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Title:
VTOL AIRCRAFT
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/150128
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A VTOL aircraft is having four electric fans (3a, 3b, 4a, 4b) distributed around the centre of gravity of the aircraft. Of the four electric fans, two (3a, 3b) are set into openings through the body (1)and two (4a, 4b) are rotatable about an axis to provide either horizontal thrust or vertical thrust. Optionally a multi-mode hybrid turbine engine (5) may be provided at the rear of the aircraft.

Inventors:
MOHSENI, Seyed Mohammad (4 Vesta Close, Milton Keynes Buckinghamshire MK11 4BF, MK11 4BF, GB)
Application Number:
GB2019/050282
Publication Date:
August 08, 2019
Filing Date:
February 01, 2019
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
MOHSENI, Seyed Mohammad (4 Vesta Close, Milton Keynes Buckinghamshire MK11 4BF, MK11 4BF, GB)
SAMAD AEROSPACE LIMITED (Cranfield Technology Park, Conway House, Wharley End Bedfordshire MK43 0FQ, MK43 0FQ, GB)
International Classes:
B64C29/00; B64C39/10
Domestic Patent References:
WO2017155348A12017-09-14
WO2015019255A12015-02-12
WO2006113877A22006-10-26
Foreign References:
CN107600405A2018-01-19
US20090008510A12009-01-08
ES2293818A12008-03-16
US20140103158A12014-04-17
CN107628244A2018-01-26
CN106586001A2017-04-26
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HIGGS, Jonathan (Urquhart-Dykes & Lord LLP, Altius House1 North Fourth Street, Milton Keynes Buckinghamshire MK9 1NE, MK9 1NE, GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims:

1. An aircraft comprising:

a blended-wing-body having a main body, with a forward cockpit section and a rearward tail section, and fixed wings adjoined to the main body;

two fixed fans set into the blended-wing-body, either side of a centre line thereof; two rotatable fans disposed either side of the centre line and towards the rear of the main body that are rotatable between vertical and horizontal facing orientations, for providing a transition between vertical and horizontal flight;

wherein the two fixed fans and the two rotatable fans, being four fans in total, are distributed about a centre of gravity of the aircraft.

2. The aircraft according to claim 1, wherein a turbine engine and/or fifth fan is located

adjacent or within the tail section.

3. The aircraft according to claim 2, wherein the turbine engine is a multi-mode electric/gas turbine hybrid propulsion system.

4. The aircraft according to claim 2 or 3, including an electric battery or set of batteries wherein the turbine engine is configured to charge the electric battery while simultaneously providing forward thrust during flight.

5. The aircraft according to any of the preceding claims, including a controller for automatically varying the lift/thrust created by each fan.

6. The aircraft according to claim 5, wherein the controller gradually reduces power to the fixed fans in a transition mode when, in use, the aircraft is moving forward.

7. The aircraft according to any of the preceding claims, wherein a cover is provided for

removably covering one or both of the fixed fans when not operating or shutting down.

8. The aircraft according to any preceding claim, wherein the body and wings are made from a rigid, lightweight material and/or construction.

9. The aircraft according to any preceding claim, wherein the cockpit communicates with an interior cabin for accommodating passengers.

10. The aircraft according to any preceding claim, wherein the two fixed fans and/or rotatable fans are electrically powered.

Description:
VTOL AIRCRAFT

The present invention relates to a vertical take-off and landing VTOL aircraft, e.g. an aeroplane capable of vertical take-off and landing and also capable of horizontal flight.

BACKGROUND VTOL aircraft offer the prospect of eliminating the need for a runway that is otherwise required by those aircraft only capable of achieving high speed horizontal flight. Due to the restriction of requiring a runway, helicopters are often chosen for short range flights as they can be landed on a relatively small, flat surface; such as the roof of a building. However, due to the aerodynamic limitations of the lift generated by a helicopter rotor, they cannot travel as quickly as a fixed wing aircraft.

High speed jet travel for mass consumption is common and, furthermore, business jets typically bought by wealthy individuals or corporations are also available. Jet aeroplanes facilitate fast travel between airports and they are often favoured over helicopters due to the increased comfort provided to the passenger. VTOL aircraft can potentially offer the advantages and comfort of a private jet with the ease of vertical take-off and landing of a helicopter.

It is particularly noteworthy that the technology in the business jet industry has matured without any major innovation for many decades. Although many efforts have been made for enhancing the comfort in the cabin and increasing range and other specifications, these aircraft still need airports/runways to take-off and land, requiring the time-consuming practice of airport security plus the taxes and expenses of airports.

