As the aviation industry races toward the development of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, the field's notable players are carrying new vehicles to new heights with innovative designs and exciting technological breakthroughs.
PteroDynamics, a U.S.-based aircraft manufacturer headquartered in Southern California, is claiming their VTOL aircraft design, Transwing, has "the highest performance metrics of any VTOL aircraft", and it's indeed unlike any other concept in development.
A unique wing design
Optimized for distance, speed, and cargo-carrying capability, the Transwing uses a unique and patented folding wing design: It can fold its wings during flight to transition between rotorcraft and fixed-wing configurations.
With propulsors attached to the wings, a joint connecting each outer wing to the center wing on the fuselage, and an articulation system that folds and unfolds the wings during flight, the Transwing design can be called "relatively simple."
The Transwing can begin its outbound transition shortly after takeoff and complete its transition to the fixed-wing mode for cruise flight in a matter of seconds. Then, in comparison to its VTOL version, its flying efficiency is roughly five times higher.
In this sense, it combines the best of both worlds: an airplane's economical long-range horizontal flying and a drone's robust and agile vertical takeoff and landing.
What are the advantages?
The Transwing can considerably lower its size for takeoff and landing by changing into an agile and stable multirotor mode, making it highly responsive during takeoff, landing, and hover, particularly when fitted with variable pitch propellers.
When it takes off, lands, or hovers, its wings are folded back along the fuselage, allowing it to benefit from longer wings and greater lift-to-drag ratios while requiring roughly 1/4 of the operating ground footprint of comparable-sized aircraft.
This enables it to land in tight spaces with no problem, which means it can also be transported in its ready-to-fly configuration and stored in small areas on the ground, making it a fascinating piece of tech overall.
Scale prototypes of Transwing have already been developed and flown by PteroDynamics. You can find several videos showcasing Transwing's takeoffs and landings on the company's YouTube account.
According to FutureFlight, PteroDynamics will be concentrating its efforts on its 12-foot (3.6-meter) wingspan prototype, which can carry up to 15 pounds (5.4 kg) of cargo. Starting with small-scale cargo drones, up-spec military and government models, and licensing the patented technology, the firm plans to manufacture and manage its own flying services one day.
Of course, the ultimate goal will be to move up to passenger air taxis in the future; however, whether Transwing will be successful is going to be determined by whether the prototypes can be scaled up to a full-size aircraft while still meeting the performance goals stated so far.