Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Aerovel Flexrotor pushes the “Group 2” limit

Diminutive, and squat on its four lunar-lander legs, a Flexrotor spins-up its outsize rotor,
levitates into the sky, and “transitions” to a relaxed, sailplane-like cruise. Always otherworldly for the uninitiated, the show this time was a little unusual even for old hands. This Flexrotor was carrying more than it ever had before.

Aerovel’s Flexrotor uniquely combines diminutive size with long endurance and outsized capacity. Its small basing “footprint” has enabled shipboard operations like law enforcement and commercial fish-spotting in the tropical Pacific, and ice navigation in the high Arctic, as well as land-based work such as day and night imaging over the high deserts of Afghanistan. It has by far the longest endurance among Vertical Takeoff and Landing aircraft of any size, having flown 32 hr nonstop with hours of fuel to spare.

“Operators are delighted with Flexrotor’s unique combination of long endurance and light footprint,” says Tad McGeer, president of Aerovel, “and they want to exploit the opportunity with as much fuel and payload as can be squeezed on board. So now we’ve demonstrated operation at 25 kg launch weight,” which is the upper limit of the military
Group 2” size category.

McGeer observes that “for the endurance record we carried 35 hr of fuel, and launched at 22 kg gross. If the 3 additional kilos possible within the Group 2 limit were carried as more fuel, then endurance would be very long indeed. But most operators are interested in the payload.”

A military operator could fly more than 12 hr while carrying a powerful day or night imager plus equipment for data networking and communications monitoring. This level of capacity is normally associated with much larger aircraft, but Flexrotor’s footprint is small even by Group-2 standards.

One person can wheel out its storage box, assemble the aircraft, and launch for a long
mission, all well within an hour of arriving at a bare site. McGeer points out that “staying within the Group 2 limit emphasizes our message of small footprint, which is enabling for many applications. Clear a space two or three metres on a side, and you’re good to go.

Then you’ll have plenty of time to wait for landing.”

Find out more at the Aerovel website