Based in France, Technoplane was founded in 2013 and is a data services and solution provider. In addition, Technoplane is also the coordinator of the aeronautical collaborative research and development team for hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) passenger and cargo aircraft. with multiple designs, all called the Mini-Bee. Technoplane is also developing several designs of a conventional takeoff and landing planes called the Beeplane.
The Mini-Bee collaborative project began in 2015 with a group of aviation enthusiasts, from multiple universities, sharing the common dream of creating hybrid-electric VTOL passenger aircraft to be efficient, safe, cost effective and practical for advanced air mobility (AAM). The team named their project Mini-Bee after the honeybee, which is known for its agility, efficiency and adaptability. In the beginning days, many sketches were drawn and standards were created. The name Mini-Bee is used for multiple unique VTOL aircraft designs that can look similar to or look completely different from each other.
The inventors presented their first mock-up of the Mini-Bee at the 2015 Paris Air Show in France. Initially, the Mini-Bee project was to study air transportation for individuals but then switched to air medical transportation. The inventors achieved a Level 1 technology readiness level (TRL1) in 2016. In the summer of 2017, the project team achieved a TRL2 with a subscale flying prototype and participated at the 2017 Paris Air Show. The subscale prototype was tested in a wind tunnel analyzing its aerodynamic properties and making adjustments to improve its performance. Also in 2017, the project team expanded to 15 universities and entered a TRL3 and had at least 10 industrial companies interested or participated in their research.
In 2018, the group made progress on the hybrid-electric configuration for their various aircraft and built a full-scale mock-up of one of their aircraft models. Overtime, the team grew with aeronautical engineers, designers, and experts in electric propulsion and energy management. The Mini-Bee team also showcased their aircraft at the 2019 Paris Air Show. In 2020, the inventors decided to make the Mini-Bee a modular design, allowing each aircraft model to fit into standard airliner cargo containers to make is easy to transport the aircraft to anywhere in the world. As of 2023, the inventors are continuing to make progress in design, flight tests and advanced simulation tools to improve the performance of each aircraft model in a wide range of weather and test conditions.
Timeline of Mini-Bee projects
2015: Mock-ups drafted and designed, participated in the 2015 Paris Air Show
2016: Detailed concept designs made, super structures designed, electronics and sensors integration started
2017: Subscale model made and wind tunnel tested, participated in the 2017 Paris Air Show
2018: Full scale prototype made
2019: Continuation of working on multiple aircraft, participated in the 2019 Paris Air Show
2020: Designed all aircraft models to be modular to make assembly easy and to make them easy to ship in airliner cargo containers to distribute them any place in the world
2021-2023: The inventors continue to refine their designs and prototypes
The Mini-Bee hybrid-electric VTOL VIP passenger concept design aircraft
The Mini-Bee hybrid-electric VTOL is a VIP two passenger tilt-propeller concept design aircraft made to takeoff and land like a helicopter but have the cruise speed of an airplane. The aircraft is a modular design allowing ease of assembly and making it easy to ship the aircraft by a jetliner. The Mini-Bee tilt-propeller aircraft has a series of multiple designs. Some designs are similar to each other and some designs are unique to themselves. With that said, the inventors plan on making as many systems and parts to be interchangeable on as many of the Mini-Bee models as possible.
The estimated cruise speed of the aircraft in 2019 is 260 km/h (162 mph) and has a predicted range of 850 km (528 miles). In 2018, the flight time was anticipated at one hour and 30 minutes with the target empty weight of the aircraft being 1.2 metric tonnes (1.32 US tons). The planned maximum altitude is 4,000 m (13,123 ft). The aircraft has eight propellers and eight electric motors located on tandem wings. The four wing-tip propellers are tilt-propellers used for both VTOL and forward flight. The four inner wing propellers are used for VTOL flight only.
The aircraft has a carbon fiber composite fuselage for a high strength and low weight ratio and is planned to have the dimensions of 10 m X 10 m (32 feet, 9 inches X 32 feet, 9 inches). There is a canopy over the cockpit for excellent views for the pilot and passenger. The rear of the aircraft has either one vertical stabilizer or two vertical stabilizers depending upon the final design. The aircraft has retractable tricycle wheeled landing gear.
In 2017, it was proposed that if €3-5 million EUR would be invested in the project, the first prototype could fly in one to two years. In 2019, Technoplane's goal is to half the price per flight for their aircraft when compared to helicopters. The inventors predicted production of the Mini-Bee would begin in 2025. The inventors envisioned their aircraft to be used for personal use, air taxi service, VIP travel, emergency medical service, racing, air cargo transportation and military service.
Safety features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP means having multiple propellers (or ducted fans) and motors on the aircraft so if one or more propellers (ducted fans) or motors fail, the other working propellers (or ducted fans) and motors can safely land the aircraft. There are also redundancies of critical components in the sub-systems of the aircraft. There is a whole aircraft emergency ballistic parachute.
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