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Title:
THREE WING, SIX TILT-PROPULSION UNITS, VTOL AIRCRAFT
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2012/047327
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A vertical takeoff and landing aircraft having a fuselage with three wings and six synchronously tilt-able propulsion units, each one mounted above, below, or on each half of the aforementioned three wings. The propulsion units are vertical for vertical flight, and horizontal for forward flight. The aircraft wings are placed such that the rear wing is above the middle wing which is placed above the front wing. The placement of each of the propulsion units relative to the center of gravity of the aircraft about the vertical axis inherently assures continued stability in vertical flight mode, following the loss of thrust from any one propulsion unit. The placement of the propulsion units, viewing the aircraft from the front, is such that each propulsion units' thrust wake does not materially disturb the propulsion unit to its rear. When engine driven propellers or rotors are utilized, flapped wing panels are attached outboard of the forward and/or rearward propulsion units to provide yaw control during vertical flight.

Inventors:
OLIVER, Richard, David (8 Penny Creek Drive, Bluffton, SC, 29909, US)
Application Number:
US2011/040693
Publication Date:
April 12, 2012
Filing Date:
June 16, 2011
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
OLIVER VTOL, LLC (8 Penny Creek Drive, Bluffton, SC, 29909, US)
OLIVER, Richard, David (8 Penny Creek Drive, Bluffton, SC, 29909, US)
International Classes:
B64C29/00
Foreign References:
US20030085319A1
US5839691A
US3312426A
US4979698A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KRESLOFF, Mark, R. (McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, 1900 K Street NWWashington, DC, 20006-1108, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1 . A vertical takeoff and landing aircraft comprising: a fuselage;

a flapped or un-flapped front wing attached to the fuselage;

a flapped or un-flapped middle wing attached to the fuselage; a vertical stabilizer and rudder attached to the fuselage; a flapped or un-flapped rear wing attached to the fuselage or vertical stabilizer and six synchronously rotatable, thrust producing propulsion units located about the lateral axis of the aircraft;

wherein each propulsion unit is mounted above, below, or on each half of the three wings and at least two flapped wing panels are fixed outboard of the forward and/or rearward propulsion units when piston or rotary engine, turbine engine, or electric motor driven propellers or rotors are utilized or alternatively without the aforementioned at least two flapped wing panels when the propulsion units consist of jet engines.

2. The aircraft of claim 1 , wherein the propulsion units are ■disposed about the aircraft central vertical yaw axis such that failure of any ■one propulsion unit to produce thrust will not result in the static instability of the aircraft about the vertical axis.

3. The aircraft of claim 1 , wherein the propulsion units are disposed about the longitudinal axis of the aircraft, such that the thrust -wake of any propulsion unit will not interfere with the thrust produced by one or more propulsion units located toward the rear of the aircraft.

4. The aircraft of claim 1 , wherein the rear wing is located above the middle wing and the middle wing is located above the front wing.

5. The aircraft of claim 1 , wherein the propulsion units consist of an -engine or motor either of which is mounted stationary or tilts with the propeller or rotor.

6. The aircraft of claim 1 , wherein the thrust of each propulsion unit is controlled by varying the propulsion units' engine RPM.

7. The aircraft of claim 1 , wherein the thrust of each propulsion unit -is controlled by varying the propulsion units' propeller or rotor pitch.

8. The aircraft of claim 1 , wherein each propulsion unit is a jet -engine and each propulsion units' thrust is controlled by varying the -propulsion units' jet engine thrust.

9. The aircraft of claim 1 , wherein a mechanical mechanism converts pitch, roll, and collective flight control inputs to six thrust -command outputs for the propulsion units.

10. The aircraft of claim 1 , wherein an electronic analog, or digital, -or hybrid analog/digital controller converts pitch, roll, and collective flight control inputs to six thrust command outputs for the propulsion units.

1 1 . The aircraft of claim 1 , wherein the propulsion units' tilt -positions are synchronously driven by a propulsion tilt positioning system which includes an electric motor driving a gear reduction assembly having -six equal speed outputs, through six flex drive shafts, connected to six -screw jacks; and each of the screw jacks controls the tilt position of the propulsion units, which is controlled by a multi position switch located on a -flight control, and the position of the propulsion units are monitored by one -or more propulsion unit tilt position sensors.

12. The aircraft of claim 1 , wherein the propulsion units' tilt -positions are synchronously driven by a tilt positioning system consisting -of electric motor powered screw jacks controlled by a computerized -controller which monitors the propulsion units' tilt positions and the tilt -position control.

13. A method for vertically taking off and landing an aircraft comprises:

providing a fuselage;

attaching a flapped or un-flapped front wing to the fuselage;

attaching a flapped or un-flapped middle wing to the fuselage; attaching a vertical stabilizer and rudder to the fuselage;

attaching a flapped or un-flapped rear wing to the fuselage or vertical stabilizer; and

locating six synchronously rotatable, thrust producing propulsion -units about the lateral axis of the aircraft;

wherein each propulsion unit is mounted above, below, or on each -half of the three wings and at least two flapped wing panels are fixed -outboard of the forward and/or rearward propulsion units when piston or turbine engine driven propellers or rotors are utilized or alternatively -without the aforementioned at least two flapped wing panels when the -propulsion units consist of jet engines.

14. The method of claim 13, wherein the propulsion units are -disposed about the aircraft central vertical yaw axis such that failure of any -one propulsion unit to produce thrust will not result in the static instability -of the aircraft about the vertical axis.

15. The method of claim 13, wherein the propulsion units are disposed about the longitudinal axis of the aircraft, such that the thrust -wake of any propulsion unit will not interfere with the thrust produced by one of more propulsion units located toward the rear of the aircraft.

16. The method of claim 13, wherein the rear wing is located above the middle wing and the middle wing is located above the front wing.

17. The method of claim 13, wherein the propulsion units consist of an engine or motor which either is mounted stationary or tilts with the -propeller or rotor.

18. The method of claim 13, wherein the thrust of each propulsion -unit is controlled by varying the propulsion units' engine RPM.

19. The method of claim 13, wherein the thrust of each propulsion -unit is controlled by varying the propulsion units' propeller or rotor pitch.

20. A vertical takeoff and landing aircraft comprising:

a fuselage;

a flapped or un-flapped front wing attached to the fuselage;

a flapped or un-flapped middle wing attached to the fuselage; a "V" tail with flaps attached to the fuselage and six synchronously rotatable, thrust producing propulsion units located about the lateral axis of the aircraft;

wherein each propulsion unit is mounted above, below, or on each half of the two wings and "V" tail and at least two flapped wing panels are fixed outboard of the forward and/or rearward propulsion units when piston or rotary engine, turbine engine, or electric motor driven propellers or rotors are utilized or alternatively without the aforementioned at least two flapped wing panels when the propulsion units consist of jet engines.

Description:
THREE WING, SIX TILT-PROPULSION UNITS, VTOL AIRCRAFT

REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This patent application claims the benefit of U.S. Application No.

