First manned flight of FanWing aircraft planned for next year


July 20, 2012

The FanWing company has announced that it plans to debut a piloted version of its rotary fan-powered aircraft next year

The FanWing company has announced that it plans to debut a piloted version of its rotary fan-powered aircraft next year

Image Gallery (11 images)

With a traditional airplane, a propellor or jet engine pulls it forward, and lift is created as air subsequently flows over the wings. FanWing aircraft are a little different. They have a powered horizontal rotary fan along the leading edge of their single wing, which serves to pull air over it, creating lift without the need for speed. Britain’s FanWing company has been developing the technology since 1999, and has already had success with radio-controlled proof-of-concept models. This month, however, the company announced that it plans to debut a two-seater piloted FanWing aircraft at the 2013 EAA AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

First of all, why would anyone want to build an airplane this way?

According to the company, due to the fact that little in the way of speed is required to achieve lift, FanWings can take off and land on very short runways. They are also said to be inexpensive and simple to build, maintain and control; are stable and resistant to turbulence; they won’t stall at low speeds; and, they’re quiet. Should their engine conk out, their glide ratio is reportedly rather low, although they are still capable of performing an auto-rotational landing.

The piloted aircraft is planned to have a rotor measuring 32 feet (10 meters) long by 30 inches (75 cm) wide, with a total body span (including its twin tails) of 46 feet (14 meters). It will weigh 770 pounds (350 kg) empty, and have a maximum take-off weight of 1,300 pounds (600 kg). Its flight speed will be 20 to 70 knots (23 to 80.5 mph), and it should be able to take off within a distance of 50 feet (15 meters). Power will be supplied by a four-stroke Rotax 912 light aircraft motor.

The FanWing concept was first conceived by American inventor Patrick Peebles, who now heads the company. He is developing the piloted aircraft with a number of collaborators, including former BAE Systems Principal Concepts Engineer George Seyfang.

A small-scale static wind tunnel model has already been built and tested, with construction of the flying prototype scheduled to take place from August to November, followed by the first test flights beginning next February. This is definitely one we’ll be watching.

Source: FanWing via Dvice

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

I suppose it is not going to be more efficient than conventional design.


It looks like a flying combine harvester! That reminds me of a scene from the Cars movie where Lightning and Mater are running away from the harvester after they had indulged in some tractor-tipping, and its blade is nipping at their hind bumpers. I love the idea but I have a trepidation about the fan. The problem is, it is a long, flimsy-looking, spinning fan blade shaft mounted inset to the wing beam. My fear is that the fan blade could deflect enough to collide with the wing, causing it to suddenly stop, thereby precipitating a catastrophic event. In short, I see the fan blade crashing causing the plane to wreck. I do hope they decide to pack one of those whole-plane parachutes onto it...


Another waste of precious recouce and money' it's massive and cumbersome and you just pray a bird doesn't jam or shatter a blade because the whole thing would be compromised! And! It's not that useful if just goes at only 70 knots.


Wow! What a great concept. Going to the basics of lift. There is a lot of potential for this.

Nantha Nithiahnanthan

Whats happens if a bird or debris gets sucked in? Sounds flawed...

John Grimes

If I'm doing an autorotational landing I want it to be in an autogiro! Compared to which, this doesn't seem to have any obvious advantages. And an autogiro with blades folded is much more compact.

David Evans

Looking for the day someone builds one of thease or better, with an electric motor! Imagine a small personal flight machine, like the STOL planes Nazi Germany developed, only better, electric and personal sized! Modern day magic carpets!

Bruce Miller

Kalavo, it uses less resources and money than helicopters or aeroplanes. With wide fixed wings it would require far less fuel than a helicopter to remain flying and with a lower air speed it would likewise need less than an aeroplane. It is massive and cumbersome? In what context? did you want to park one in your inner-city garage? Or in a hanger at an airport? As for speed, I imagine land surveys / cargo transport / unmanned drone work would be far easier at low speed and you'd hit far fewer birds.

David Evans, an autogiro / gyrcopter can't be as large nor carry as great a payload nor is it as stable or fuel efficient. There are applications where autogiros are better suited, but to poo-poo the invention because you want to use it in an application it is not suited for is stupid.


I don't see this leading to aircraft better than helicopters but it's their money.

NOTARs are much quieter than conventional helicopters and can be made to be more quiet.


If the fans have fixed pitch, and push air in all directions, how does it achieve lift?

