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VV-Plane concept designed to do some heavy lifting and revolutionize cargo transport

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August 13, 2014

A hybrid VTOL cargo plane concept by 4x4 Aviation is intended to carry truck-sized loads a...

A hybrid VTOL cargo plane concept by 4x4 Aviation is intended to carry truck-sized loads at nearly 200 mph (320 km/h)

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As a proposed alternative to heavy vehicle road transport, UK-based 4x4 Aviation has conceived a hybrid VTOL cargo plane fitted with electric, tiltable, ducted fans that it claims will be able to carry truck-sized loads at nearly 200 mph (320 km/h). Dubbed the VV (Versatile Vehicle)-Plane, the aircraft is aimed at reducing the transport costs in developed countries by claiming a better cost-weight ratio than current motor vehicle transport while also helping in developing nations where impassable or non-existent roads hamper the movement of large loads over land.

Based on a hybrid system that the creators claim will drive four clusters of four electrically-powered ducted fans via an energy storage system charged by an on-board combustion engine generator, the VV-Plane would lift off vertically and then move the ducted fans to a horizontal position for forward movement. The aircraft will also have a horizontal stabilizer at the rear and a similarly-sized forewing near the nose.

The company claims to have patented the bespoke gimbal technology that will be used to rotate the ducted fans, saying that the gimbals and an "intuitive" software system allows the transition from vertical to horizontal flight without relying on current mechanical tilting mechanisms that are both heavy and expensive.

The VV-Plane proposes to compete with road based cargo transport

The VV-Plane design boasts a 15 m (50 ft) wingspan with a fuselage of exactly the same length, and will be able to carry 30 tonnes (33 tons) of cargo. The full-size VV-Plane is also designed at that size so as to be able to carry an industry-standard Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit (TEU) container, so that it may directly complete with road transport in this size category.

To validate their proof of concept, 4x4 Aviation plans to display and fly a prototype scale-model of the VV-Plane on 26 September at Ashford Airport in Lydd, Kent, where the company is based. The model will have a 1 m (3.2 ft) wingspan, carry a 5 kg (11 lb) payload, and be used to test the flight control system.

Though the idea of a ducted fan heavy lift VTOL vehicle is nothing new – the ARES cargo UAV being one notable example – the unique feature for the proposed VV-Plane is its reliance on electric ducted fans to produce the thrust required to vertically lift tens of tons. This will be quite a test of its power, as even ultra-powerful rotary wing, combustion-engine aircraft such as the Chinook Ch-47F with nearly 10,000 hp (7,450 kW) on tap would struggle to carry half the proposed payload of the VV-Plane.

With no dates so far set to launch the full-scale version, 4x4 Aviation is currently pursuing financial backing for the next stage in its development, which will be centered on the development of the company’s technologies that - aside from the VV-Plane itself – includes efficient, low-cost combustion engine technology, an innovative energy-storage system, and unique electric-turbine knowledge.

The company video below outlines the VV-Plane and some of the technology involved.

Source: 4x4 Aviation

About the Author
Colin Jeffrey Colin discovered technology at an early age, pulling apart clocks, radios, and the family TV. Despite his father's remonstrations that he never put anything back together, Colin went on to become an electronics engineer. Later he decided to get a degree in anthropology, and used that to do all manner of interesting things masquerading as work. Even later he took up sculpting, moved to the coast, and never learned to surf.   All articles by Colin Jeffrey
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40 Comments

The plane shown does not work in horizontal flight ... In fact, the front ducted fans would blow inside the rear ones. As a result, the efficency of the rear ducted fans would be highly diminished and the plane would not be stable. Moreover, the lower fans are blowing under the wings, which is a very efficient way of destroying lift ! Another idea from a design office that has no reality in an engineering world. Making nice picture means nothing.

Deres
14th August, 2014 @ 12:11 am PDT

I add that the second picture in vertical flight does not work either ... The 8 fans would unleash a tornado of winds on the landing spot. The fork lift and the van would be blown away by the storm as anything in the perimeter.

Deres
14th August, 2014 @ 12:14 am PDT

This has all the hallmarks of 'too good to be true'.

MattII
14th August, 2014 @ 12:51 am PDT

I cannot see how they can generate or store enough energy for this to possibly work. I'm sure that you could build a scale RC model that would fly but a full size real world example is something else entirely. I'm not going to hold my breath on this one.

Facebook User
14th August, 2014 @ 01:42 am PDT

Ceres makes a good point re the downwash from multiple fans supporting 30+tonnes. It might not be such a problem on hard-standings and other prepared areas, but casual cargo pick-ups and drops in rural, residential or even disaster areas would be interesting. And the debris being kicked up would be as dangerous to the aircraft itself as well as to the surrounding area and onlookers/victims. Still, the small drone aspect has potential......... in a burgeoning market. Clearly a project to watch with interest.