12/900,790 filed on October 8, 2010, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein in its entirety by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Field of the Invention

The invention relates to the field of VTOL aircraft, and in particular, to an aircraft which is capable of sustained vertical flight following the loss of thrust from a propulsion unit. This means the continued safe flight following the failure of not only an engine but a gearbox or propeller/rotor.

Description of Related Art

The advantages of an aircraft taking off and landing without an airport are obvious. Fixed wing aircraft are restricted to operations from relatively few airports and many of these airports are not their desired destination. In military applications, airbases are vulnerable to attack. The response time of forward positioning of a VTOL support vehicle is significantly reduced and the range requirements are also reduced. Flexible positioning is also valuable in air ambulance applications, where the total response and delivery time "the golden hour" is critical to the survival of the patient.

The pursuit of an aircraft which can take-off and land vertically which possesses the speed, range, and payload capacity of an airplane has continued since the invention of the helicopter.

HELICOPTER VTOL

The reason this search continues is that the helicopter is full of performance limitations and safety problems. The performance is limited due to its limited forward speed due to retreating blade stall. It also has a limited range due to its inefficiency compared to fixed wing aircraft. The limited range is further reduced by the utilization of light weight turbine engines, which do not reach any reasonable fuel efficiency until operating at high altitudes where helicopters do not normally operate. The helicopter must consume much of its power simply keeping itself in the air, and approximately 15% of the power is consumed by the tail anti-torque rotor just to keep the helicopter from spinning. The helicopter must also deal with high vibration levels. There are many safety related problems that engineers and pilots are fully aware of. These are, loss of tail rotor effectiveness (LTE), Ground Resonance, Mast bumping, Loss of control during negative G flight, Settling with power (VRS), Dynamic roll-over, anti-torque rotor failures, and in case of engine failure, auto-rotations requiring unusually quick response by the pilot to maintain rotor speed and the immediate requirement to select a landing site. So, the helicopter has been the mainstay solution to our vertical flight needs because we have not found a better solution, but the aviation industry has not stopped searching for better solutions.

Aircraft designers have been working on the concept of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft for many years. There are a number of different ways to combine vertical flight with the speed and range performance of a conventional airplane, but developing a practical, redundant, and useful payload capable hybrid aircraft has proven to be a surprisingly difficult and elusive task. The engineering challenge consists of achieving two main goals. The first is to accomplish redundant and controllable vertical flight in such a way that the very same mechanisms and equipment are required for forward flight. Any weight of solely vertical flight mechanisms is useless during forward flight and represents a reduction in available payload relative to a fixed wing aircraft capability. The second goal consists of achieving "power matching". This simply means a successful VTOL design should require the same power in vertical flight as forward flight. Any mismatch represents excess capacity which corresponds to excess weight in one mode of flight. The present invention simultaneously achieves both goals.

Numerous approaches to VTOL aircraft have been explored over the years, of which the two Joint Strike Fighter concept demonstrators are only the latest. There have been tilt-rotors like the V-22 Osprey, tilt-props and tilt-wings, as well as deflected-slipstreams, deflected-thrust, thrust augmenters, and tail sitters. Many of these exotic designs have been tested at Edwards, and Air Force Flight Test Center pilots have often been called to fly some extremely unusual aircraft. In fact, there are so many attempted VTOL aircraft solutions to this problem that there simply is not enough room in this patent application to list them all and their related problems. Much can be learned by studying the history of these and other VTOL aircraft. Bell Helicopter, Ryan, Hiller, GE, Lockheed, Curtis-Wright, LTV, and others, mainly funded by the U.S. government have developed and tested various VTOL prototypes, known as X (for experimental) planes for years. I have listed just a sampling of the more promising designs. Many crashed or failed continued support, a couple are with us today. Most were not able to achieve the two main VTOL goals explained earlier. Many are in the literature and our aerospace museums.

DUCTED PROP/FAN VTOL

Configurations known as Ducted Fans, both two and four duct versions, have been built and tested. The Navy X-22 (Bell Model D2127), with the first flight March 17 th 1966, had four 1 ,267 HP engines with 7 foot diameter propellers mounted within four large ducts placed at each end of a forward and rearward wing. This craft first flew in 1966 and crashed, on August the 8 th 1966 due to a single propeller control failure. The last flight was 1988. The promise of higher static thrust efficiencies offered by ducted propellers or fans was offset by the additional weight and drag of the large ducts during cruise flight. This craft also had cross-linked drive-shafts to all four propulsion units to provide redundancy in the event of engine failure. The weight of this complex system and the ducts consumed much of the payload capability. The second prototype aircraft is currently on display in the Niagara Aerospace Museum, New York. The problem of a failure of a gearbox, shaft, or propeller and VTOL operation with airplane speed, range, and payload was not solved by the ducted propeller or fan design.

The Army/Douglas/Doak VZ-4DA Tilt Ducted Prop research vehicle placed a ducted fan at each end of a single conventional wing. Again, the duct gave the added static thrust efficiency for vertical flight but the extra weight and additional drag was a problem. The design used cross coupled drive shafts which significantly increased weight. The problem of a failure of a gearbox, shaft, or propeller and VTOL operation with airplane speed, range, and payload was not solved by the ducted propeller or fan design. LIFT FAN VTOL

On August 13,-1965, Maj. Robert L. Baldwin lifted an oddly humpbacked brown jet into the air and began the Air Force Flight Evaluation of the GE-Fiyan XV-5A. General Electric had been researching a fan-in-wing concept for V/STOL aircraft, and late in 1961 it won an Army contract for a concept demonstrator. GE subcontracted the design and construction work to Ryan. The XV-5A that resulted was a small, fighter-like design: 44 feet long with a 30-foot wingspan. A pair of J85-GE-5 turbojets mounted within the fuselage provided approximately 5,000 pounds of thrust in normal flight. When vertical thrust was needed, the pilot could actuate a diverter valve that directed some of the exhaust gases to a pair of fans, 5 feet in diameter, located in the inboard portion of each wing. The wing fans rotated in opposite directions and were covered by large hinged doors in conventional flight. Exhaust gas also powered a smaller fan in the nose that provided pitch control and a measure of additional lift. All three fans together provided 16,000 pounds of vertical thrust. A set of louvered vanes underneath each of the large wing fans could vector the thrust in any direction and provided yaw control. Much of the all important payload capability was consumed by the complex fan system. The transitional behavior was reported as quite "abrupt" preventing it from being adequate for "service pilots". The XV-5A crashed at Edwards Air Force Base killing test pilot Lou Everett. The problem of

a failure of a fan and VTOL operation with airplane speed, payload, and range was not solved by this ducted fan design.

