Aircraft

Russia has flown prototypes of its six-seat hybrid VTOL Cyclocar

Russia has flown prototypes of...
The Cyclocar will carry six people, or up to 600 kg of cargo, up to 500 km (310 miles) thanks to a hybrid powertrain and that unconventional propulsion system
The Cyclocar will carry six people, or up to 600 kg of cargo, up to 500 km (310 miles) thanks to a hybrid powertrain and that unconventional propulsion system
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The Cyclocar will carry six people, or up to 600 kg of cargo, up to 500 km (310 miles) thanks to a hybrid powertrain and that unconventional propulsion system
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The Cyclocar will carry six people, or up to 600 kg of cargo, up to 500 km (310 miles) thanks to a hybrid powertrain and that unconventional propulsion system
Initial tests have validated the cyclic propulsion system and efficiency estimates
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Initial tests have validated the cyclic propulsion system and efficiency estimates
Cyclic propulsion test rig
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Cyclic propulsion test rig
The largest prototype flown thus far is this 60-kg subscale version
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The largest prototype flown thus far is this 60-kg subscale version
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Russia's Foundation for Advanced Research has already flown a 60-kg (132-lb) prototype of its Cyclocar VTOL aircraft, which uses a super-responsive cyclical propeller propulsion system. A full-size, long-range, six-seat Cyclocar is expected to fly in 2022.

We've seen this cyclic propulsion system before, from Austria's Cyclotech, which was previously known as D-Dalus. It places a number of variable-pitch blades in fast-rotating barrels. Each blade changes pitch constantly as the barrel spins, meaning each corner of the aircraft can vector its thrust through 360 degrees nearly instantly, without changing the RPM of the motors.

While this would make cyclic propulsion a terrific solution for a gasoline-powered VTOL, the Russians are planning to use it with a hybrid propulsion system, with full electric drive and a range-extending combustion generator. The six-seat aircraft is expected to fly at up to 250 km/h (155 mph) – this is a fair bit slower than many lift and cruise or vectored thrust multicopter designs, presumably because it has no wings and needs to keep its thrust vectored partially downward at all times.

Range, on the other hand, is huge at up to 500 km (310 miles) thanks to the excellent energy density of gasoline. The final generator engine hasn't been decided on at this stage, but it'll be Russian-built, and either a rotary piston engine or a turboshaft. The propulsion barrels will have a large diameter of 1.5 m (5 ft), and it'll carry up to six people, or 600 kg (1,323 lb) of payload, in either piloted, autonomous or remote-controlled trim. A loading ramp at the rear will improve access for disabled passengers and make cargo loading more practical.

Циклодрон. Полеты с причаливанием к вертикальной поверхности и посадкой на наклонную поверхность

The team has worked out the kinks and complexities in the propulsion system flying sub-scale prototypes shown in the video above, the largest of which weighs 60 kg. The video also demonstrates a rather hair-raising capability of the aircraft to hover in a vertical orientation like a tail-sitter, which we guess might be handy in tight parking spaces?

Project team leader Yan Chibisov said in a Russian-language press release that while the cyclic propulsion system was very aerodynamically complex, it's quiet, compact, and shielded for protection against foreign objects, while enabling very fast thrust vectoring. Initial testing undertaken in conjunction with the Novosibirsk Institute of Thermophysics, said Chibisov, fully confirmed the team's thrust and power consumption calculations, and he's confident that the system will make its way onto an aircraft within three years.

With a full-size, battery-electric prototype expected to begin test flights in 2022, it'll be interesting to see where the Cyclocar goes from here. Commercialization is no joke, and a highly expensive process. The team's video, shown below, appears to suggest that it might start out as a military project first and foremost.

Циклокар - шестиместный аэромобиль с гибридной силовой установкой

Source: Advanced Research Foundation via Interesting Engineering

View gallery - 4 images
13 comments
13 comments
dan
interesting! obviously they go for a turbine - it is all about power-weight efficiency as this propulsion system needs more energy! big potential for this new technology, though scaling up in aviation is not easy. from 60 kg to let's say 1200 kg is a big increase. as mass increases in cubic, (lift) surfaces only increases in square... So, as weight increases 20 times (--> roughly 3 times bigger in size (3x3x3), lift surfaces only increase by factor of 9 (3x3). the difference must be won by efficiency or with an over-proportional increase in "wings". that's why insects cannot grow bigger, or eVTOLs can hardly take off even if small DJI-type quadcopter fly well and up to 30 min with current battery technology.
Chris__
What a novel propulsion system! I'm guessing that it has a pretty significant energy efficiency disadvantage against traditional rotors or ducted fans? It looks like a case of a clever idea at the wrong time - it would have been far more feasible if it could be powered by a turbine, but is going to have a tiny range with current battery technology.
martinwinlow
Crikey! Not much 'all-round' visibility, is there?!
Arcticshade
Interesting concepts, but needs further development and refinement. However do stay with electrics. Turbines are slowpokes, EVTOL's are the future, no Contest !
Leif Knutsen
I would think that propulsion system would work well for a lighter than air vessel that moves heaver load as it can push down as easy as it can lift. For example, low impact selective logging.
Malatrope
Bah. Tom Swift Jr. did this in 1957 with his cycloplane.

I'm going to put on my engineering management hat and decree that this is too mechanically complex to ever be efficient, reliable, and safe. It's a "kewl idea" with no particular practical application.
Grunchy
One time we saw a helicopter landing at the football arena parking lot so we all went running to see the spectacle. As soon as we got near the copter wash we were absolutely pelted with parking lot gravel and debris - painful!
Not even one of these flying car ideas are going to work without a dedicated landing & takeoff field. Good luck finding that downtown.
vince
It would seem with some clever engineering that those cyclical propellers could be made with motors inside and with wheels on the outside for 4 wheel ground driving. In other words no bulky fans and wings as in conventional helicopter like flying emachines. That would be so cool to drop out of sky and merge into traffic on the Interstates without even blinking.
McDesign
Is that - chicken wire?
Nelson Hyde Chick
This system is slower and more complicated, so no advantages, why?
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