Grunt
14th August, 2014 @ 03:01 am PDT

@Deres

Possibly they plan on only using all four fans for VTOL and during horizontal flight just run the upper two, negating the lift problem,

I have no idea how they plan on getting around the other problems you mentioned though.

Billy600
14th August, 2014 @ 03:01 am PDT

I think it is a realy neat idea. I hope they work out all the bugs in the design mentioned by the posts above.

BigGoofyGuy
14th August, 2014 @ 05:34 am PDT

This is an underdeveloped concept, for underdeveloped nations. The x-22 concept from Bell worked well, but my guess is the lifting power was not all that great. The small cluster fans are less efficient that one large one. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_X-22

dugnology
14th August, 2014 @ 08:41 am PDT

Radical, awesome, many apps for.

Stephen N Russell
14th August, 2014 @ 08:46 am PDT

I think it would have to compete with the "Sky Crane" helicopter.

ezeflyer
14th August, 2014 @ 08:52 am PDT

So gizmag's credibility just dropped another notch with this one.

One of the problems of engineers in the virtual domain: software, computing, etc, is that they haven't a clue about the real world.

Those gimbals to mount the ducted engines are a joke. The engine weight would cause the yokes to snap like twigs upon mounting.

"This is just a prototype", you say? "That will be worked out later."

Really? The devil is in the details. Do you think that it will be just a matter of a couple of hours to come up with a solution? I tell you what, why don't you go have a talk with the aeronautical engineers at Bell Boeing regarding their V-22 Osprey. Ask them how easy it was to get the bugs out of the tiltrotor assembly and maintain flight during transition. Never mind the crashes.

Its fascinating how a computer model of a system, no matter how ridiculous, somehow gives it credibility. That because it is animated on a computer screen, it naturally will work when fabricated.

No, the 4x4 company isn't a just scam to drain venture capitalist of their not-very-hard-earned money. Suckers.

The gizmag writer should have recognized this and clicked Delete on the press release from 4x4.

Jack Mahawgoff
14th August, 2014 @ 09:18 am PDT

@Deres

You got the numbers wrong. More like 16. 8 on each side.

What kind of steel frames that we see in the picture are going to transfer the entire lift to the mainframe /fuselage of the plane? From the looks of they must have some kind of fantastic technology under the hood. The front engines would be the main engines and the rear one would be after burners. What else could it be when the exhaust of the front engine is feeding the inlets of the rear engines.

Even as a concept it sucks. I wonder if Dubya had anything to do with it. Their IQ seems to be at the same level.

pmshah
14th August, 2014 @ 09:29 am PDT

Gerry Anderson would love it. He could make it fly if he could put strings on it.

John Hagen-Brenner
14th August, 2014 @ 09:39 am PDT

Each time I view at the sketch it gets more silly looking: it seems all 16 fans are in fact connected to a single U-shaped set of piping which itself pivots from somewhere under the front wing. All the VTOL type systems that pivot the engines do so from a point on the body of the engine, not from an arm thats multiple meters away from the cowling. Even if "only" the front 8 fans are pivoting down , how stilt-like would the landing gear have to be to hold the entire monstrosity high enough such that the fans themselves aren't embedded in the tarmac or dirt?

No, this has to be some kind of joke...

f8lee
14th August, 2014 @ 10:05 am PDT

I have seen many stupid ideas on here and I call these ideas out in the comments with a perfect record but the pictures shown here are the dumbest I have ever seen, truly childish. If I saw these pictures I wouldn't even do a story. The only reason the designers are flouting this idea (because it won't fly, definitely hover but won't fly) is to raise seed money from investors dumber than they are.

So let me get this straight you're going to use 4 sets of 4 ducted fans (that's a total of 16 fans to vertically lift cargo then rotate these ducts so that 8 of these fans are sitting directly in front of the other 8!? All while connected to the aircraft by a square pole contraption?

I think my 9 year old daughter with crayons could come up with a better design if you gave her a day to think about it. This reminds me of that giant stratospheric blimp the government made that crashed. I would like to say more but you get the picture.

Matt Fletcher
14th August, 2014 @ 10:15 am PDT

At first glance I thought it said VW , because it looks like something the Germans would dream up.

Jay Finke
14th August, 2014 @ 10:49 am PDT

I gotta wonder how exactly this is to be cheaper at transporting stuff then doing so on a truck. Sure if there is impassable terrain it can be a questing of possible vs. impossible when comparing with a truck, but otherwise there is no way around air transport costing more energy than transport on land so really I gotta say they must be dreaming.

BZD
14th August, 2014 @ 01:11 pm PDT

Weight is everything in aerospace. Shipping containers are designed with a high factor of safety for all that rough and tumble at sea. A high factor of safety means they weight quite a bit vs how much they can bare. Weight = money. Money makes the world go round.

Jugen
14th August, 2014 @ 01:23 pm PDT

@Deres Actually objects under the wing have very little effect on lift.