TILT WING VTOL

Configurations where the whole wing tilts (Tilt Wings) with engines and propellers attached have been built and tested. On January 27, 1961 the Navy Bureau of Naval Weapons (Bu Weps) created the Tri-Service Assault Transport Program. The original outline had been drawn up as a replacement for the Sikorsky HR2S, with a payload of 10,000 pounds, operational radius of 250 miles, and cruising speed of 250-300 knots. This is roughly what the Marine

Corp has needed for many years and has culminated in the requirements for the V22 Osprey twin Tilt Rotor aircraft. The Ling-Temco- Vought (LTV) of Grand Prairie Texas XC-142(A) cargo airplane (actually known as the Vought-Ryan- Hiller XC-142, but when Vought became part of the LTV conglomerate the name was dropped ) is the most notable tilt wing VTOL. The XC-142A first flew on September 29, 1964, and on January 1 1 , 1965, it completed its first transitional flight. My father was a design engineer at LTV when I watched this plane as a teenager. I was there when it crashed in the marshes of the lake near our home killing three test pilots due to a tail rotor drive shaft failure. This aircraft had problems with cross-linked drive shaft vibrations. It also had problems with wing angles greater than about 35 degrees. The wake due to wing stall caused serious control problems and as it converted from forward flight, the increase in wing angle of attack yielded too much lift and the aircraft climbed. These behaviors and problems were judged unacceptable. This aircraft configuration

did not solve the problems resulting from the failure of a gearbox, driveshaft or

propeller.

The Vertol V-76 is an additional example of a Tilt Wing research aircraft.

This aircraft configuration did not solve the failure of a gearbox, driveshaft or

propeller problems.

DEFLECTED THRUST VTOL

Bell constructed the X-14 as an open-cockpit, all-aluminum monoplane. It

was powered by two Armstrong Siddeley Viper turbojet engines equipped with

thrust deflectors sited at the aircraft's center of gravity. The engines are fixed in

position; transition from vertical to horizontal flight is achieved with a system of

movable vanes that control the direction of engine thrust. Top speed was 180

miles per hour with a service ceiling of 20,000 feet. The X-14 was designed using

existing parts from two Beechcraft aircraft: wings, ailerons, and landing gear of a

Beech Bonanza and the tail cone and empennage of a Beech T-34 (a military

trainer variant of the Bonanza).

The X-14 first flew on 19 February 1957 as a vertical takeoff, hover, then

vertical landing. The first transition from hover to horizontal flight occurred

on 24 May, 1958. In 1959, its Viper engines were replaced with General Electric

" " f Formatted: Line spacing: single

J85 engines. That year the aircraft was also delivered to the NASA Ames Research Center as the X-14A. It served as a test aircraft with NASA until 1981 .

- { " Formatted: Line spacing: single

The X-14 project provided a great deal of data on Vertical Take Off and

Landing aircraft. The X-14A was a successful research aircraft. The

VTOL design did not produce a practical aircraft with meaningful payload and

range.

DIRECTED JET THRUST VTOL

Configurations using the Directed Thrust of jet engines have been tested.

A small single seat Bell VTOL experimental had small turbojet engines placed on

each side of the fuselage underneath a high wing. The engines were tilt-able for

conversion to forward flight. Reaction nozzles, using bleed air provided

directional control during hovering. The problem of engine failure was not solved

by this aircraft design. The MBB VJ-101 Jet Lift vehicle consisted of an F104 aircraft with tilt-able

turbojet engines placed at each end of its conventional wing. The problem of

engine failure was not solved by this aircraft design.

The British developed the fore-runner to the Marine's AV-8 Harrier, which

proved itself in the Falkland's Islands invasion. But, to be truly useful, this aircraft

must make a short conventional takeoff to carry its all important payload, making

this vehicle a STOVL, Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing Craft. VTOL solutions

using directed jet thrust will seldom be efficient or inexpensive, certainly not safe. The AV-8 Harrier uses an ejection seat as a solution for engine problems. This is a very narrow solution initially designed for forward air support of ground troops.

The problem of a failure of a propulsion unit is not solved by these designs.

JET THRUST AUGMENTATION

Lockheed set up a privately funded VTOL design that was approached in a different way, using augmented lift-jets (thrust augmentation). It mixed hot engine exhaust gas with cold air to increase engine thrust. Lockheed made and tested their Model 330 Hummingbird where the exhaust from the jet engine was directed through ducts or nozzles that were installed within the fuselage. Most of the fuselage space was occupied as the mixing chamber with cold air intake from the upper hatch. Lockheed proposed this study to U.S. Army and was awarded a contract for two prototypes, designated XV-4A in competition with Ryan XV-5A and Hawker XV-6A in 1961 . The first conventional flight was on July 1962. Three months later, first hover was tested but the actual thrust augmentation was much less than expected. The first XV-4A crashed in 1964. The second XV-4A then was modified as XV-4B for flight research by USAF until it crashed in 1969. The problem of engine failure and useful payload was not solved by this aircraft design.

TAIL SITTER VTOL

In this configuration the aircraft literally sits vertically on its tail. This is accomplished by having three or four tail surfaces with small wheels attached at their ends. The aircraft normally has a counter rotating propeller located on the nose. The pilot must climb up a platform to enter the cockpit. These versions were built and flown but all test pilots had serious visibility problems when attempting landings. They were intended for maritime service aboard ships with heaving decks! They actually accomplished the goal of vertical and horizontal flight using the same equipment and power but were not capable of carrying any real payload other than the pilot and fuel. Their propeller disk loadings were simply too great for any meaningful payload and the landing challenge was completely unacceptable for any manned service.

TILT ROTOR/PROP VTOL

Designs using Tilted Propellers (Tilt-Props) are not new, the Tri-

Service/Curtiss-Wright X-19 Tandem Wing Radial Force Tilt Prop aircraft placed Tilt Props at each end of two wings, creating a two wing four Tilt-Prop design. The problem of a failure of a gearbox, shaft, or propeller is not solved by this design.

In October of 1953, Bell Helicopter was awarded a development contract to produce two aircraft for testing purposes. The Bell Helicopter XV-3 (originally known as the XH-33, classifying it as a helicopter) (Bell model 200) (the designation was changed in 1962 to XV-3A) first flew August 1 1 , 1955, achieved

full conversion in 1958, was developed to explore the convertiplane concept and

eventually successfully demonstrated the Tilt Rotor concept. These aircraft are

referred to as Tilt Rotors, referring to the propellers as rotors, because they are

mainly helicopter rotors with similar control heads. This vehicle consisted of two

tiltable helicopter like rotors placed at each end of a wing, driven by a single

engine. The prototype encountered significant vibrations during the transition to

forward flight. These vibrations were eventually reduced. The data and

experience from the XV-3 program were key elements used to successfully

develop the Bell XV-15. The problem of a failure of a gearbox, shaft, or

propeller/rotor is not solved by this design.

The development of the XV-15 Tilt-rotor research aircraft was initiated in

1973 with joint Army/NASA funding as a "proof of concept", or "technology

Demonstrator" program, with two aircraft being built by Bell Helicopter Textron

(BHT) in 1977. Ship number 1 was given NASA number 702, and ship #2 was

703. Aircraft development, airworthiness testing, and the basic "proof of

concept" testing were completed in September 1979.

