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NASA Lift+Cruise (concept design)

NASA Lift+Cruise passenger eVTOL concept design aircraft

 

Lift+Cruise (concept design)
NASA
Washington, D.C., USA
www.nasa.gov

Established in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the U.S. federal government responsible for the civil space program, aeronautics research and space research. NASA is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and has 10 major field centers. NASA has made space ships, explored space, the moon, launched satellites, gathered data about Earth from space, made the Skylab Space Station, explored Mars, studied our solar system using space probes and more. (Image credit: NASA)

NASA started researching distributed electric propulsion (DEP) electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) and hybrid-electric VTOL aircraft in 2009. DEP was introduced to the world in November 2009 when Mark Moore, while still at NASA, unveiled the Puffin, a personal an all-battery eVTOL concept design aircraft. For the first time, the world caught a glimpse at how electric propulsion might transform everyday flight. In 2010, according to one website, the first eVTOL aircraft flown was NASA's Puffin subscale eVTOL tailsitting aircraft.

In 2014, NASA built both eVTOL and fixed-wing DEP technology demonstrator aircraft. Some of the key design features for NASA's advanced air mobility (AAM) common reference vehicles is to increase safety exponentially, reduce the complexity of the aircraft, decrease the cost of manufacturing, minimize maintenance costs, lower the final ticket cost to the consumer, lessen or have no carbon footprint for the aircraft and decrease the noise level for the general public.

NASA has continued making passenger eVTOL concept designs, technology demonstrators and research eVTOL aircraft for any company that wants to take advantage of NASA's research. In addition, NASA is now making eVTOL and hybrid-electric eVTOL aircraft to explore planets and their moons, in our solar system. As of 2024, NASA's space probes have not traveled to any other solar systems in the Milky Way galaxy, yet.

Mark Moore, Co-Founder and CEO of Whisper Aero (formerly a Principal Investigator and Chief Technologist for On-Demand Mobility, NASA and Engineering Director of Aviation, Uber Elevate) at the Vertical Flight Society's 7th Annual Electric VTOL Symposium, Jan. 21-23, 2020 in San Jose, California, USA, stated concerning advanced air mobility (AAM), "There has not been this pace in aeronautics since the Wright Brothers."

NASA Lift+Cruise passenger eVTOL concept design aircraft
The NASA Lift+Cruise is a six passenger eVTOL concept design aircraft that can accept all-batteries as a power source or use a hybrid-electric power source. NASA calls this concept design aircraft an Urban Air Mobility (UAM) reference vehicle, also known as a common reference model. The aircraft has two distinct modes of flight, helicopter and cruise flight. The aircraft is either piloted or uses autonomous piloting. The aircraft has large windows providing spectacular views for the pilot and passengers.

While the cruise speed is unknown, the aircraft is recommended to have reserve cruise power for 20 minutes.
There is one rear pusher propeller for forward flight, eight VTOL-only propellers and each propellers are powered by nine electric motors. The high main wing increases the range of the aircraft. Once the aircraft transitions from VTOL to forward flight, the VTOL propellers stop and are oriented parallel to the fuselage to reduce drag. The four front propellers are faced downward on booms, on the leading edge of the high main wing. The rear four propellers are on booms, on the trailing edge of the high main wing and are faced upward.

The estimated empty weight of the aircraft is 3,800 lb (1,724 kg), has an anticipated maximum payload weight 1,200 lb (544 kg) and has a forecasted maximum takeoff weight of 5,000 lb (2,268 kg). The fuselage is made from carbon fiber composite for a high strength and low weight ratio. The aircraft has one conventional tail and has fixed tricycle wheeled landing gear.

According to NASA, since this aircraft flies like a plane, this propeller configuration will be easier to certify by a government agency since it is mostly a fixed-wing aircraft. The VTOL part of the plane would be an exception or an addition.

NASA advanced air mobility (AAM) aircraft research areas:

  • Aircraft Design
  • Noise and Annoyance
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • Performance
  • Propulsion Efficiency
  • Rotor-Rotor Interactions
  • Rotor-Wing Interactions
  • Safety and Airworthiness
  • Structure and Aeroelasticity

NASA's advanced air mobility (AAM) facilities and capabilities include:

  • Air Traffic Operations Lab
  • Airspace Operations Lab
  • Ames UAM Lab
  • CERTAIN Range
  • Cockpit Motion Facility
  • Cognitive Engineering Lab
  • Computational Fluid Dynamics
  • Developmental UAM Simulator - Flyer
  • Dryden Aeronautical Test Range
  • Exterior Effects Room
  • Flight Loads Lab
  • Future Flight Central
  • Icing Research
  • Landing and Impact Research Facility
  • Low Speed Aeroacoustic Wind Tunnel
  • Mobile Acoustics Facility
  • Mobile Operations Facility
  • Research Flight Deck
  • Testbed Virtual Infrastructure
  • UAS Flight Test Control Room
  • Vertical Motion Simulator
  • X-57 Maxwell
  • 12' Tunnel-Low-Cost Exploratory Facility
  • 14 by 22 Foot Subsonic Tunnel

In February 2023, NASA published an article title, "NASA is Creating an Advanced Air Mobility Playbook." NASA is working with academia, government agencies, industry, cities and tribal nations to make advanced air mobility (AAM) a reality. NASA's areas of support include accessibility, automation, cargo delivery, emergency response, future airspace, healthcare, infrastructure, noise, ride quality, safety, travel time, vertiports and more.

Specifications:

  • Aircraft type: Passenger eVTOL concept design aircraft
  • Piloting: Unknown, possibly piloted or autonomous
  • Capacity: 6 passengers
  • Cruise speed: Unknown
  • Reserve cruise power: 20 minutes
  • Empty weight, estimated: 3,800 lb (1,724 kg)
  • Maximum payload weight, estimated: 1,200 lb (544 kg)
  • Maximum takeoff weight, estimated: 5,000 lb (2,268 kg)
  • Propellers: 9 propellers (8 VTOL-only propellers, 1 pusher propeller for forward flight)
  • Electric motors: 9 electric motors
  • Power source: All batteries or a hybrid-electric power source
  • Fuselage: Carbon fiber composite
  • Windows: Panoramic wrap around windows allowing forward, left and right visibility for spectacular views with a solid roof above
  • Wings: 1 main high wing
  • Tail: 1 conventional tail
  • Landing gear: Fixed tricycle wheeled landing gear
  • Safety features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP) means having multiple propellers (or electric ducted fans) and multiple electric motors on an aircraft so if one or more propellers (or electric ducted fans) or some electric motors fail, the other working propellers (or electric ducted fans) and electric motors can safely land the aircraft. DEP provides safety through redundancy for passengers or cargo. There are also redundancies of critical components in the sub-systems of the aircraft providing safety through redundancy. Having multiple redundant systems on any aircraft decreases having any single point of failure.

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