A New Hybrid Aircraft Is 3 Times Faster Than a Helicopter
In 1989, Vox conceptualized fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing airframes (VTOL), along with a plethora of sketches that looked straight out of a sci-fi movie, for a way to innovate the idea. Several prototypes and component tests later, the aircraft is in its final stages of assembly, and testing is expected to start next year.
Revolving around the concept of increasing the safety and convenience of the passenger, this hybrid aircraft can also fly three times faster than a helicopter.
“Our aircraft can travel at turboprop speeds and land on nearly any helipad in the world,” Brian Morgan, the COO and EVP of engineering at Vox, told Robb Report. “Like any helicopter, it provides the flexibility and ease of point-to-point travel, but at two to three times the speed, with more comfort and the ability to fly above the weather, all while burning about half the fuel of the same-sized rotorcraft performing the same mission," he said.
Plane but not simple
How does Vox reach this level of performance? Through four turbofans embedded in the “strake” wings to provide lift for takeoffs and landings while offering aerodynamic and safety advantages. A separate rear rotor system produces forward thrust. “We preferred a fixed-wing design,” said Morgan. “It provides dedicated lift and thrust so you’re never unsupported.” The dedicated lift and forward thrust systems maximize safety and reliability for transition between vertical and forward flight.
The power train will have electric lift rotor assemblies, while still employing turboshaft thrusters for the most efficient and longer-range flight, thereby achieving the sense of a hybrid model. The battery bank provides about eight minutes of power, with about the same amount of time in reserve. The aircraft recharges in forward flight.
“A mix of multiple systems will work together to optimize power needs and flexibility for the different modes of flight,” Morgan added. “The precise combination and scaling of each are dependent on the mission profile.”
Currently, Vox is exploring SAF and hydrogen options, but starting with conventional fuel, the VTOL will go about 400 miles at 300 knots with an 800-pound load, according to Robb Report.
A 250kW all-electric version will have a range of about 180 to 200 miles. In the event of engine failure, the large fixed-wing will create a 17-1 glide ratio, providing extra safety.
Vox is developing everything, from drone-sized versions to a mid-size business jet. “We’re a fixed-wing VTOL with long-range and high speed,” said Morgan. “We looking to fit into the regional travel portion of the market," he said. The company hopes to get airborne in 2022 and reach certification by 2026.