: Formatted: Font: Times New The aircraft is powered by twin Lycoming T-53 turbo-shaft engines that are

connected by a cross-shaft and drive three-bladed, 25 ft diameter metal rotors

(the size extensively tested in a wind tunnel). The engines and main

transmissions are located in wingtip nacelles to minimize the operational loads on the cross-shaft system and, with the rotors, tilt as a single unit. For takeoff, the prop-rotors and their engines are used in the straight-up position where the thrust is directed downward. The XV-15 then climbs vertically into the air like a helicopter. The problem of a failure of a gearbox, shaft, or rotor is not solved by this design.

The BA609, Bell-Agusta Tilt Rotor is the commercial offshoot of the Bell XV-15, the tilt rotor proof of concept vehicle built at the main Bell plant in Hurst Texas and tested at the Arlington Texas facility. The BA609 is still in

development as of this writing and is not expected until about 2012. The problem of a failure of a gearbox, shaft, or rotor is not solved by this design.

The Bell/Boeing V22 Osprey Tilt Rotor is the military offshoot of the Bell XV-15 tilt-rotor. It uses two 6,150 HP engines and cruises at about 241 kts. It was intended to lift 25 fully loaded combat troops and quickly carry them 500 miles to fight its way in and out of high threat landing zones. This vehicle represents a solution to Tilt Rotor flight, but has been quite costly in terms of development and unit cost. The loss of a V22 in Arizona during a simulated mission is suspected to be due to asymmetrical Vortex Ring State (VRS). This is when one rotor effectively loses lift and the aircraft rolls and plunges to the ground. The V22 utilizes cross coupled shafts, so that the failure of one engine allows the remaining engine to power the opposite rotor. This is complex, heavy and expensive. This may provide a solution for a single engine failure, but not a gearbox, bearing, rotor, or blade failure. This may be a reasonable risk to the military, compared to the lives it can save, but may prove problematic and too costly in the commercial market. TWIN TILT ROTOR AIRCRAFT PROBLEMS

The current technology twin tilt rotor V22 Osprey's recent performance is used as the best example of twin tilt rotor problems.

1 . The failure of either propulsion unit to produce thrust, results in the loss of the aircraft and occupants. The cross coupled shaft system provides a marginal performance backup limited to engine failure, not gearbox or rotor failures. The loss of 50% of this aircraft's power results in its' inability to continue its' mission and in many circumstances requires immediate landing. The present invention solves this problem with its' fundamental design, providing for continued flight following the complete loss of thrust by any propulsion unit, no matter what the cause.

2. Inability to use evasive maneuvering tactics to avoid hostile fire, similar to that found in high threat landing zones. Quick maneuvering has resulted in the cracking and breaking of rotor root components which may result in the loss of a blade, and therefore the aircraft. The 38 foot rotors are limited to about 10 degree flapping angles. Quick maneuvering can (and has) easily exceed this angle resulting in the failure of a rotor and the potential loss of the aircraft. This limited maneuverability might be acceptable for commercial operations, but not for the intended applications of the military. The V22 is intended for insertion and extraction missions during ground fire. The present invention solves this problem by using much smaller diameter rigid propellers as opposed to helicopter like rotors which allow the blades to flap and distribute the load to six propellers instead of two rotors. The propellers are smaller for the same disk loading, therefore they have a smaller moment of inertia. Propellers have been used successfully on aerobatic airplanes and WWII dog fighters without blade separation due to these high gyroscopic forces. For example, the V22 Osprey has two rotors totaling a disk area of 2,268 square feet. Each blade is roughly 19 feet long (including hub radius), the length of a blade in a six propeller system of the same area would be eleven feet. This represents a significant reduction in blade root forces due to high G maneuvers.

3. Limited center of gravity (e.g.) range. The V22 design is inherently a narrow C.G. aircraft. The side by side location of the rotors does nothing to improve longitudinal e.g. range and the V22 has the highly limited e.g. range of a helicopter with a single rotor. It was intended that soldiers "down rope" from the left and right side of the V22, but the rotor wash blew them off the ropes due to the hurricane like wind below the rotors. A single rope was attached below the tail above the rear ramp area avoiding the rotor wash. This limited C.G. range prevents soldiers from moving to the rear ramp during "down roping" insertions, until the previous two have released the ropes' end at the ground. This significantly increases the time required to down rope 25 marines exposing the V22 to hostile ground fire for an unusually long period. If soldiers are excited and rush to the rear of this craft exceeding its aft C.G. limit, control will be lost along with the aircraft. The present invention solves this problem by distributing the thrust around the aircraft. The C.G. range is quite large and is therefore very tolerant of moving payload.

44. Settling with power or Vortex Ring State (VRS) is a well known (by engineers and pilots) problem with helicopters. It is a condition where an annulus or "donut" of accelerated air is created around the actuator (rotor) disk. Simply put, it's what happens when you try and fly in your own rotor wake.

Roughly speaking, the air is turbulent and you begin to lose lift, if you raise the collective (increasing pitch) to correct the situation, it becomes worse. It is similar to running up the down escalator. The solution has been to reduce collective and push the cyclic forward to fly out of the disturbed air. An accepted method to avoid it is, as an example, is not to descend more than 300fpm if you are flying less than 30kts. When a helicopter gets in this situation, it can recover as long as it has enough altitude. Even tandem rotor helicopters can experience this behavior. The front rotor normally enters VRS first causing the front to drop, assisting in the necessary forward motion for recovery. The V22 configuration is different. When one of its rotors enters VRS, the aircraft begins to roll, the pilot instinctively corrects with opposite stick, worsening the problem and the ship rolls over and plunges toward the ground. This is what happened near Tucson, Arizona on a simulated night mission killing many Marines. The present invention solves the VRS susceptibility problem for Tilt Propeller configurations by distributing the load among six propellers. When a propeller enters VRS the present invention should remain stable and controllable.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In an exemplary embodiment of the present invention, there is disclosed a vertical takeoff and landing aircraft comprising:

a fuselage;

a flapped or un-flapped front wing attached to the fuselage;

a flapped or un-flapped middle wing attached to the fuselage; a vertical stabilizer and rudder attached to the fuselage; a flapped or un-flapped rear wing attached to the fuselage or vertical stabilizer; and

six synchronously rotatable, thrust producing propulsion units located about the lateral axis of the aircraft;

wherein two propulsion units are mounted above, below or on each of the three wings;

wherein, when the propulsion units consist of electric motor, rotary, piston or turbine driven propellers or rotors, contain two or more flapped wing panels affixed outboard of the propulsion units to provide yaw control during vertical flight;

wherein, when the propulsion units are jet engines that the yaw control is accomplished by exhaust diverter methods.