Furthermore, the high cost of these vehicles has limited their market to large corporations, and very wealthy individuals. In addition, no major environmental achievements have been demonstrated in this industry. Some businesses and organisations have taken the route of using helicopters because of their flexibility at take-off and landing, but helicopters fall short on measures of range, speed and comfort.

By way of background, VTOL aircraft are well known and now particularly popular, e.g. in the form of radio-controlled drones. An example of a vertical take-off and landing aircraft is disclosed in US2007/0246601 Al. In this document the vehicle incorporates multiple vertical facing ducted fans for vertical motion and means for achieving conventional horizontal flight. Another example of VTOL aircraft is provided by US10040547 B wherein an unmanned aircraft is provided with front and rear vertical and horizontal air discharge pathways to facilitate vertical lift and horizontal flight.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A need has been identified for a small passenger aircraft, particularly for business use, that incorporates VTOL features. The prior art comprises VTOL aircraft, e.g. with three fans, providing vertical lift but this does not allow for a failsafe were one of the fans to fail. The prior art also features aircraft with many fans, in order to provide for vertical and horizontal motion by way of the separate fans. The present invention seeks to address the need for economy of design and greater consideration of occupant safety.

According to a first aspect of the present invention, an aircraft is provided according to claim 1. Particularly, the aircraft includes a blended-wing-body (BWB) having fixed wings extending from a main body. An advantage of a BWB configuration is high aerodynamic quality and, consequently, less energy consumption for flight. The main body further has a forward cockpit/cabin section and a tail section. There are two fixed fans positioned within and through the blended-wing-body and two further fans that are rotatable between vertical and horizontal facing orientations. BWB provides sufficient depth in the wing for fans which is a significant ergonomic benefit.

Both sets of fans are preferably electrically powered and disposed either side of a centre line, the rotatable fans being further disposed towards the rear of the main body, for providing a transition between vertical and horizontal flight. The two fixed fans and the two rotatable fans, being four fans in total, are distributed about the centre of gravity of the aircraft and powered such that at least three of the fans in operation enable the aircraft to land safely. The centre of gravity of the aircraft lies between the front and rear fans but is likely closer to the front fans to ensure cruise stability.

Advantageously, the present invention effectively provides a failsafe operation where any three vertical fans, during vertical motion, provide sufficient combined lift, should one of the four vertical fans fail. This advantage is provided by the distribution of the fans around the aircraft's centre of gravity and appropriate powering thereof. The configuration intends that, were one fan to fail, the aircraft would still have three remaining points to provide lift about the centre of gravity. At the least such a configuration will enable safe descent in the event of one fan failure. If sufficient power is available then three fans may still enable upwards motion. Generally, in order to operate safely, the thrust of the four fans must be at least twice as much as the weight of the aircraft. This is required, in the event of a fan failure, to maintain balance. An advantage associated with the rotatable fans providing vertical and horizontal thrust alternately is the smooth transition from vertical to horizontal flight by rotation of the rotatable fans.

In an embodiment one or more of the fans have a covered and uncovered mode, by way of a cover or shield element extending over an opening within which the fan is set. Particularly the fixed fans, being positioned within the blended-wing-body, i.e. through the wing and/or main body, include such moveable covers. Alternatively, the fans may be configured with blades of a movable pitch that can move from an operational pitch configuration to a configuration serving as a closure for the fan opening through the body. An advantage of covering, partially or completely, the fixed fans' exhausts and/or intakes is that the aerodynamic characteristics will not change and therefore the speed of the aircraft are not sacrificed by the presence of fixed fans.

In an embodiment a turbine engine is provided adjacent the rear/tail of the body of the aircraft. An advantage of the turbine engine is that high horizontal cruise speeds can be reached.

In some embodiments the turbine engine is an electric/gas turbine hybrid propulsion system. Hybrid systems are advantageous in that they produce less harmful emissions than gas engines while providing higher power and speed than electric engines thereby providing greater range than an aircraft that is only electric powered. As noted herein, the exemplary form of the VTOL fans are electrically powered, but alternative/equivalent energy systems may be possible, either known in the art or to be developed in the future.

In some embodiments the aircraft comprises a turbo-generator and a battery or set of batteries, wherein the turbo-generator is configured to charge the electric batteries while simultaneously providing power to the turbine engine during flight. The skin of the aircraft may be further modified with a solar cell or comparative energy capture device.

In some embodiments the aircraft includes a control system which, among other functions, is capable of automatically varying the thrust created by each electric fan. Selective/automatic variation of thrust provides the advantage of levelling the aircraft during vertical motion, especially in the case of a wind updraft or other weather phenomena.

