It’s hard to find a totally original concept in the eVTOL world. Since 2016, some 400 concepts, proposals and designs have been introduced to the world. Most of them are variations on one of a few themes. Only a handful of them will ever be built. All of which makes Craft Aero’s nine-seat, box-wing commuter vehicle stand out. As the video above shows, this thing is different.
“The biggest difference is that our VTOL aircraft is designed for regional missions with a sweet-spot range of 100 to 700 miles, and cruise speed of 300 knots [345 mph],” James Dorris, CEO of Craft Aero, told Robb Report. “Choice of aircraft architecture and technology are all in service of these goals as well as a focus on how to make the VTOL-to-flight transition dynamics as seamless as possible.”
Start with the wings. The lower wing attaches at the front of the fuselage and angles back, like a typical wing. But rather than end in a tip, it wraps over itself and extends toward the tail, creating something of a loop. From the front, the wings look like a bent paper clip, while from the top they form a diamond. Overall, the aircraft looks more like a typical plane than most eVTOLs, albeit one with a bow in its hair.
How it generates vertical lift from that design may be even more interesting than the appearance. Sixteen propellers create thrust while flaps that extend from the back of the wings curve down to redirect the airstream toward the ground. Retracting the flaps, shifts the propulsion forward.
“We’ll use a well-known and highly reliable turboshaft engine as part of our hybrid electric propulsion system,” said Dorris.
Craft Aero projects that the hybrid-electric powertrain will generate enough force to lift nine passengers (or 2,500 total pounds) into the air and propel the carbon-fiber body to its 345-mph top speed. The range covers 65 percent of existing domestic routes in the US, which is a great fit for its initial target market: regional city-to-city transport using existing helipads and airports.
The company has already built a small-scale proof-of-concept drone that’s able to hover off the ground using the flap design, as shown on a recently released video. It has also posted a request to collaborate on high-efficiency turbines and aerodynamics on agilityprime.com (a US Air Force site meant to foster eVTOL development). The company wrote: “Think of us as the more agile, safer, lower cost to procure [and] operate little brother of a V-22 [Osprey] … without any of the drawbacks.”
A prototype of the full-scale VTOL is expected to lift off in 2022, with certification following in 2025 and production models hitting the sky in 2026.