An alternative embodiment consists of using a flapped or unflapped "V" tail arrange instead of the rear vertical stabilizer and rear wing. This tail method was utilized by the famous Beechcraft "Bonanza". The rear propulsion units are attached to each of these surfaces similar to the rear wing embodiment. The more important features of the invention have thus been outlined in order that the more detailed description that follows may be better understood and in order that the present contribution to the art may better be appreciated. Additional features of the invention will be described hereinafter and will form the subject matter of the claims that follow.

Before explaining at least one embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and the arrangements of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. Also it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.

As such, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the conception, upon which this disclosure is based, may readily be utilized as a basis for the designing of other structures, methods and systems for carrying out the several purposes of the present invention. It is important, therefore, that the claims be regarded as including such equivalent constructions insofar as they do not depart from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

The foregoing has outlined, rather broadly, the preferred features of the present invention so that those skilled in the art may better understand the detailed description of the invention that follows. Additional features of the invention will be described hereinafter that form the subject of the claims of the invention. Those skilled in the art should appreciate that they can readily use the disclosed conception and specific embodiment as a basis for designing or modifying other structures for carrying out the same purposes of the present invention and that such other structures do not depart from the spirit and scope of the invention in its broadest form.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Other aspects, features, and advantages of the present invention will become more fully apparent from the following detailed description, the appended claim, and the accompanying drawings in which similar elements are given similar reference numerals.

FIG. 1 a and 1 b are top views of the aircraft with propulsion units in the horizontal and vertical positions; FIG. 2a and 2b are side views of the aircraft with propulsion units in the horizontal and vertical positions;

FIG. 3a and 3b are front views of the aircraft with propulsion units in the horizontal and vertical positions; and

FIG. 4 is a Flight Control Thrust Vectoring Mechanism.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The invention is a vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. When the propulsion units consist of engine driven propellers, this VTOL configuration is known as a tilt-prop vehicle, since the propellers are tilted forward for forward flight and tilted vertically for vertical flight.

The term "Propulsion Unit" as used within this document refers to any method of producing thrust. The example of an engine driven propeller is chosen solely for illustration purposes and is not intended to limit the scope of this invention. The invention is valid for alternate means of propulsion including jet engines. When the propulsion units consist of jet engines this VTOL

configuration is known as a "Tilt Jet" since the jets are tilted forward for forward flight and tilted vertically for vertical flight. The invention is valid for alternate propulsion unit tilting implementations. The engine (piston, turbine, rotary, electric or other power source) may be mounted on the wing and transfer power through a gearbox into its tilt-able propeller or rotor. This design allows the engine or motor to remain relatively fixed in a single position without having to operate in multiple positions of the propeller. The aircraft configuration consists of a conventional aircraft fuselage, with a nose, with or without pilot and/or co-pilot crew stations in the case of

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) applications, a central cabin or payload area, and a tapering empennage. The aircraft has three wings, the front wing, middle wing, and the rear wing. Two propulsion units are mounted above, below, or on each of the three wings, yielding six propulsion units. The wings are fixed to the fuselage and the propulsion units rotate in unison to either of two (not including intermediate) positions, vertical or horizontal.

For electric motor, rotary, piston or turbine driven propeller or rotor embodiments, the propulsion units on opposite sides of the aircraft turn in opposite directions to cancel rotational moments about the yaw axis due to propeller or rotor torque. Small flapped wing panels are fixed outboard of the forward and rearward propulsion units. These wing panels are located within the propulsion units' propeller slipstream. They provide yaw control during vertical flight. Their flaps are disabled in the neutral position once the propulsion units advance toward the horizontal position.

The main landing wheels are located at the rear end of the forward propulsion units. A retractable and steerable tail wheel is located on the center line of the fuselage near the rear of the aircraft and retracts rearward and upwards into the normally unused space in the tail cone or alternatively for applications which require rear doors or a ramp the tail wheel may retract forward into the bottom of the fuselage. = This eliminates the normally complex and heavy landing gear retraction and extension system increasing payload capacity. When the engines or motors rotate with the propellers or rotors the main wheels are mounted to the aft end of the forward propulsion unit engine support structures. This takes advantage of the existing structural load path which already exists for the engine support. When the engines or motors are mounted in a fixed position with the propellers or rotors tilting, the main wheels may be attached to the aft end of the tilting assembly. The propulsion units are spaced further apart than typical main gear designs increasing ground stability. Gear up landings are not possible with this invention as the landing gear is always down when the aircraft is in vertical flight mode. Separate landing gear controls and systems are not required. Proper placement of the main gear below the nacelle center line and clam shell gear doors can enable partial conventional takeoff and landings (CTOL) to enable additional payload capability when a runway is available. This is accomplished by placing the propulsion units in an intermediate position considering ground clearance is provided for the propeller or rotor tips. With jet propulsion units this would not be a problem. For jet engine propulsion embodiments, yaw control is accomplished by exhaust deflection methods instead of the yaw control wing panel required in the tilt propeller embodiment. The main landing gear consists of the same system described above except that the main wheels are not placed within the jet exhaust at the rear of the propulsion units but placed below the exhaust area.

The flapped front wing, sometimes called a canard, and rear flapped wing operate differentially providing pitch control. The aircraft contains a conventional vertical stabilizer and rudder assembly. The rudder provides conventional yaw control during forward flight. The middle wing contains conventional ailerons for roll control. When manned, the crew station(s) contain conventional helicopter controls, namely, a collective control used in vertical flight mode, a cyclic control for pitch and roll control, and rudder pedals for yaw control.

The forward wing is set at an effective angle of attack greater than the main and rear wing. This assures that this forward wing stalls first, dumping its load and causing a nose down pitching moment, for safety, reducing the chance of the middle and rear wings stalling. Additional advantages of providing pitch control at the front and rear wing, as opposed to the single conventional rear elevator is the elimination of trim drag and total elevator loss of control which can occur in deep stalls. Some aircraft have airfoils known as strakes, which are not required in this embodiment, mounted below their tails to provide a nose down pitching moment to prevent this from happening. The rear wing is mounted above the middle wing and the middle wing above the front wing. This arrangement reduces the exposure of each wing from flying in the downwash of the wing ahead of it, decreasing drag. The wing spans of each wing are chosen to provide the design wing span and position each set of propulsion units such that the thrust wake of forward units do not disturb the propulsion units that are mounted to their rear.

While in vertical flight, the six propulsion units are arranged around the aircraft producing thrust. Imagine a round table with six legs. Remove one leg and the table remains standing! The center of gravity of this aircraft is generally located about its' center. The propulsion units are placed such that the remaining thrust following the loss of thrust from one propulsion unit will maintain longitudinal and lateral static stability, therefore supporting the aircraft.

