to adjust to?


E-motorbike reviews and news

Seat Mó eScooter 125 UK review

How to do a CBT on an electric motorbike

Energica unveils new Experia electric tourer motorbike


E-scooter news and reviews

Are e-scooters legal in the UK?

Private e-scooter rules 'cannot simply copy' rental regulations

Superpedestrian's European boss on why e-scooters are for everyone


E-world news

New Candela P-12 Shuttle to arrive as first electric ‘flying’ ferry

Pipistrel Velis Electro: meet the first certified electric plane

Never mind the Audi e-tron GT, meet the Audi e-rickshaw