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Bizarre Volerian aircraft design replaces jets and props with flapping wings
Bizarre Volerian aircraft design replaces jets and props with flapping
October 21st, 2018
Like a flying set of venetian blinds, Volerian's aircraft designs are
build around the idea of oscillating flappy wings sandwiched inside
specially shaped ducts(Credit: Volerian)
VIEW GALLERY - 13 IMAGES
There are no powered spinning propellers in nature. When evolution has
found an advantage to producing thrust in a fluid, it has done it
mainly by flapping things back and forth. This new VTOL aircraft
propulsion system aims to do the same with a series of flapping wings
mounted in large ducts.
What's wrong with the prop-powered, drone-style VTOL flying car
designs we're seeing all over the place? Ignoring the energy density
issues that are holding the entire electric aviation industry back,
multirotors are quite noisy, and they have basically no adequate
safety systems in place if the power systems fail.
A somewhat mysterious startup called Volerian claims to have a
solution for both these points, and it uses a very odd propulsion
system we've never run across before.
The system places a large number of flapping wings inside a series of
precisely shaped ducts. The wings are driven by cams on a rotating
shaft, such that they flap back and forth quickly between the walls of
these ducts, much like the tails of fish. A second fixed "stator" wing
is mounted further down the ducts "to further increase efficiency,"
presumably by messing with the swirling pressure vortices created by
the flapping wings.
The company claims its furious flappers not only make less noise than
a comparable multirotor setup, but that the system is safer as well.
In the event of power loss, the wings can be released to flutter
against the airstream coming up through the bottom of the vents as the
aircraft falls, acting a bit like a parachute. Not to mention, there's
no rotating decapitators in the system to worry about.
Thus, Volerian is proposing a range of different aircraft based on
this odd propulsion system. Point them forward, and you can build a
conventional winged aeroplane. Point them upward – you'll need more,
of course – and you've got a VTOL craft ready for use as a flying
taxi, although it's not clear exactly how horizontal thrust control
will be achieved in such cases.
The company, at this stage, has only shown a bunch of renders, as well
as a single-wing demonstration rig that it rolled out at this year's
Farnborough airshow. This rig, though running at a slow speed,
demonstrated that these moving wings will be far from silent:
Volerian is dreaming big, though, planning a modular factory design
that can be rolled out to multiple production partners. Slow down,
guys, how about we get some scale models flying first to assuage our
doubts about the propulsion system?
For example, it seems to be reliant on a heck of a lot of moving
parts, any of which could be easily damaged by a bird strike, or
anything else dropping through the top of the ducts. If something gets
wedged in there, does it take out all the wings on the same cam?
Also, does it provide thrust that rises consistently with flapping
speed, or does it, like fish tail flapping (which produces a similar
"reverse Kármán vortex street" effect) have "a narrow range of
frequencies of maximum amplification" in which it can efficiently
Furthermore, how does it handle high-speed incoming wind? And how
would a VTOL craft be designed in order to balance itself in the air
and provide forward, sideways and rotational motion?
Many questions remain to be answered before this design can be seen as
anything but a set of CAD renders. Still, brand new propulsion systems
certainly don't pop up every day, so the Volerian is certainly worthy
of a good bit of chin-scratching.
Source: Volerian: https://volerian.com/
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