Airbus Patent New Vertical Take-Off Aircraft
Airbus is no stranger to innovation. The aviation giant is well known for pushing the boundaries when it comes to our expectations of what an aircraft is normally limited to. This is evident in their unique Fly Your Ideas competition which offers €45,000 in cash to encourage new ideas and concepts within the industry. The company now appears to be turning its hand to something equally radical: vertical take-offs.
For some years now aviation experts have attempted to master the art of the vertical take-off but none have quite found their way into mainstream success. Ambitious concepts like the VTOL X-Plane and the TriFan 600 have tried but not succeeded to date. So what will be different about Airbus’s latest venture?
Well, for one thing, Airbus has a proven track record in the field. Not only does the company have an extensive history of innovation in general but it also demonstrated a near-vertical take-off at this year’s Farnborough Air Show. The A350 demonstrated its capabilities in front of an awe-struck crowd as the 325-seater took to the air with an extremely steep lift-off.
But despite the near-vertical take-off of the A350, a runway was still required. Airbus used the occasion to show what the aircraft is capable of rather than to demonstrate future passenger experience. Their upcoming project, however, does just that.
At the moment Airbus’s latest innovation is only at the very beginning of the design stage. The concept has been put forward for a patent to ensure that Airbus can take their time on the aircraft without competitors edging their way in, but what do we know about the aircraft so far?
For one thing, no runway is required. The aircraft will be able to engage in a purely vertical take-off, meaning it can easily land on confined areas including helipads. That’s not the only similarity it shares with helicopters; the force for take-off comes from a minimum of four rotors powered by electric motors, much like a quadcopter.
Once the aircraft has successfully elevated to a safe height the engine’s focus will shift to a forward-facing propeller that allows the aircraft to move forward as usual. A generator which is connected to the internal combustion engine, assisted by a number of batteries, provides enough energy to both lift and propel the plane forward.
The in-depth patent copy describes the setup of the aircraft and how the components will fit into the overall structure. Each pylon is used to store vertical rotors which are able to adapt position after take-off in order to significantly reduce drag. One idea fielded in the patent includes dual propellers which effectively results in twice the energy being created.
Specifications such as the exact size of the aircraft will only be revealed closer to the release date, but the diagrams indicate that there should be space for a minimum of two passengers. Interestingly, it would also appear that Airbus is already considering scaling the aircraft’s size.
It is possible that Airbus’s latest design will be released in a multitude of designs to suit different requirements. The description within the patent suggests that the aircraft can be either massively reduced or increased in size to the extent that it could be large enough for cargo or small enough to be used as a regular drone to transport tiny items.
In recent years there has been a huge increase in the production of drones. Retail giant Amazon recently unveiled their intention to use drones to deliver goods to customers within hours of ordering. Hobbyists are finding it increasingly easy and affordable to pick up drones.
Despite the fact that precise information of Airbus’s newest creation is yet to be released there are already two variants: civil and military. This, in conjunction with the scalability of the aircraft, would suggest that Airbus is thinking big with this project. This isn’t just a new aircraft, it’s a new way of thinking about aviation.
It is more than a mere assumption that Airbus could use this technology to develop drones, as the aviation expert recently buddied up with Local Motors and crowdfunded a drone that isn’t dissimilar to Amazon’s own offering. In keeping with Airbus’s history, the drone was designed as the result of a competition. The Airbus Cargo Drone Challenge saw 425 entries and dished out $50,000 to Alexey Medvedev’s winning design. Local Motors’ CEO and co-founder John Rogers Jr is certainly confident of the impact the drone will have.
“Phase I of our partnership demonstrated to Airbus the power of community-based creation and open innovation,” said Mr. Rogers. “Phase II of our work together will now demonstrate Airbus’ commitment to the community. The results will be nothing short of game-changing.”
It would be unwise to speculate too much about which way Airbus will head with this latest model. They appear to have left themselves a huge degree of flexibility when it comes to the size of the aircraft, with no decisive measurements, and the option to create the aircraft for both civil and military use. There is also a clear connection between this design and Airbus’s keen interest in drones.
Yet at this stage all Airbus has is an idea. These may very well prove to be the blueprints for an exciting new direction for both Airbus and the aviation industry as a whole. For now, all we can do is sit back and watch as Airbus continues to rewrite the rulebook on what to expect in the world of aviation.