So, the weight, cost, and non-reliability of cross coupled engine drive shaft systems required in previous discussed designs is not required for continued flight following an engine failure in this invention. Each propulsion unit contributes only 1 /6 of the total thrust. The twin tilt rotor V22 Osprey and BA609 engines must be sized such that one engine must supply the total power required for vertical flight. This means these engines need to be capable of greater than 200% of the normally required power. The additional reserve power required of these engines represents a lot of extra pounds and dollars. They must carry this extra weight of the engines and drive shafts all the time which reduces their payload capacity. The owner or operator must pay the initial cost, and the continuing maintenance, and overhaul costs associated with this excess capacity. Also notice that the failure of a gearbox, rotor system or blade and asymmetrical VRS will result in the total loss of these aircraft. The present invention requires its' propulsion units to have reserve power, to replace the thrust from the failed propulsion unit, but far less than previously discussed configurations. Much of this reserve power is already required for normal de-rating for reliability, aging, additional power for control, and additional power for vertical climbing and vertical decelerations. So, this distributed power invention requires little additional capacity due to a failed propulsion unit.

This invention solves the critical problem of failed engines, gearboxes, propellers, or rotors resulting in the loss of the aircraft and occupants.

This invention solves the problem of limited maneuverability of twin tilt rotor designs. This invention solves the problem of limited center of gravity range of single or twin tilt prop/rotor designs.

This invention overcomes the susceptibility to Vortex Ring State of helicopters and twin tilt prop/rotor designs.

This invention solves the problem of propulsion redundancy requiring extra capacity and weight.

This invention solves the problem of a propulsion unit failure necessitating the eminent requirement to land.

This invention solves the problem of truly redundant VTOL flight combined with the speed, payload, and range similar to fixed wing aircraft. This invention significantly reduces the retractable tricycle landing gear installed weight and complexity resulting in significantly increased payload capacity.

Shown in FIGS. 1 - 4 are a top view, a side view, a front view of the aircraft and a Flight Control Thrust Vectoring Mechanism for a VTOL tilt- propulsion aircraft in accordance with the principles of the invention. Large diameter tilt rotor propulsion units are best for relatively heavy lift and lower speed applications similar to the V22 Osprey due to their intrinsic lower disk loading, yielding higher lift efficiency and higher rotor drag during cruise. The large blade areas of these rotors, requires large power to drag them through the air at high speeds. Although these aircraft normally contain excess power allowing them to achieve high speed flight, the fuel consumed at these speeds significantly decreases range. The V22 Osprey is capable of flight at 300kts, but recommended cruise is 241 kts.

Tilt propeller propulsion units are best for medium lift applications requiring relatively higher cruise speeds, similar to turboprop fixed wing aircraft, due to the propellers' lower weight and drag at higher cruise speeds.

Tilt jet propulsion units are best for highest speed applications. The choice between reciprocating engines and turbo-shaft engines, as the power source, is not so simple. Where cost and propulsive efficiency, for range, are important, reciprocating engines will be the best candidate. Where higher power, speed, and lighter weight become a driving factor, turbo-shaft engines will be the best candidate. The slightly lower reliability of modern reciprocating engines, relative to turbines, is no longer a factor in the present invention due to its redundancy. Small UAVs will most likely use electric motors or reciprocating engines. When the UAV must carry ordinance or significant payload such as sensor weights exceeding 500 pounds, turbo-shaft engines may be indicated. Commercial market air ambulances will use turbo-shaft engines. The main variations of the invention involve this choice of engine size and propulsion technology. The choice is determined by a simple trade study considering the intended application and the available engines. As long as the embodiment of the present invention provides for the static stability of the aircraft following the loss of the thrust of a single propulsion unit, and the thrust wake from each propulsion unit does not materially affect the performance of propulsion units to its rear, and the center of gravity range of the aircraft design remains within a polygon described by the interconnection of lines between thrust producing propulsion units, then the inventions' requirements are materially met.

Referring to FIGS 1 - 3, there is shown an aircraft 10 with six propulsion units 26 which can be in the vertical position for take off and landing and in the horizontal position for forward flight in accordance with the principles of the invention. The tilt-prop aircraft here disclosed, while not limited to any specific application, is intended to satisfy the medium weight and medium speed requirement.

The aircraft has three wings. The rear wing 12 is mounted above the middle wing 14 which is mounted above the front wing 16. The front wing 16 and rear wing 12 have differentially connected flaps 18 which provide the conventional forward flight pitch control. The front wing 16 is set at a higher effective angle of attack which assures stall prior to the middle wing 14 and rear wing 12.

The middle wing 14 contains conventional ailerons 20 for roll control in forward flight. The middle wing may extend beyond the propulsion units when a higher aspect ratio wing is required.

The aircraft has a conventional vertical stabilizer 22 and rudder assembly

24.

Located on each wing half is a propulsion unit 26 where the propulsion units of the aircraft of the FIGS. 1 a through 3a are horizontally oriented and the propulsion units of the aircraft of FIGS. 1 b through 3b are vertically oriented.

Located outboard of the front and rear propulsion units 26 are yaw control panels 32 with flaps 30. They are fixed to the propulsion units and rotate with them providing yaw control during vertical flight. The rear wing 12 with propulsion units 26 may be mounted at the top of the vertical stabilizer 22 as a traditional T-tail arrangement, mounted in the middle as a traditional cruciform arrangement, or at the bottom. Mounting the rear wing 12 at the bottom of the vertical stabilizer 22 may require a jog in the empennage, similar to the V22 empennage, to maintain the rear wing 12 mounting position above the middle wing 14. Alternatively, the middle wing 14 may be located in the middle of the fuselage 28, allowing the rear wing 12 to be mounted on the upper surface at the base of the vertical stabilizer 22. This places the middle wing 14 spar in the cabin and may require an undesirable heavy ring carry through structure. A UAV may use this method without the ring structure. Asymmetric thrust may be used for forward flight yaw control as long as the vertical stabilizer is sized for static lateral axis stability.

Analysis by the applicant of the invention has produced these listed design goals:

1 . The engines' power should be approximately 150% of the power required for the "Hover Out of Ground Effect" H.O.G.E. hover and temperature requirements. This will provide for reliability de-rating, reduction of thrust due to engine aging, requirements for control power, and heave power (vertical acceleration and deceleration). This reserve generally should power match that necessary for engine-out operations.

2. All unnecessary weight should be avoided. The weight growth factor for VTOL designs is quite large.

3. Lightweight engines should be specified. Traditional horizontally opposed piston Lycoming or Continental engines may not be acceptable. Their horsepower to weight ratios of 1 to 2 are not appropriate for VTOL Tilt-Prop applications.

4. Complex and weighty propeller systems are not appropriate. Select light weight composite designs. 5. Normal utility load factors are acceptable.

6. Retractable landing gear, either tired tricycle or retractable landing skids are indicted for the highest speed requirements. Well faired fixed gear is appropriate up to about 200kts. The gear should be designed for taxi capability and VTOL operations only. The disclosed method of placing the main wheels at the aft end of the forward propulsion units will provide the lowest cost and greatest pay load.

7. Propeller power factors greater than 7 pounds thrust per horsepower should be sought.

8. Propeller disk loading of about 10 pounds per square foot or less should be sought.

9. Consider light weight propellers with novel blade twist technologies. These offer blade angle distributions favorable to both hover and cruise efficiency requirements.

