York, East Yorkshire, United Kingdom
In 2010 Volerian was formed by James Rotherham to design hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft that would balance the capabilities of a helicopter with a conventional plane, and using a electric ducted fans powered by a turbine engine. In 2012, the company began to develop quiet electric propeller technology powered by batteries and move away from a turbine power source. The company also decided to sell their propeller technology to other electric VTOL (eVTOL) passenger aircraft companies. The name of the company is made from two Italian words, Voler and ian. The word Voler means to fly and ian means thing, so the name of the company in short means, flying thing.
A major company goal was the design and manufacturing of quiet propeller technology, making sure it was very safe and very efficient. Volerian has therefore developed the Volerian Propulsion System. The company has reported their proprietary flapping wing technology is more efficient than propellers, produces more thrust using the equivalent energy input than used by propellers, are very quiet, and are very safe for passengers and the ground crew.
The flapping wing is efficient by itself. However, the company placed the flapping wing near the air intake of a uniquely shaped duct and then placed a stationary wing (a stator wing) after the flappy wing in the rear section of the duct which improves the efficiency of the entire propulsion system. The flapping action of the wing creates a stream of thrust producing vortices known as a reverse Kármán vortex street. The stator wing, located downstream of the flapping wing, further increases efficiency. According to the company airstream inside the duct work assembly is called a Cat's mare effect.
With this specially shaped duct work and wings provides a very efficient thrust for propulsion reducing the amount of flapping and energy needed for the equivalent amount of thrust and energy needed for a typical propeller. The company has made hundreds of computer simulations and scale test rigs to arrive at an optimum design for the propulsion system.
When comparing a flapping wing to a propeller, according to Rotherham, a propeller has little thrust towards each end of the propeller which is an inherent inefficiency of propellers. But with a flapping wing, you have thrust taking place on the entire width of the flapping wing. This is why a flapping wing is more efficient than a propeller and why it takes less energy to get the same amount thrust from a flapping wing versus a propeller.
This unique type of flapping wing works on aircraft and is also a very effective desk fan. At the 2018 Farnborough International Airshow (United Kingdom) the company had a booth to display their flapping wing technology and get the word out to eVTOL companies about their novel technology. A proof of concept prototype fan was completed in 2020 with development continuing in 2021.
The speed of each flapping wing can be controlled independently from each other. On an aircraft, the design has multiple ducted flapping wing assemblies adjacent to each other which can be called an array. The entire array also has the added effect of acting as a wing which also helps take part of the load off the aircraft during flight.
All moving parts are still safely located within the ducts. In the event of an unpowered descent the fluttering action of the wings, caused by air flowing through the ducts, will create drag and cause the array to act like a parachute. In a written statement, a company spokesman said, "Volerian has created a propulsion system that is cheap to manufacture and is much quieter and safer than any fan or propeller technology."
The Volerian Echo eVTOL aircraft holds one passenger, has an oval-shaped pod type cockpit with a canopy window (a dome shaped window like you see in a fighter jet) and two proprietary ducted flapping wing arrays for propulsion. There are two flapping wing arrays which are connected to each side of the cockpit pod with struts. The aircraft has an unknown estimated cruise speed and unknown range. The flapping wing arrays are such a unique design that it might be difficult to intuitively know how the aircraft actually flies.
While the cockpit pod provides a wide field of vision (left, right, top and bottom views), both flapping wing arrays would block some of the view to the left and right of the passenger because the arrays are very wide and sit close to the eye level. The aircraft has two fixed skid-type landing gear which are positioned between the passenger pod and the propulsion arrays.
If the entire electric system of the aircraft fails, the flapping wings will act like a parachute, landing the aircraft safely. When it comes to safety, the Volerian Propulsion System is entirely enclosed in duct work which increases the safety of passengers and crew exponentially. If anyone puts their hand into the array, the person's hand would not get hurt or damaged. The hand might get bumped back and forth a little but the flapping wing wouldn't cut into the hand.
The company foresees their aircraft to be used in a variety of missions such as air taxis, private VTOL aircraft, emergency services, air cargo and including military use. A sub-scale ground effect seaplane is expected to fly in 2022.
- Aircraft type: eVTOL passenger aircraft
- Piloting: Unknown
- Capacity: 1 passenger
- Cruise speed: Unknown
- Range: Unknown
- Propellers: Volerian Propulsion System (quiet and safe proprietary flapping wing technology)
- Electric Motors: Unknown
- Power source: Batteries
- Fuselage: Carbon fiber composite
- Windows: Has a wrap around window (almost a canopy over cockpit), allowing forward, left, right and top views. The middle to rear portion of the cockpit has a solid opaque roof.
- Landing gear: Fixed landing skids
- Safety features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP for this aircraft, means having multiple flapping wings on the aircraft so if one or more of the flapping wings fail or the motors fail, the other working flapping wings and motors can safely land the aircraft. If the entire electric system of the aircraft fails, the flapping wings will act like a parachute, landing the aircraft safely. The Volerian Propulsion System has the entire propulsion system enclosed in duct work which increases the safety of passengers and crew exponentially.
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- Article: Volerian, the quietest and safest flying car at Farnborough Airshow, Design Boom, July 23, 2018
- Article: A glimpse of future air travel? Incredible flying car concept inspired by flapping wings soars silently through the air and can take off and land anywhere, Daily Mail, July 26, 2018
- Article: This New Aircraft Flies Through the Skies Like A Fish Swims Through Water, Robb Report, Aug. 17, 2018
- Video: Interview with Volerian Founder, Volerian, Sept. 10, 2021
- Video: Informal video of Volerian fan experimental prototype with noise and flow check, Volerian, Sept. 10, 2021
- Video: The Volerian Propulsion System, Theory of Operation, Volerian, Sept. 10, 2021
- Video: The Volerian Room Fan Project, an Introduction, Volerian, Sept. 10, 2021
- Article: VTOL v STOL, Volerian, Sept. 10, 2021
- Video: Volerian flying car, short take-off aircraft, Volerian, Sept. 10, 2021