Aircraft

Cargo-carrying long-range VTOL UAV moves to full scale prototype stage

Cargo-carrying long-range VTOL...
The ATLIS VTOL autonomous drone is being designed for long range cargo hauling
The ATLIS VTOL autonomous drone is being designed for long range cargo hauling
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A quarter scale ATLIS prototype has been designed and built by Aergility and Watts Innovations
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A quarter scale ATLIS prototype has been designed and built by Aergility and Watts Innovations
The ATLIS VTOL autonomous drone is being designed for long range cargo hauling
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The ATLIS VTOL autonomous drone is being designed for long range cargo hauling
The ATLIS quarter scale proof-of-concept prototype features The ATLIS UAV features an array of eight electric rotors to provide lift and control, and a gas-powered prop at the rear for forward momentum
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The ATLIS quarter scale proof-of-concept prototype features The ATLIS UAV features an array of eight electric rotors to provide lift and control, and a gas-powered prop at the rear for forward momentum
The quarter scale ATLIS prototype is remote controlled, but the production version will fly autonomously
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The quarter scale ATLIS prototype is remote controlled, but the production version will fly autonomously
Close up of one of the twin rotor arms of the ATLIS quarter scale prototype
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Close up of one of the twin rotor arms of the ATLIS quarter scale prototype
The ATLIS design team is aiming for 100 mph and hundreds of miles of range on one tank of gas
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The ATLIS design team is aiming for 100 mph and hundreds of miles of range on one tank of gas

Florida's Aergility has spent the last few years developing and testing a new kind of vertical take-off and landing aircraft (VTOL) called the ATLIS. The wingless autonomous delivery drone is being designed to fly at 100 mph (161 km/h) for hundreds of miles on a single tank of gas, making use of a proprietary lift and control system called managed autorotation.

The ATLIS VTOL features an array of eight electric rotors to provide lift and control, and a gas-powered prop at the rear for forward momentum. While in the air, this "very unconventional gyrocopter" makes use of something Aergility is calling managed autorotation.

Company founder and CEO Jim Vander Mey told General Aviation News that the patent-pending system uses a flight controller to manage the revs of the rotors. Lift is achieved by powering up all of the rotors at the same time, while firing up select rotors and simultaneously slowing down others helps with turning. Regen braking is used to recoup energy expended during take-off and landing, meaning that "there is no net electrical energy consumed over the course of the flight."

The ATLIS quarter scale proof-of-concept prototype features The ATLIS UAV features an array of eight electric rotors to provide lift and control, and a gas-powered prop at the rear for forward momentum
The ATLIS quarter scale proof-of-concept prototype features The ATLIS UAV features an array of eight electric rotors to provide lift and control, and a gas-powered prop at the rear for forward momentum

The UAV will be made from carbon fiber – for the housing, struts and rotor arms. Design renderings show the rotor arm assembly folding for transport and a payload that would be loaded onto a platform under the aircraft, which is then hoisted inside the fuselage. Initial development is focusing on long range cargo transport, but the ATLIS template can be scaled to meet the demands of such varied use scenarios as aerial survey, disaster relief and crop spraying.

After clocking up thousands of hours in computer simulation, the Aergility design team and Watts Innovations have built a quarter-scale prototype from carbon fiber and aluminum and started flight tests. The project now plans to move up to a full scale prototype, which is expected to take about another year to build.

You can find out more about the project and see the current prototype in action in the video below.

Sources: Aergility, Watts Innovations

Introducing ATLIS from Aergility - 400lb payload, 200mi range.

6 comments
fb36
Looks good but IMHO it could be even better if gas engine was only used to provide electricity for the battery (like a series hybrid).
Watts Innovations
@fb36 - Absolutely... that is their intent. As you can see in the rendering, this was designed for a gasoline pusher engine.The electric motor in there currently is only for testing. The hybrid gas/electric combo is what provides the excellent flight time.
riczero-b
Obviously a military application here, frontline supply / emergency medevac.
christopher
Gyrocopter is what these are usually called
Edouin
riczero-b - Obviously NOT. I'm thinking more along the lines of Amazon, Postal Services, Air Ambulances (for stable patients only!), Forestry Survey, heck, even carry water for Fire Fighters on the ground battling the fire on foot! Anything that can get in/out safely is desperately required to help these people. Ooooh, another one - Disaster Assistance (Duh!). A few dozen of these would have been great in Haiti, as an example. For you dystopian types, there is remote aerial reconnaissance, (Something every police force wants!), and then, of course, the Military. However, as this is (supposed to be...) fully autonomous, and is a lightweight vehicle with absolutely no ballistic protection, front-line deliveries would most likely be a one-way trip. Hardly a good use for this technology. Rear Echelon Lines - perhaps. But the concept instantly makes sense, and I hope that they are successful as hell!!!
Towerman
"christopherJuly Gyrocopter is what these are usually called" This comment tells me you are one of those who does not know the difference between a helicopter and a plane, those type only know whatever is in the air fly's they don't know how, nor do they care why. Being nice, i will inform you that a multirotor with or without sideward propulsion is different from a gyrocopter, that difference is like day and night difference ;)