Balto (concept design)
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
The Vertical Flight Society's (based in Fairfax, Virginia, USA) annual Student Design Competition began in 1984 and challenges students at colleges and universities around the world to design a vertical lift aircraft that meets specified requirements, provides a practical exercise for engineering students and promotes student interest in vertical flight technology. Each of the winning teams is awarded a cash stipend, while each of the first-place winning teams are invited with complimentary registration, to the Vertical Flight Society's Annual Forum and Technology Display to present the details of their designs.
In August 2021, the Vertical Flight Society announced its 39th Annual Student Design Competition. The student objective was to design an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxi aircraft for to accommodate all passengers, including passengers with reduced mobility. This would include designing an aircraft to accommodate people with any type of disability, including hidden disabilities. The competition was sponsored by Bell (based in Fort Worth, Texas, USA). The winners of the 39th Annual Student Design Competition were announced on August 22, 2022.
“These are the leaders of the future vertical lift industry,” said Mike Hirschberg, executive director of the Vertical Flight Society. “We hope this experience will change them and, through the visibility of this competition, also change people who are in the eVTOL industry today.” To date, eVTOL concepts have focused on feasibility, safety, airworthiness and efficiency. But as developers clear those hurdles, the goal is to ensure electric aircraft can transport anyone and everyone, including persons with reduced mobility, visible or hidden disabilities.
A graduate student design team from the Georgia Institute of Technology has created an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) concept design passenger aircraft. In the graduate category of the competition, the design team won 3rd Place for their Balto eVTOL passenger air taxi aircraft. The team's Executive Summary is here online.
The Balto eVTOL aircraft has been designed for the safety and comfort for all passengers, including those with reduced mobility, both visible and hidden. The name of the concept aircraft is Balto. The aircraft was named for the lead sled dog Balto that carried a life saving diphtheria antitoxin to Nome, Alaska, USA in 1925.
The aircraft looks similar to a small general aviation aircraft with the exception of its four booms on its high main wing which hold VTOL propellers. The aircraft can carry from two to four passengers and there is a cockpit for one pilot. Two passengers with reduced mobility will be the maximum number of people inside the aircraft. Four passengers with no mobility issues can ride in the aircraft. The estimated cruise speed is 121 mph (194 km/h), a flight range of 156 m (252 km), has a flight time of 49 minutes and has a maximum altitude of 45,900 ft (14,000 meters).
The aircraft has eight dedicated VTOL propellers and two tractor propellers for forward flight. All propellers are located on the main wing. The tail of the aircraft is a standard conventional tail with two horizontal stabilizers and one vertical stabilizer. The aircraft has retractable tricycle wheeled landing gear.
The aircraft's interior has been made to maximum the comfort of all passengers. The cabin is fully reconfigurable so that all passengers can be accommodated for air travel. There is TV inside the cabin for entertainment, safety messages and flight data. All windows have an anti-glare coating to reduce glare for everyone on board. Personal storage lockers are located next to each seat inside the cabin. There is also amble room for carry-on items, other personal items and medical equipment. The luggage compartment is located under the floor of the cabin.
Based on the contest rules, ten cabin design objectives and eight configurations design objectives were defined by the student team. Twelve aircraft configurations were considered and were eventually narrowed down to the final design.
- Aircraft type: eVTOL passenger aircraft
- Piloting: 1 pilot
- Capacity: 4 passengers or a maximum of 2 passengers with reduced mobility and their caregivers
- Cruise speed: 121 mph (194 km/h)
- Range: 156 m (252 km)
- Flight time: 49 minutes
- Maximum altitude: 45,900 ft (14,000 meters)
- Propellers: 10 propellers
- Electric motors: 10 electric motors
- Power source: Batteries
- Fuselage: Carbon fiber composite
- Windows: Larger than conventional windows allowing left, right and some forward visibility for spectacular views with a solid roof above the passenger compartment
- Window: Canopy over cockpit
- Wings: 1 main high wing with winglets
- Tail: Conventional tail
- Landing gear: Retractable tricycle wheeled landing gear
- 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 in the sub-systems of the aircraft. If there is a total propeller failure, the aircraft can like a regular airplane.