The age of UAVs has well and truly dawned but designers aren't resting on their laurels when it comes to improving the capabilities of these multi-talented aircraft. One innovation that's come to the fore recently is the use of an enclosed four rotor platform (see our recent look at the CyberQuad) which offers a number of advantages including greater stability, agility, hovering ability and a smaller footprint. This unique new design from Britain's VTOL Technologies takes this idea a step further, adding four movable rotors to a single "flying-wing" to create an aircraft that claims to deliver a higher payload capacity for its size and up to four times the endurance of current vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAV designs.
The company describes the concept as a "superb piece of minimal ‘systems-engineering’ based design, eliminating redundant aircraft features that add weight, overcomplicate flight control, increase drag and reduce endurance." The idea is that less can go wrong with this simplified platform, primarily because the fixed wing requires no control surface actuators. In the event that something does come unstuck, namely the loss of power to one or more of the motors, the UAV can still operate at close to cruising speed with three or even just two rotors operational. The design also boasts resistance to wind gusts, fast stall recovery and in the event of a total loss of power, the shallow glide angle offered by the flying wing design means there's a greater chance of fixing the issue in the air or bringing the craft to ground safely compared to other fixed rotor VTOL designs.
The Flying-Wing design could also have applications on fields as diverse as traffic monitoring, crime and border surveillance, humanitarian relief and pollution monitoring
The current specs for the concept (see below), show a maximum endurance of two hours, a hover time of 0.5 hours and a range of 37 miles (60km)using lithium polymer cells as the power source, but the company says that ongoing work into green fuel-cell technologies could quadruple this figure within the next couple of years.
See the stories that matter in your inbox every morning