COMAC Tian Gong
Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd. (COMAC)
Pudong, Shanghai, China
Founded in May 2008, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd. (COMAC) is a Chinese state-owned aerospace manufacturer established headquartered in Shanghai, China. According to one source online, the company has a registered capital of RMB 19 billion ($2.7 billion USD as of May 2008). The corporation designs and manufacturers three different large jetliners, named the ARJ21 Xiangfeng, C919 and the CR929. The largest jetliner the company proposes to make is currently called the C939.
The Shanghai Research Institute of China's COMAC unveiled its Tian Gong (天工) electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) sub-scale cargo drone model on Dec. 22, 2020. The eVTOL cargo drone has completed the Phase 1 test flights and will begin VTOL tests in the future.
The Tian Gong cargo drone has a fairly unique design with two main booms and several swept back wings, with a a very small fuselage(?) which has a hard point to carry the cargo module. The front wing is a swept back wing, in the shape of a V, inside of the two booms, with the point of the V wing pointing towards the rear of the aircraft. Two swept back main wings extend are attached about three-quarters back from the front of the two booms. On the inside of the booms at the same main wing position, is an inverted V wing, the point of the inverted V wing is pointed up. Underneath this inverted V wing, is a very small fuselage with a hard point underneath, to attach the module cargo pod.
At the rear of the two booms form the tail of the aircraft with two vertical stabilizers. This tail boom is a similar design to a twin tail boom assembly but without the horizontal stabilizer between the two vertical stabilizers. The aircraft has a fixed four-wheeled landing gear arrangement.
The aircraft has eight VTOL propellers attached to both the upper and bottom of the booms. Two rear pusher propellers are attached to the inverted V wing located the middle of the aircraft and attached to the inside of the booms. Any eVTOL with wings allows the drone to take advantaged of winged flight which extends the range of any aircraft. One of the major design features of the Tian Gong is the modular pod with a rear wide door to help with loading and unloading of cargo.
The hybrid-electric VTOL and electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) project was started in 2019 and the company has made quick progress by making at least three prototypes by January 2021. The first prototype is the ET120 half-scale demonstrator which has been reported to have already made 30 flights as of January 2021. On January 9, 2021, Beijing Aircraft Technology Research Center held a ceremony revealing their full-scale hybrid-electric VTOL demonstrator named the ET480.
Few specifications are known about this Tian Gong eVTOL cargo drone.
- Aircraft type: eVTOL cargo drone
- Piloting: Remote/autonomous
- Capacity: Cargo only
- Cruise speed: Unknown
- Range: Unknown
- Propellers: 10
- Electric Motors: 10
- Power source: Batteries
- Fuselage: A small structure near the top of the aircraft to attach the modular cargo pod
- Wings: Two swept back wings extend from about three-quarters back from the front of the booms and at the same point on the inside of the booms, an inverted V wing rises toward the middle of the aircraft. A downward V wing which is swept back forming the point of the V pointing towards the rear, with the top of the V wing is attached near the front of the two main booms.
- Landing gear: Four fixed-wheeled landing gear
- Safety Features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP means having multiple propellers and motors on the aircraft so if one or more motors or propellers fail, the other working motors and propellers can safely land the aircraft. The aircraft also can land like a plane if the VTOL propellers fail to operate.
- Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China website
- Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China Wikipedia
- Article: Working with China, Royal Aeronautical Society, June 26, 2020