The small multi-copter drones buzzing around our skies are probably near their technical limit: scaling up to carry bigger payloads requires a whole new technology – Neva technology.
For flying, hovering and transition from VTOL to linear flight, with economically-useful payloads, we believe our patented "3D Distributed Propulsion" technology is the only viable solution.
After all, if it was so simple to have a VTOL airplane or super-large multi-copter then the global aircraft manufacturers would have done it long time ago! When using standard wing, with 2 or 4 engines and rotary propulsion, it will be hard to improve on the Osprey V22 Tiltrotor. It seems that Agusta-Westland Wing-VTOL (Project Zero), Google VTOL drones and Airbus Quadcruiser approaches have met with significant design barriers.
At Neva, it has taken us ten years of R&D to develop technology concepts for designing electric and electric-hybrid aircraft based on 3D Distributed Propulsion. We had to think outside the box: the standard helicopter and airplane design offers no real downward scalability whereas multi-copters drones endure a flight complexity as their weight increases. What is easy for a 500g toy quickly becomes impossible as weight increases to tens of kilograms and above.
VTOL-wing planes with small fans or propellers, like Amazon is implementing as delivery drones, in our view, cannot be properly and efficiently scaled up to carry useful loads.
The same applies to multi-copters. It is not only a battery issue here, but a physical issue as well. The propellers currently used for multi-copters lack the pitch-adjusting-blades of large helicopters and offer no rotor-plane adjustment. These two attributes make the helicopter fly efficiently, but are costly and impracticable currently for lightweight toy and camera drone makers.
Competition (Civilian) – Small UAVs:
We at Neva:
Our technology is designed to be:
- LOW CARBON with fully electrical or hybrid systems
- EASY to manufacture and maintain
- RESILIENT to engine failure
- HIGHLY STABLE IN FLIGHT for an extensive range of precision operations
- ADAPTABLE for civilian and non-civilian use (including hostile environments)
- SCALABLE & ABLE to transport heavy cargo
- SAFE with electric turbines (caged propellers) and no free-rotating blades
- PATENT PROTECTEDwith 4 patents (2 granted in the UK, 1 granted in the USA, 1 in process).
Notwithstanding the fact that we were the first to use EDFs since 2008 for VTOL flight, the use of these devices is not fundamentally new. The EDF has had a long history of use for conventional radio-control airplanes operating in linear flight mode.
Most of the EDF technology existing on the market today is not tailored for VTOL flight and this is the main reason why there are currently few drones using EDFs.
EDFs available on the market are designed for linear flight (planes with a turbine air-entry speed ranging from 100km to 300km/h). However efficient VTOL operation requires a turbine designed for an entry air speed of 0 km/h! The existing EDFs are therefore very inefficient when used in VTOL mode.
This is why we have started to design our own electric turbines specifically designed for VTOL.
In 2006 Prof. David Brotherton-Ratcliffe and his team started to study aeronautic levitation and propulsion using electric ducted fans.
Their research was based on the idea of using a large number of electric ducted fans distributed in one or more spatial networks. Each fan was controlled directly and its thrust modulated by high frequency electrical power in order to maintain level flight.
The basic idea was built around levitating (and propelling) an aircraft using many small (and redundant) lifting fans, arranged in a spatial distribution, rather than by making use of several large fans (which were always flight critical) as had been the fashion of the prior-art.
This “many-thrusters” principle was made possible because of the unique and favourable scaling exhibited by brushless electric motors, which formed the core of modern electric ducted fans. Thermal motors did not share such a favourable scaling; replacing one large thermal motor with twenty smaller motors led to a very large penalty in aircraft efficiency.
Electric ducted fans were also capable of extremely fast thrust response obviating the need for thrust deflecting and vectoring systems.
Favourable scaling together with fast response suggested the possibility of mounting multiple thruster units on an aircraft in up to three orthogonal directions to allow extremely precise three-dimensional flight control.