Aircraft

Kelekona proposes colossal 40-seater mass transport eVTOL aircraft

Kelekona proposes colossal 40-...
New York City startup Kelekona is proposing a mass transport-sized eVTOL air bus service capable of carrying 40 people long distances
New York City startup Kelekona is proposing a mass transport-sized eVTOL air bus service capable of carrying 40 people long distances
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New York City startup Kelekona is proposing a mass transport-sized eVTOL air bus service capable of carrying 40 people long distances
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New York City startup Kelekona is proposing a mass transport-sized eVTOL air bus service capable of carrying 40 people long distances
Heavily tapered back end helps the body shape generate lift at speed
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Heavily tapered back end helps the body shape generate lift at speed
The Kelekona aircraft's entire body is one giant wing
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The Kelekona aircraft's entire body is one giant wing
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Most eVTOL companies are thinking at air taxi scale, offering just 2-5 seats. Lilium is a notable exception, putting forth a whopping 7-seat "air minibus" design and prioritizing longer trips. But there are very few companies thinking at the kind of scale Kelekona's talking about.

This audacious New York City startup is thinking in terms of 40 passengers plus a pilot per flight – or an enormous 10,000 lb (4,540 kg) of cargo. And apparently long distances and high speeds, too, since the Kelekona website promises these VTOL sky buses will make the 330-mile (531 km) run between LA and San Francisco in just one hour.

The airframe is certainly an interesting design. It'll rise off the ground in VTOL operations using four banks of two large, ducted fans with variable pitch blades. These fan banks will tilt forward to get this giant bird moving into forward flight – but where most vectored thrust eVTOLs have large, wide wings, Kelekona plans to rely on the body shape alone to provide enough lift for efficient forward flight.

Thus, it's got a chunky, flat, wide body with a mild teardrop shape to its side profile. The front is rounded, the rear end tapered. The bottom looks pretty flat, and the top is slightly domed to turn the whole blobby thing into a lifting surface.

The Kelekona aircraft's entire body is one giant wing
The Kelekona aircraft's entire body is one giant wing

The look is bizarre and a little blimpy, and we're fascinated to learn how the aerodynamics will work out. Surely it'll have to be moving pretty damn fast to support itself in the sky carrying 40 people and the kind of colossal battery bank you'll need for inter-city flights.

Charging those puppies will be no trivial matter, either; we must be talking about several megawatt-hours' worth of high-density lithium batteries here. Plug it into a wall socket and you might be ready to fly the thing back to home base in a few weeks. Thus Kelekona is planning to make the entire battery pack swappable, rolling the whole underfloor of the aircraft out to be slow-charged while the big sky bus moves on to its next destination.

The only other similar eVTOL mass transit project that springs to mind is Britain's GKN Aerospace with its Skybus aircraft, which proposes offering 30-50 seats on cross-town vertical commutes. But GKN is planning to use two enormous connected wings to get the job done. The advantages and disadvantages are immediately clear; the GKN design will produce a lot more lift, flying much more efficiently at slower speeds, but with 50 seats in its cabin it may well be as wide as a 747. Finding space to safely launch and land these things in city areas won't be easy.

Heavily tapered back end helps the body shape generate lift at speed
Heavily tapered back end helps the body shape generate lift at speed

The Kelekona design, on the other hand, might be able to operate off something 3-4 times the size of a regular helipad. Still challenging to make space for in an urban environment, but easier than if it had a couple hundred feet of wingspan to think about. It's going to have to fly fast and far to operate efficiently, though, and that means its energy requirements will be absolutely epic.

It's a fascinating and different proposition that seems aerodynamically improbable and energetically even harder. We've lined up a chat with the founder to talk it through, and will bring you more on this extremely odd aircraft in the coming days.

Check out a render video below.

A different class of eVTOL

Source: Kelekona via FutureFlight

View gallery - 3 images
22 comments
22 comments
CarolynFarstrider
Am I right in thinking this looks like Thunderbird 2?
Towerman
A bit strange to look at..... but i welcome diversity, EVTOL's will at some stage carry large payload/more pax. And this could be the start of that specific niche within the regular smaller payload taxi niche.

The Big Elephant of course is the question, what will power it to 530 km of range.
I for one know it will be possible, however battery tech/fuel cell tech for long range aircraft is just still slightly out of reach, thats why the 2-4 seater taxi market is perfect for now.
dan
energy requirements will be absolutely epic. that said, it will neither be ecological nor economically competitive, beside "offering" all the cons of eVTOLs (1000 feet death zone, very short flight time, software/ certification issues...). I am not sorry for the ones investing in these fantasies... But I like the renderings! ;-)
vince
Looks like a flying saucer.
Arcticshade
@Dan
What cons ? Sorry that's far from accurate,
i'm With TM the sloppy armchair comments needs to be addressed.

Every aircraft has got a death zone, not to mention high disc loading helicopters, auto rotation being useless in too many cases to mention, failed engines at V1 on airplanes, these accidents have happened many a times in real life and yet they are still certified ! Unbelievable.

It's time to wake up and face reality, multicopters are superior machines with utmost reliability that normal aircraft cannot touch.

EVTOL's have redundancy that have been tested to be superior to prevent these disasters.

I seem to recall just on the other thread you commenting without any knowledge, here you do the exact same.

Ecologically and economically it will be far superior than any other existing transport aircraft, clearly you don't understand the technology whatsoever, software/hardware what about it, it is absolutely solid, tried and tested for over a decade, as mentioned in the Volo comment section in the previous article as well.

Renderings ? Haha, are you coming out of a cave ? Similar aircraft is flying already in front of your eyes for many years, get in touch with reality and get with the Future.

The Sky looks bright for EVTOL's to take off in a dramatic and global fashion !
clay
The whole lifting-body thing seems like a great idea, and a very underexploited one. It is not a new idea and yet in the end, economics and standards win the day.

This hardshell blimp seems odd though, because it has no other apparent aero-control surfaces. With a slightly-heavier-than-air or a bonafide lighter-than-air craft, this is feasible simply due to the safety factor such buoyancy provides...but even then, they typically have control surfaces.

This craft makes the argument for Airlander and Lockheed to get into the eVTOL space.
Edward Vix
This slideware will never fly, both figuratively and literally.
Bob Flint
A slick hard shelled blimp with active airfoils, what sort of gas inside?
gettodacessna
@dan

I see you posting about a "death zone" on every single eVTOL news article. I'm not saying this particular example of an eVTOL is good, but you might be missing the point that with enough redundancy, there is no longer a death zone. Just think about it for a minute or so. If one failure doesn't cause a total loss of power, then when does this death zone occur? Isn't this the same reason a lot of jetliners have multiple engines? So they can keep flying if something goes wrong?
Nelson Hyde Chick
This thing is going to be loud, and it will make the urban environment a little less hospitable all for the benefit of the wealthy few.
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