The aircraft body and wings are made from a rigid, lightweight structure.

In some embodiments the aircraft interior cabin is designed for the purpose of comfortable human transportation. Particularly, the interior design of the aircraft cabin determines its potential use. A comfortable interior can greatly increase the commercial value whereby a potential buyer looking for a private or business aircraft will be more likely to invest more money in a comfortable aircraft. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Fig. 1 is a perspective view of an aircraft according to an embodiment of the invention.

Fig. 2 is a top plan view of an aircraft according to an embodiment of the invention.

Fig. 3 is a front elevation view of an aircraft according to an embodiment of the invention.

Fig. 4 is a side elevation view of an aircraft according to an embodiment of the invention.

Fig. 5 is a rear elevation view of an aircraft according to an embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS

The following description presents embodiments of the present invention and, together with the drawings, serves to explain principles of the present invention. However, the scope of the invention is not intended to be limited to the precise details of the embodiments, with variations apparent to a skilled person deemed also to be covered by the description of this invention. Terms for components used herein should be given a broad interpretation that also encompasses equivalent functions and features. Descriptive terms should also be given the broadest possible interpretation; e.g. the term "comprising" as used in this specification means "consisting at least in part of" such that interpreting each statement in this specification that includes the term "comprising", features other than that or those prefaced by the term may also be present. Related terms such as "comprise" and "comprises" are to be interpreted in the same manner. Directional terms such as "vertical", "horizontal", "up", "down", "upper" and "lower" are used for convenience of explanation usually with reference to the illustrations and are not intended to be ultimately limiting if an equivalent function can be achieved with an alternative dimension and/or direction.

The present description refers to embodiments with particular combinations of features, however, it is envisaged that further combinations and cross-combinations of compatible features between embodiments will be possible. Indeed, isolated features may function independently from other features and not necessarily be implemented as a complete combination.

The aircraft shown in Figures 1 to 5 is one embodiment of the present invention. This aircraft comprises a body 1 with a centre line C and wings 2a and 2b extending outwardly therefrom. At the rear of the body 1 is a tail section 6. It will be apparent that the wings 2a and 2b, together with the body 1, are of a blended-wing-body design as is known in the art.

On the upper surface of the body 1 two fixed electric fans 3a and 3b are set into openings extending through the wing and/or body portion, symmetrically either side of centre line C. The upside portion of the openings for fixed fans 3a/3b (as visible) serve as an intake to pull air through the fan and develop thrust through the body in a downward direction toward an underside of the openings. A component of vertical lift is thus provided by the fixed fans 3a/3b.

At a position to the rear of the wings 2a and 2b, adjacent the body 1 at the tail end, are two rotatable electric fans 4a and 4b. The rotatable electric fans 4a and 4b are mounted on a pivot axle to be rotatable through at least 90 ° and up to 180 ° , thereby enabling movement from a vertical thrust position as shown in Figures 1 to 5 to a horizontal thrust position (not shown) where the fan housings 4a and 4b are disposed approximately vertically. As best seen in Figures 4 and 5, radial fins 7a, 7b serve as a mounting bracket for the fan's axle/motor housing 8a/8b.

The fixed fans may be of larger diameter than the rotatable fans, as shown, although other configurations are possible if necessary for an alternative optimum solution.

A particular aspect of the invention is that the aircraft is a "convertiplane" which means that it converts from one mode of flight to another. Flelicopters, quadcopters and conventional aircraft all rely on just one form of lift/propulsion, whereas a convertiplane has two: lift force(s) overcome the aircraft weight and this comes from powered rotors in the hover and aerodynamic lift off the wing in "conventional" flight. This means that the aircraft has to "convert" from one mode to the other as it transitions from hover to conventional flight and back again.

The four lift fans provide the hover lift capability when air speeds are too low for the wing to function properly (i.e. according to the aerofoil effect that provides lift). The wing becomes progressively more effective as forward speed is gained. Preferably, forward acceleration is provided by a fifth fan 5 in the tail of the aircraft, accelerating it to a point where wing lift is sufficient to carry the weight of the aircraft and payload. Once a sufficient speed has been reached, the fans on the trailing edge of the wing (4a and 4b) will rotate to provide further forwards thrust. The process is reversed for landing.

