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 Hexacontacopter hybrid-electric VTOL passenger concept design aircraft
The Mini-Bee Hexacontacopter hybrid-electric VTOL multicopter is a two passenger concept design aircraft with 60 propellers and 60 electric motors. The 60 propeller multicopter reached a TRL3 (Technology Readiness Level 3) in June 2022 and reached a TRL4 during the summer of 2023. TRL1 and TRL2 were reached with smaller multicopter designs in previous years.
The multicopter aircraft has one pilot who can fly manually or use autopilot technology and can carry one passenger. The 60 propellers with the corresponding 60 electric motors are arranged above the cockpit in an symmetrical shape with four layers of propellers next to each other in a concentric hexagon pattern. The multiple propellers will provide excellent lifting power and safety through redundancy. The Mini-Bee 60 propeller multicopter has an expected cruise speed of 170 km/h (106 mph), a planned range of 600 km (373 miles) and has a predicted maximum takeoff weight of 700 kg (1,543 lb).
The pilot flies the aircraft with a steering wheel and a joystick. The windows of the cockpit are helicopter type windows allowing forward, left and right visibility for spectacular views with a solid roof above the cockpit. The aircraft has flight avionics, engine and motor monitoring, sensors and other electronic components. The power source of the aircraft is one Rotax 915 engine without a gearbox, fuel tank, electric generator and two Emrax 228 twin hexaphase high-voltage motors that are combined and cooled. The maximum power the system produces is 100 kW mechanical.
The fuselage is proposed to be a carbon fiber composite for the tubular superstructure. The entire multicopter can be loaded into standard jetliner cargo containers. The aircraft has anti-crash seats and an anti-crash superstructure. The landing gear has fixed skid landing gear. Other possible configurations for the landing gear are fixed tricycle wheeled and fixed quadricycle wheeled landing gear. The aircraft will have a whole aircraft emergency parachute.
The inventors foresee the multicopter to be used for short range flights as a light air ambulance or used for other medical purposes.
Windows: Helicopter type windows allowing forward, left and right visibility for spectacular views with a solid roof above the cockpit
Landing gear: Fixed skid 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 of critical components in the sub-systems of the aircraft. The aircraft has anti-crash seats and an anti-crash superstructure. There is a whole aircraft emergency parachute.
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