Aircraft

​Bizarre Volerian aircraft design replaces jets and props with flapping wings

​Bizarre Volerian aircraft des...
Like a flying set of venetian blinds, Volerian's aircraft designs are built around the idea of oscillating flappy wings sandwiched inside specially shaped ducts
Like a flying set of venetian blinds, Volerian's aircraft designs are built around the idea of oscillating flappy wings sandwiched inside specially shaped ducts
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Volerian's flying car renders
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Volerian's flying car renders
Volerian VTOL aircraft render
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Volerian VTOL aircraft render
Volerian winged aircraft render
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Volerian winged aircraft render
Like a flying set of venetian blinds: Volerian's ducted oscillating wing design
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Like a flying set of venetian blinds: Volerian's ducted oscillating wing design
Stranger shapes can be considered if you go for solely forward thrust
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Stranger shapes can be considered if you go for solely forward thrust
Volerian render above the jungle
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Volerian render above the jungle
Volerian render above the city
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Volerian render above the city
Volerian render above the jungle near the city
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Volerian render above the jungle near the city
Like a flying set of venetian blinds, Volerian's aircraft designs are built around the idea of oscillating flappy wings sandwiched inside specially shaped ducts
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Like a flying set of venetian blinds, Volerian's aircraft designs are built around the idea of oscillating flappy wings sandwiched inside specially shaped ducts
Volerian render over the river
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Volerian render over the river
Volarian render over golden fields
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Volarian render over golden fields
Volarian render cruises high above a congested freeway, full of people in real vehicles
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Volarian render cruises high above a congested freeway, full of people in real vehicles
Volarian hopes its oscillating wing design will enable city-friendly flying car type machines that are quieter and safer than multirotors
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Volarian hopes its oscillating wing design will enable city-friendly flying car type machines that are quieter and safer than multirotors

There are no powered spinning propellers in nature. When evolution has found an advantage to producing thrust in a fluid, it has done it mainly by flapping things back and forth. This new VTOL aircraft propulsion system aims to do the same with a series of flapping wings mounted in large ducts.

What's wrong with the prop-powered, drone-style VTOL flying car designs we're seeing all over the place? Ignoring the energy density issues that are holding the entire electric aviation industry back, multirotors are quite noisy, and they have basically no adequate safety systems in place if the power systems fail.

A somewhat mysterious startup called Volerian claims to have a solution for both these points, and it uses a very odd propulsion system we've never run across before.

computer simulation of volerian duct wing

The system places a large number of flapping wings inside a series of precisely shaped ducts. The wings are driven by cams on a rotating shaft, such that they flap back and forth quickly between the walls of these ducts, much like the tails of fish. A second fixed "stator" wing is mounted further down the ducts "to further increase efficiency," presumably by messing with the swirling pressure vortices created by the flapping wings.

Like a flying set of venetian blinds: Volerian's ducted oscillating wing design
Like a flying set of venetian blinds: Volerian's ducted oscillating wing design

The company claims its furious flappers not only make less noise than a comparable multirotor setup, but that the system is safer as well. In the event of power loss, the wings can be released to flutter against the airstream coming up through the bottom of the vents as the aircraft falls, acting a bit like a parachute. Not to mention, there's no rotating decapitators in the system to worry about.

Thus, Volerian is proposing a range of different aircraft based on this odd propulsion system. Point them forward, and you can build a conventional winged aeroplane. Point them upward – you'll need more, of course – and you've got a VTOL craft ready for use as a flying taxi, although it's not clear exactly how horizontal thrust control will be achieved in such cases.

The company, at this stage, has only shown a bunch of renders, as well as a single-wing demonstration rig that it rolled out at this year's Farnborough airshow. This rig, though running at a slow speed, demonstrated that these moving wings will be far from silent:

demo rig at the Farnborough airshow

Volerian is dreaming big, though, planning a modular factory design that can be rolled out to multiple production partners. Slow down, guys, how about we get some scale models flying first to assuage our doubts about the propulsion system?

For example, it seems to be reliant on a heck of a lot of moving parts, any of which could be easily damaged by a bird strike, or anything else dropping through the top of the ducts. If something gets wedged in there, does it take out all the wings on the same cam?

Also, does it provide thrust that rises consistently with flapping speed, or does it, like fish tail flapping (which produces a similar "reverse Kármán vortex street" effect) have "a narrow range of frequencies of maximum amplification" in which it can efficiently produce thrust?

Furthermore, how does it handle high-speed incoming wind? And how would a VTOL craft be designed in order to balance itself in the air and provide forward, sideways and rotational motion?

Volerian render above the jungle near the city
Volerian render above the jungle near the city

Many questions remain to be answered before this design can be seen as anything but a set of CAD renders. Still, brand new propulsion systems certainly don't pop up every day, so the Volerian is certainly worthy of a good bit of chin-scratching.

Source: Volerian

11 comments
paul314
An idea and a renderfarm. That seems to be what you need for a new company.
nameless minion
"There are no powered spinning propellers in nature." Actually, the spinning propeller evolved several billion years before flapping back and forth evolved. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFq_MGf3sbk) Bacteria use a protein motor to spin one or more flagella and generate movement.
Lardo
Answers, schmanswers… all we care about are investment dollars. And you'd be surprised at how many people will throw money at any crazy, hair-brained, "ground-breaking" (pun intended) idea that comes along.
Victor Engel
The first statement in the article is wrong. You just have to scale down to very small creatures. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flagellum#Types
Nelson Hyde Chick
The drag on something like this must be insane and thus limiting it to a very low top speed.
ljaques
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sp7MHZY2ADI Let's see: 0:29 , 1:18 (first thought when I saw this), 2:30.
Kalavo
So heavy and cumbersome looking, what’s the equivalent propeller area for this I just wonder.
KungfuSteve
Flapping is found in Nature...and it it FAR more efficient, quiet, and robust (safer), than other forms of Flight mechanisms. The limiting factor of flapping mechanisms is top speed and high acceleration levels. This may not be suitable for an Airplane due to the speed limitations... but for Drone and similar craft... it would be a good fit.
Grunchy
I think they should jump right into those factory plans, as fast as possible. They need to get this ball rolling.
SaysMe
I think the designer should jump off the bridge in his new vehicle...