April 28, 2008 Tilt-rotor aircraft have been around since the 1950s, offering the vertical take-off, hovering and landing abilities of a helicopter with the range, high flight ceiling, speed and fuel economy of a turboprop aeroplane. Falx Air Vehicles are planning to push the fuel economy angle even further by using a hybrid-electric motor and inbuilt solar arrays. The company expects its upcoming compact single and double-seater tiltrotor aircraft to use as little as 10 litres of fuel per hour airborne, and the quiet electric operation should see these small, light and manoeverable aircraft make solid stealth vehicles for military uses. Though not yet confirmed, we may see a full-size prototype as early as the Farnsworth air show this year, and Falx is aiming to have the craft fully certified by the end of 2009.
Staffordshire, UK's Falx Air Vehicles yesterday released the final design overview of its hybrid-electric tilt-rotor aircraft platform, which it is looking to commercialize in the next 24 months. The platform can be configured as either a single seat personal vehicle or a two-seater for training or personal use. Using aerospace-certified composite materials, the single seater weighs in at only 350kg, with the twin-seat version weighing 405kg.
Falx claims the battery packs powering the Falx will be the latest fast-charge battery systems the USA has to offer, but no further details are available. The batteries will be charged both by inbuilt solar relays and through the use of a small 100hp combustion engine that drives a lightweight, brush-less generator. Noise and thermal image will thus be kept to a minimum, enhancing the craft's stealth abilities. The twin electric engines eliminate a lot of complex machinery in traditional tilt-wing craft, such as drive-shafts, hydraulics and gearboxes.
Its VTOL abilities will make the Falx platform able to access landing areas without the need for a runway; the tilting rotors simply face upward in takeoff, landing and hovering situations, and the craft acts like a twin-rotor helicopter. The electric motors develop around 240 horsepower at peak output in VTOL applications. Once airborne, the rotors slowly tilt forward, moving the craft's thrust to a horizontal plane and developing enough velocity for the wing to provide lift.
No information is yet available on the range, speed or flight ceiling of the Falx tilt-rotor craft, but tilt-rotors are well known for offering airspeed, range and flight ceilings much higher than comparable helicopters.
Falx is seeking investment in order to commercialize the platform, which it hopes to be fully certified and ready for the market by 2010. The company expects interest around police, military and paramedic circles but the platform also offers clear advantages to leisure aviators - a lot of large yacht owners will see the benefit of a long-range, highly fuel efficient aircraft that can operate off a helipad. In all, more than 52 variations of the design have been envisioned for support services and commercial applications.