In an embodiment a turbine engine can be provided within or adjacent the tail section 6, e.g. in communication with an air inlet 5a located on the centre line C. The turbine engine may be powered by gas/aviation fuel or it may be a multi-mode electric/gas turbine hybrid capable of operating with either electric or gas energy supply. Such an engine has three modes: full electric mode for low speed forward flight, high speed gas-powered mode, and a mode of using gas power to

simultaneously power the turbine engine and charge an electric battery or set of batteries which in turn powers the electric fans 2a, 2b, 3a and 3b. The engine/generator may power the fifth fan 5 as illustrated or a jet engine may provide thrust from an exhaust (not illustrated). In the illustrated embodiment the dorsal intake 5a feeds the turbo-generator for powering all five engines, e.g. the intake for the fifth engine is the intake for the aft fan. A tail mounted jet engine is an alternative to the aft (No. 5) fan which would then not require electricity.

According to the invention, the four electric fans 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b are positioned in a distribution about the centre of gravity of the aircraft. The distribution of the electric fans may be square, rectangular or isosceles trapezoidal. During vertical motion of the aircraft, such as take-off or landing from a location without a runway, the four electric fans 3a, 3b, 4a and 4b cooperate to provide vertical thrust that can lift the aircraft or slow its descent.

The aircraft preferably includes a control system that can assist and/or automate some or all inflight functions. For example, the thrust of each of the electric fans may be selectively varied. A computer that is operable, e.g. by a pilot, may be located within the cabin to provide a method of selectively varying the thrust of each of the electric fans. Control over the thrust of the individual fans provides greater stability to the aircraft by enabling control over yaw, pitch and roll.

When sufficient vertical motion has been achieved, i.e. following take-off, the two rotatable electric fans 4a, 4b rotate about their respective mounting axes to a horizontal thrust position and the two fixed electric fans 3a, 3b can be optionally shut down and/or covered over by slideable covers (not shown) covering their exhausts and/or intakes. The covers may be retractable or collapsible within or against the shell of the body 1. The covers may provide improved aerodynamics whilst the aircraft is in high speed horizontal flight.

The centre fan 5 in the illustrated form provides for the main high speed horizontal motion component and may be used in combination with the rotatable electric fans to provide greater speed in the horizontal direction. It also serves as a range extender. However, in a basic form of the illustrated aircraft, a fifth thrust engine (5) may be omitted. The aircraft is capable of horizontal flight by way of the rotatable fans alone if necessary.

During deceleration and landing of the aircraft, the fixed electric fans 3a and 3b are engaged and the rotatable electric fans 4a and 4b are rotated into the vertical thrust position as illustrated. Making use of the selective thrust control of the four electric fans, the aircraft can be kept level, while it makes its vertical descent.

The body 1 and wings 2a and 2b should be made from any sufficiently rigid and lightweight materials and construction techniques. Furthermore, a suitable landing gear can be incorporated according to requirements, e.g. wheels or skids. Access to the cabin can be provided by a conventional aircraft door 9. By way of further explanation, blended-wing-body (BWB) aircraft design is a known configuration but, according to the present invention, two embedded fans are provided that develop the main vertical thrust requirement for VTOL flight. The two forward (mid-body) fans will gradually shut down in a transition mode when the aircraft is moving to forward flight and the intakes and exhausts can be optionally covered fully at cruise mode. Alternatively, aerodynamic contours may allow smooth airflow over the fan openings such that physical covers are not necessary.

As noted above, the two motors at the rear of the aircraft have thrust vectoring downward during the VTOL operation and then the thrust vectors re-orient to a horizontal positon to push the thrust backward allowing the aircraft to move forward. According to the state of the art, long haul electric air travel is not presently possible. This problem is addressed in the present context by use of a hybrid gas turbine positioned at the tail of the aircraft.

In one form the turbine may consist of a fan linked via a shaft to an alternator. The alternator can be linked to a gas turbine compressor section via a clutch and the compressor section is linked to the turbine section via another clutch on their respective shafts. This hybrid electric gas turbine can work on the following modes based on the requirements of the invention. Particularly:

• Full electric operation for low speed forward flight. In this mode just the alternator is linked to the fan and the clutch that links the alternator to the compressor section is decoupled, allowing the low speed full electric operation to happen.

• Once the aircraft needs to move to a high speed electric mode the alternator will be coupled to the compressor section via clutch (that is decoupled already from the turbine section) to provide high speed pressurised air which then will be converted to dynamic pressure at the exhaust of the gas turbine to achieve high speed.

• At long ranges the batteries might need charging as they are the source of power for the fans. At this mode, the gas turbine is fully coupled to the alternator linking the whole shaft together via both clutches. Then the gas turbine is turned on and the alternator works as a generator to charge the batteries. At this mode the hybrid gas turbine provides both charging for the other fans and thrust for the aircraft.