Can’t decide if you want an airplane, a helicopter, or a flying car? Then why not all three at once? Arizona-based start-up Krossblade seems to think the same way with its SkyCruiser concept – an electric hybrid aircraft that not only switches between being an airplane and a quadcopter, but can be driven on the road as well.
Ever since the Wright brothers took off from Kitty Hawk in 1903, aviation has been a question of trade offs. Airplanes are fast, fuel efficient, can cover long ranges, and carry heavy cargoes, but they can’t hover and they need runways to takeoff and land. Helicopters can hover and land on a dime, but they’re relatively slow, gulp fuel, aren’t exactly long distance champs, and aren't in the same cargo league as airplanes. And to make either machine into something that can drive on the road usually ends up as something that’s both a poor aircraft and a poor car.
The tricky bit of squaring the circle of the airplane and the helicopter has been a dream of aeronautical engineers for decades, resulting in everything from a flying truck to the V-20 Osprey. The Krossblade SkyCruiser’s takes the convertiplane approach. In normal flight, the SkyCruiser is pushed along by two 150 bhp electric motors in the tail, but when switching from horizontal to vertical flight, a set of four "switchblade" rotor arms fold out from the fuselage to take the load.
It’s not a new idea. Concepts of these sort of convertiplanes go back to the early 1950s, but the five-passenger SkyCruiser design combines the fold out rotors with a hybrid electric drive. There are four 80 bhp electric motors running the four main rotors, plus another four 10 bhp rotors to providing stability in crosswinds. According to Krossblade, the smaller rotors can accelerate faster than the larger ones, so they can respond faster to sudden gusts.
The switchblade rotor arrangement is designed to provide the Vertical TakeOff and Landing (VTOL) SkyCruiser with the ability to hover and land in small areas while maintaining the aerodynamics of a conventional airplane, and the electric motors – backed up by a 400 bhp internal combustion engine hooked to a 360 bhp generator feeding into 12 kW battery – provide for greater range and reliability. In addition, the rotor arms are designed to fold backwards to maximize passenger space, and the multiple motor arrangement provides redundancy and greater safety.
On the ground, the 9.5 m (31 ft) wing span can be stowed away, and electric motors mounted in the wheels drive the craft along at 75 mph (112 kph), turning the SkyCruiser into a roadworthy car for short trips – albeit a stretchy one at 8.4 m (27.5 ft) long.
But this all together and the vision for the SkyCruiser becomes a point-to-point vehicle that can take passengers door to door without needing a conventional airfield. The company says that the SkyCruiser would have a cruising speed of 314 mph (505 km/h), a stall speed of 100 mph (160 km/h) in fixed-wing mode, be able to carry 1,003 lb (455 kg) of payload, and have a range of 1,006 mi (1,620 km) with five passengers.
Though the SkyCruiser is still very much in the concept phase, the company is already working on its smaller SkyProwler, which has the same VTOL capability, but uses a H configuration for the rotors for easier transformation into quadcopter mode, and has a cruising speed of 55 mph (90 km/h).
No price or delivery date for either variant has been announced.
The video below introduces the SkyCruiser