10. Blade tip speeds during hover should be about 800fps. Tip speeds during cruise should not exceed 0.8 Mach.

1 1 . The propeller, gearbox, and engine combinations' static performance should be fully characterized and tested before the airframe detail design begins.

12. Power matching the cruise and hover requirement should be a design goal. When necessary, consider reducing the cruise speed requirement to meet this goal.

13. The rear wing should be mounted above the middle wing which should be mounted above the front wing.

14. The front and rear wing should be flapped and differentially controlled to provide the conventional forward flight pitch control, and the front wing should be set at an effective angle of attack which assures stall prior to the middle and rear wings.

15. The middle wing should contain conventional ailerons for roll control in forward flight.

16. The aircraft should contain a conventional vertical stabilizer and rudder assembly. The rear wing with propulsion units may be mounted at the top as a traditional T-tail arrangement, mounted in the middle as a traditional cruciform arrangement, or at the bottom. Mounting the rear wing at the bottom of the vertical stabilizer may require a jog in the empennage, similar to the V22 empennage, to maintain the rear wing mounting position above the main middle wing. Alternatively, the main middle wing may be located in the middle of the fuselage, allowing the rear wing to be mounted on the upper surface at the base of the vertical stabilizer. This places the middle wing spar in the cabin or requires an undesirable heavy ring carry through structure. Asymmetric thrust may be used for yaw control as long as the vertical stabilizer is sized for static lateral axis stability.

17. The aircraft should have a highly reliable and simple thrust vectoring control mixer. The system should be analyzed carefully to eliminate single point failures causing total system failure. Failsafe thrust positions at the engines are necessary. Consider propulsion unit failsafe to some intermediate thrust by analyzing the hover power required at minimum useful load (single pilot and low fuel). Consider including anti-jam links in the mixers' thrust command outputs. Cockpit engine kill switches could provide for this preset thrust following the thrust control failure to any one engine.

18. The aircraft design team should take advantage of the six alternators and batteries located within the propulsion units, to obtain a fail proof electrical power source for the avionics systems. A minimum requirement is a left and right main electrical buss with a cross tie contactor. The busses should be located on opposite sides of the aircraft.

19. The fuel tanks should remain within the propulsion unit nacelles for safety. When additional fuel is required, each wing can have fuel bladders. A single point fueling system is heavy and brings the fuel into the fuselage. This should only be considered in UAV or military application where it might be mandatory. For commercial applications it is not abnormal for four or more tanks to require filling.

CONTROL OF THE AIRCRAFT DURING FORWARD FLIGHT

The aircraft is controlled conventionally by helicopter type flight controls in forward flight. The collective flight control is not used during forward flight. Pitch and roll is controlled by the cyclic flight control which is differentially connected to the front and rear wing elevators for pitch control and middle wing ailerons for roll control. The rudder pedals provide yaw control and are connected to the vertical stabilizer rudder.

CONTROL OF THE AIRCRAFT IN VERTICAL FLIGHT

The control of motion about the pitch and roll axis is by way of thrust vectoring, which is accomplished by reducing the propulsion units' thrust in the direction you want the vehicle to move toward and increasing the propulsion units' thrust opposite this direction. This may be accomplished by a mechanical, electronic analog, digital or hybrid method. The following example is mechanical.

This is illustrated by controlling engine RPM, by way of throttling. Thrust may be controlled by differentially controlling propeller pitch or many other methods.

Referring to FIG. 4, there is shown a mechanism 50 which converts cyclic stick movement to thrust commands to six propulsion units. This mechanism is used to control the propulsion unit's thrust resulting in the pitch and roll of the vehicle in vertical flight. The mechanism is fundamentally a mechanical implementation of a rectangular (X, and Y) to polar (Displacement, and

Angle)(Rho, Theta) coordinate converter, with the exception of an additional input, Z 68. This Z input 68 causes an equal decrease in six displacement outputs 60. Therefore, there are three linear inputs, X 76, Y 64, and Z 68 and six displacement outputs 60. Let the X input 76 be the pitch (fore or aft) position of the cyclic control, the Y input 64 be the roll (right or left) position of the cyclic control, and the Z input 68 be the position of the collective (up or down) control.

The mechanism 50 consists of a central two piece vertical rod assembly, consisting of two coaxially oriented rod pieces 52, 54, one above the other, with a universal joint 56 connected between them. The bottom vertical rod segment 54 is mounted in a fixed position linear bearing 66 near its bottom end, allowing vertical movement of the rod assembly which consists of

52,54,56,58,60,62,64,68,70,74, and 76. A disk 74 is fixed on rod 54 above linear bearing 66 and below universal joint 56. Attached to the periphery of disk 74 is the Z axis input fitting 68. This is the Z axis, or collective input to the mechanism. When you raise or lower the collective control the rod assembly rises and falls in unison. Disk 74 contains a vertically oriented fixed linear bearing 70 with a small fixed vertical rod 72 passing through it. This prevents the rod assembly

52,54,56,58,60,62,64,68,70,74, and 76 from rotating. A disk 58 is mounted on the upper rod 52 segment midway between the universal joint 56 and top end. There are six attachment points 60 around disk 58 which correspond to the relative angular locations of the propulsion units on the aircraft. These six attachment points 60 are the six thrust command outputs of the mechanism. A similar disk 62 is attached to the top of the upper rod segment. This disk has two orthogonally oriented attachment points 64 and 76 on the disk. These are the X 76 or pitch, and Y 64 or roll inputs. The cyclic control is connected to these two inputs, X 76 or pitch, and Y 64 or roll, and the top of the vertical rod 52 mimics the cyclic control position.

In operation, moving the cyclic flight control toward the right front direction, say 45 degrees to the right, causes the disk 62 at the top of the mechanism 50 to move forward and to the right since the disk 62 is connected to the cyclic control by way of the Pitch "X" 76 and Roll "Y" 64 inputs. The centrally located thrust command disk 58 mounted above the universal joint 56 moves with the rod 52 in the same direction, 45 degrees to the right. The thrust command attachment points 60 also move because they are part of the disk. Assuming the use of propeller pitch control cables, the thrust outputs 60 from the disk 58 push

(reducing pitch and therefore thrust) on the cables in the direction of the desired vehicle movement and pull (increasing pitch and therefore thrust) on thrust cables in the opposite direction in an amount proportional to their relative angular placements.

Raising the collective flight control causes the rod assembly

52,54,56,58,60,62,64,68,70,74, and 76 to rise and therefore pulls on all thrust

cables equally, increasing the propeller pitch and therefore thrust on all six propulsion units equally.

Yaw control is provided through rudder pedals, controlling the flapped outboard wing panels. The conventional rudder remains connected and moves with the rudder pedals during hovering flight. Roll and pitch control by thrust modulation remains active until the propulsion units are commanded to leave the vertical position. The elevator and middle wing ailerons remain connected to the cyclic flight control during hovering flight. The front, middle, and rear wing flaps may be placed in a down position to reduce the vertical drag on the wing caused by the high velocity propeller wakes. These flaps must return to normal forward flight operation prior to disabling thrust vectoring control.

