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 Hexatriacontacopter hybrid-electric VTOL passenger concept design aircraft
The Mini-Bee Hexatriacontacopter hybrid-electric VTOL multicopter is a two passenger concept design aircraft with 36 propellers and 36 electric motors. The multicopter aircraft has one pilot who will fly it manually but in the future, the inventors would like to see the multicopter have autonomous piloting. The aircraft can carry one pilot and one passenger. The pilot flies the aircraft with a steering wheel and a joystick in an enclosed cockpit. The cockpit has crash resistant bucket seats for each person.
The Mini-Bee Hexatriacontacopter 36 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 36 propellers with the corresponding 36 electric motors are arranged above the cockpit in an symmetrical shape with three 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 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 powering a T-Motor engine U12KV120 (or a U13).
An important part of this project is for the team to look for and list as many possible failures of equipment that could happen while airborne and have a safety features in place for the passengers. For example, what if a propeller breaks off, senors fail or other electrical systems fail, the inventors want to program safety features into the aircraft for as many different emergencies as possible so the pilot can still land the multicopter safely in an emergency situation.
The entire multicopter can be loaded into two jetliner LD3 cargo containers. Once the multicopter is flown by an airliner to its destination, the owner of the multicopter can assemble it directly on the tarmac with a minimum number of tools. The landing gear has fixed skid landing gear. The aircraft will have a whole aircraft emergency parachute.
The inventors foresee the multicopter to be used for as a light air ambulance or used for other medical purposes. The expected cost will be moderately priced aircraft.
Piloting: 1 pilot and is planned in the future to be an autonomous piloting
Capacity: 1 passenger
Cruise speed: 170 km/h (106 mph)
Range: 600 km (373 miles)
Maximum takeoff weight: 700 kg (1,543 lb)
Propellers: 36 propellers
Electric motors: 36 electric motors
Power source: Hybrid-electric power source, 1 Rotax 915 engine powering a T-Motor engine U12KV120 (or U13)
Fuselage: Carbon fiber composite tubular structure or aluminum
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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