Dawar Saify

The fan does not have to be a single shaft and element. There could be one for each wing, or as many as you wanted. Much, much safer than a helicopter, osprey, or any current plane, that can easily loose its whole lift system. Helicopters have very delicate control mechanisms and easily loose blades. The osprey easily loses hydraulic tilt control. Planes easily loose hydraulic aileron control or even whole wings easily crack off. This is 10 times safer than any of the current designs. But its main advantage is that it is quiet.


What if engine failure? Those fan blades are going to create blockage of airflow over the wing and lose lift. FAA approval Declined

Flipider Comm

@ Kalavo. The bird would be minced by the blade. Unless you happen to have a supply of concrete pidgeons??

Anthony Collett

THK, I am not sure why you think it could not be more efficient. While I am not sure it is, in this day and age there would be no reason to build it if it were much less efficient. Being quiet is always a step in the right direction as you are not wasting energy making noise. It will be interesting to see where this design goes if anywhere.

The problem with electric motors is the battery, we have a long way to go before we get anywhere near the same energy from a battery that is the has the size or weight of a gallon of jet fuel.


thk. Perhaps they will get an engineer to design the fan?

Tony Morris

I love how theses articles bring out the armchair aeronautical engineers. Take a look at the photos and fully read the article before jumping in with comments please. The blades are shielded so it is actually more bird friendly than other aircraft.

I'm no expert but I think that it is a good idea. Possibly one step closer to personal aviation. It meets many of the criteria required for personal aircraft such as short take-off, low stall speed and simple construction.

Edgar Walkowsky

WOW. just goes to show you can get startup capital for even the dumbest ideal.. This is a joke people.. LOL Stop taking it serous.

Michael Mantion

Interesting idea, but don't gyro-copters do what this aircraft does already?

Tom Mattin

Wings and control surfaces easily breaking off !!!??? Clueless, absolutely clueless. As a pilot i have seen many aircraft with 20,000+ hours ( easily ) with commercial planes seeing many more. Redundant systems and rigid maintenance criteria make the fixed wing aircraft one of the safest modes of transportation on the planet ! Most accidents in fact are human failure not mechanical but thats no suprise :)

Michael Ronneseth

I think it's a cool idea with many applications. Some of life's best experienced slowly ;-) It costs me nothing to watch this experiment, I'm going to enjoy it fully!


The idea of blowing air over the top of the wing is good. But I can think of other ways to do it without using a powered horizontal rotary fan.


I'm with Scion. This is a limited-use, niche kind of vehicle. You want speed? There are plenty of airplanes that will beat this. So will my car! And I can pull over just about anywhere as long as I am on a road. Ah, but off-road, with the need to see what is on the ground rather than blasting past it, and to do so quietly (relatively) and efficiently could be a real plus. Think game preserves, ranches, borders, highways, chasing a perp. Check things out at 80mph, slow to 25mph for a closer look. Maybe short-hop transport in less-developed countries. I can see the potential, and I don't even have an aeronautical engineer armchair to sit in. I bet the boys in Oshkosh will find this contraption very interesting.

Bruce H. Anderson states this is capable of a 1:4 glide ratio by autorotating? That's roughly the same as a basejumper with a wingsuit. So, the only way this concept can really be safe is with an airframe parachute.

I much prefer gyrocopters over this scary looking contraption! :(


This seems akin to the Coanda Effect for its lift properties: said effect goes back a few decades, first in the wood & wire aviation days, when engine exhausts had a habit of setting the frame afire. It was tested in the 1960's as a means of providing lift to saucer-shaped platforms. It used a central turbine flowing compressed air over the upper surface in a laminar flow, producing a partial vacuum that was aerodynamic. This proved to be impractical, needing an immense source of power to have only a nominal effect. In this case, I might suggest some research, because the Coanda Effect was enhanced by a "lip", a minor ledge in the path of the laminar flow offset from the leading edge which served to adhere the airflow to the airfoil surface for better efficiency. It is all in some issue of the Scientific American archives.

Also: Ed. anthodyd

I think my concerns have been well raised.

What happens in an engine stall event - it doesn't look like it will glide.

What happens in turbulence when real wings are flexing up and down many metres, surely with will dislodge the fan central shaft from its mounting points.

Isn't that a lot of mass to be spinning (a wing length fan) to get lift.

If it doesn't balance (the fan) then this will shake the teeth and stomach contents out of most people (and be hard on its own mechanicals, wearing them out really fast)

My daughter (10) was reading over my shoulder and she said what is that dad, I just said "goose goose crash". She thinks my dad jokes are funny, seriously this thing is a bird-strike magnet.

Speedbump Andy
Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles