On June 8, 2017, Paul DeLorean, CEO and chief designer at DeLorean Aerospace, unveiled a concept video and illustrations of the two-seat DR-7 electric VTOL.
According to DeLorean, the DR-7 is designed to be a personal commuter aircraft that would have a much broader market appeal than conventional planes and helicopters, due to its high-speed efficiency, VTOL function and autonomous control system. “With a compact footprint and minimized proximity hazard of enclosed rotors, it is a viable option for close-quarters launches and landings.”
Before the DR-7, there were six variants of the same basic configuration, including the simulation model, sub-scale proof of concept demonstrators, etc. DeLorean Aerospace was founded specifically to develop and produce this and other aircraft concepts.
The DR-7 is not a so-called “flying car,” but rather a VTOL-capable airplane, with conventional control surfaces and a push/pull propulsion system (a tractor front fan and a pusher rear fan). The centerline-twin-vectoring configuration (CTV) has proven to be extremely stable. Basically, the pressure centers of the rotors sit above the center of mass of the craft, mimicking the two-point suspension of a hammock. The gyroscopic effect of the counter-rotating rotors further stabilizes, while providing a positive dampening effect.
The vehicle uses a unique and robust gimbal system to direct thrust in 360 degrees, providing roll and yaw control while hovering, and yaw in forward flight, eliminating the need for a conventional rudder and the associated drag. After experimenting with vanes, it became obvious to DeLorean that launches from uneven surfaces were unpredictable and dangerous, in addition to mention the drag penalty. The vectoring input also remains consistent from hover to forward flight, so control mixing is not needed, as it would be with lateral propulsion designs (i.e., roll is always roll and yaw is always yaw).
In airplane mode, the also fan efflux over the fuselage creates additional lift, aiding stall resistance and allowing a smaller wing area. Conventional launches and landings are possible in event of power failure or other emergency conditions.
DeLorean stated in June 2017, “We recently finished our proof-of-concept testing and engineering hand-off model (bootstrapped and angel funded) and have just begun to seek funding for the piloted prototype. We are in discussion now with a few established manufacturers to build this prototype and anticipate its construction within a year.”
The aircraft is 20 ft (6.1 m) in length and wingspan. Folded width is 7.5 ft (2.3 m). Based on power studies and simulator data, DeLorean expects a top speed of about 240 mph (210 kt or 385 km/h), but with a variable pitch option bringing that to 300 mph (260 kt or 480 km/h) or more. Efficient cruise would be in the 150 mph (130 kt or 240 km/h) range.
The price is predicted to “likely fall between $250–300k” for the fixed-pitch variant.