CONTROL DURING TRANSITIONAL FLIGHT

The aircraft is brought to a hover and systems are checked similar to helicopter procedures. Once final checks are complete and cleared, the aircraft is accelerated to a transition speed. At this speed, the Middle wing Ailerons, Rudder, Front and Rear Wing flaps are fully effective for aircraft control. A conversion switch is placed in the first forward position causing the propulsion units to move to an intermediate forward position. The aircraft will accelerate to a specified forward speed when the conversion switch is then placed in the second intermediate forward position which causes the propulsion units to rotate to the second intermediate position and the wing panel flaps providing the yaw control during hover to return to the neutral position. Once the aircraft accelerates to a new specified speed, the conversion switch is placed in the forward flight position, the propulsion units rotate to the forward flight position and the conversion process is complete. The propulsion units' angular rate from hover to forward flight position should be approximately 6 degrees per second.

CONTROL FOLLOWING THE LOSS OF PROPULSION UNIT THRUST IN

VERTICAL FLIGHT

When a propulsion unit failure occurs, thrust is lost causing a roll and/or pitching moment toward the failed unit. The pilot instinctively will move the cyclic control to correct this motion. This control movement increases thrust in the neighboring propulsion units and decreases thrust in the opposite propulsion units, restoring the aircraft to its original orientation. The only thing that will change, from the pilot's perspective, is the new cyclic position in his hand. The vehicle is designed such that the center of gravity always passes within a polygon described by the relative positions of the remaining thrust producing propulsion units.

CONTROL FOLLOWING LOSS OF PROPULSION UNIT THRUST IN

FORWARD FLIGHT

When a propulsion unit fails, during departure and following transition to forward flight, the pilot simply trims the rudder for the relatively small asymmetrical yaw caused by the failed propulsion unit. This yaw is not like an engine failure in a twin engine airplane, where you lose half your thrust and gain a large addition drag due to its wind-milling propeller. With this configuration you lose 16.6% of your thrust and gain the additional drag of the propeller. The critically important concept of minimum control speed (VMC) does not exist here. The vehicle will have accelerated beyond this speed before transition to forward flight begins. Therefore the size, weight and cost of a large vertical stabilizer and rudder normally required for multiengine aircraft are not required with this invention. ADDITIONAL FEATURES OF THE INVENTION

ENGINE SIZE

The engine size of any version of this aircraft is significantly smaller than competitive configurations. Smaller engines tend to be simpler to handle and maintain. The design of most aircraft is limited to existing engine designs. It is rare that a new power plant is designed and manufactured for a new aircraft. An aircraft which utilizes relatively smaller engines has a much larger quantity to select from (smaller engines types are more numerous than high horse power engines). Smaller engines can be less expensive per horsepower than larger engines. The higher quantity of six engines allows more economies of scale to be realized. A manufacturer is far more interested if the aircraft utilizes six engines as opposed to one or two per vehicle. Quantity discounts are far more likely in this situation. All of this applies equally well to gearboxes, engine mounts, nacelles, batteries, alternators, propellers or rotors. SAFETY CHARACTERISTICS

Historically, when an aircraft suffers a failed engine, bad things can and do happen. Single engine aircraft lose an engine and land, sometimes, successfully, sometimes not. Multiple engine aircraft may continue the flight, sometimes not. Engine failure on departure with a twin engine fixed wing aircraft is notoriously dangerous. Single engine helicopters with a failed engine do not normally set down without damage or death following an autorotation. The pilot must be fast, proficient, and lucky.

The embodiment of this invention places six propulsion units in approximately equal angular distributions around the aircraft. This unique placement provides for the continued flight following a single propulsion unit failure. The aircraft center of gravity is designed to be located along the center line of the fuselage and approximately near the center of the middle wing spar. The propulsion units are designed to have reserve power in the event of an engine propulsion unit failure. So, inherent safety following a propulsion unit failure without any special pilot talent or proficiency is a unique characteristic of this invention.

Locating the fuel tanks within the propulsion units places the fuel away from the cabin occupants. Fire in the cabin during flight or crash is unlikely.

Placing the propulsion units away from the cabin prevents them from entering the cabin during a normal crash scenario.

The forward wing stall behavior reduces the likelihood of the middle or rear wing stalling, reducing stall related accidents.

Individual propulsion unit fuel systems provide completely independent fuel systems, preventing failure of more than one unit due to a single problem. There are no fuel selectors or cross-feed controls planned, just fuel shutoff switches in the cockpit.

With the advent of Primary Flight Displays (PFDs) and Multifunction Displays (MFD) the availability of a highly reliable power source on the aircraft is mandatory. As a matter of fact the FAA demands it. Today the FAA considers alternators and batteries as power sources. This embodiment shown with six propulsion units has twelve (12) power sources. A properly designed electrical system can produce the fail safe power source for these and other important electronic systems including remote control and communication links for the UAV versions of this vehicle. The safety increase of having a virtually fail-proof power source is simply put, great.

EFFICIENCIES

The rear wing of this configuration supports its share of the vehicle weight as opposed to conventional aircraft. Conventional aircraft normally use a less efficient un-cambered airfoil known as the horizontal stabilizer. The stabilizer operates with a downward force during normal flight. This force effectively adds additional weight reducing payload capability. It also creates drag due to this negative lift, known as "trim drag". The V22 Osprey uses a conventional horizontal stabilizer and elevator in its configuration. The supersonic Concord actually pumped fuel to a tank in its tail to reduce this trim drag. The front wing is a cambered airfoil wing which operates as a lift producer and at the same time provides pitch control as a canard with elevator. So, rather than paying for the weight, drag, and negative lift, we have effectively eliminated the weight and trim drag of a horizontal stabilizer. The rear wing becomes part of the lift producing wing function as well as sharing pitch control with the front wing.

The location of the propulsion units near the wing ends can provide an end plate effect which reduces the normal magnitude of wing tip vortices and improving span efficiency factor, reducing induced drag and, therefore, increasing range.

A structural efficiency can be gained by distributing propulsion unit weight near the wing tips which reduces wing root bending loads and, therefore, wing weight. The use of six propulsion units avoids the weight, complexity, and cost of a cross coupled engine drive shaft system. INDUSTRIAL APPLICABILITY

The invention is applicable to aircraft and in particular VTOL aircraft.

While there have been shown and described and pointed out the fundamental novel features of the invention as applied to the preferred embodiments, it will be understood that the foregoing is considered as illustrative only of the principles of the invention and not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed. Obvious modifications or variations are possible in light of the above teachings. The embodiments discussed were chosen and described to provide the best illustration of the principles of the invention and its practical application to enable one of ordinary skill in the art to utilize the invention in various embodiments and with various modifications as are suited to the particular use contemplated All such modifications and variations are within the scope of the invention as determined by the appended claims when interpreted in accordance with the breadth to which they are entitled.