Google "Coanda Effect".

warren52nz
14th August, 2014 @ 02:31 pm PDT

Engines? As in, they're missing from the concept drawings, there's no mention of what engine(s) they intend to use, and they'll need to develop the generators to convert their power into electricity.

All vertical lift aircraft have downdraft proportionate to their weight. The fans will generate air currents of higher velocity & lesser volume than an equivalent helicopter.

There's no mention of why this design would be less costly than existing helicopters, which transport cargo at far higher cost than trucks.

the.other.will
14th August, 2014 @ 02:44 pm PDT

As a matter of fact, with equal engine power, the larger the disc area, the bigger the lifting force.

This thing may work in horizontal flight, but in vertical take off, it can't even lift it's own batteries!

Now comparing to Chinook Ch-47F, with 520 square meter of disc area, that can lift about 22 tons, if total power of all 16 engines of VV-Plane make 7250 kW, with only about 20% of that disc area, can lift 4.5 tons...

How effective the fan blades should be to raise that number to 33+x tons?

Esi 1976
14th August, 2014 @ 03:40 pm PDT

Why do they always through in the phrase, "For underdeveloped" countries." or "helping in developing nations." I take it they are looking for funding and want "bleeding hearts" to see the benefit. What crap.

S Michael
14th August, 2014 @ 05:19 pm PDT

Thunderbird 2?

Chris D Hooley
14th August, 2014 @ 06:52 pm PDT

Too fuel hungry, too complex, too heavy and the ratio of cargo to craft is probably lousy as well.

A better method would be to have an engine that acts like a hover craft simply lifting the vehicle an inch above the runway and then accelerating up to speed before gaining altitude. Any grass area could be used as the "runway" without ripping up the turf at all. The hover craft could shut down and remain behind after the plane is air born. Lawns and lakes and rivers could all be runways.

Jim Sadler
14th August, 2014 @ 07:14 pm PDT

So, assuming the airframe and powerplant weighed nothing at all, and that they could get a modest 2.5g of static thrust per watt in VTOL mode, the sustained power requirement for a 30 tonne lift would be on the order of 12 megawatts.

If, by some magic they could get ten times the output, so 25g static thrust per watt, that's still 1.2 megawatts continuous power to lift just the payload. Basically a small freight locomotive.

And if they could make electric ducted fans that good, they'd probably make more profit simply by selling fans.

sleat
15th August, 2014 @ 07:08 am PDT

usually these concepts are 95% 3d rendering skill and 5% engineering ability, or vice versa.

This concept seems to have no basis in engineering reality yet is presented with renderings that could literally have been thrown together in an hour.

mommus
15th August, 2014 @ 08:40 am PDT

Whoever drew that understands neither structural engineering nor aerodynamics.

A quad tilt rotor could be designed to do the job fairly easily and would be faster.

Slowburn
15th August, 2014 @ 08:58 am PDT

I agree with Slowburn, and I add 4x4 aviation you should be ashamed to present such an ill conceived concept with no founding in fact. It might work in the CGI world of starwars pod racers but that is not what you are proposing.

Gizmag you need to spend 5 minutes to just look at it before deciding to do an article, otherwise you too lose credibility.

Doug B
15th August, 2014 @ 05:55 pm PDT

Very high cost fuel per ton/mile. STOL is much lower cost than VTOL and short dirt runways are not expensive. The concept shown at concordlift.com can be modified into a much smaller version with suburb STOL performance. It would serve in the same market at much lower cost per ton/mile. Professionally presented at AIAA. No reason found it would not fly or would not be profitable.

ConcordLift
15th August, 2014 @ 06:47 pm PDT

Complexity is the enemy of efficiency. Compare this with the Piasecki 97 on YouTube.

There have been so many over-complicated,over-engineered aircraft like this that have been proposed and even built but none have worked well enough to be commercially viable.

This design poses serious challenges for use in a perfect world.... and this is not a perfect world.

I don't mind computer enhanced but I do not like

computer dependent.... especially inflight-

it brings a whole new dimension to the term "computer crash".

Griffin
16th August, 2014 @ 06:07 pm PDT

We are a little surprised that some of the commentators on this article have taken what is clearly an artist’s impression of our aircraft so literally. We freely acknowledge that the mounting of the propulsion system as well as other details will not look like this in the manufactured version. It is obvious that no company or designer is going to submit detailed drawings for publication before having in place the necessary patents to protect their design. We do agree with some of the technical comments regarding the propulsion system and it is in these areas that patents have been applied for, so we are not in a position to comment further until they are in place.

We are however prepared to comment on the generator system. Using a piston based combined cycle engine for which a patent has already been applied, it uses sinus discs rather than a heavy crankshaft and is able to use exhaust heat in a “piston-within-piston” design, to generate additional energy, making it a very power dense system.

One thing we would like to point out is that our proposed prototype will not be a 30t version as stated in the article but rather a 10t version. We are looking to develop higher capacity versions in the future.

Lastly, whilst everybody is entitled to their opinion, some of the comments directed at both ourselves and Gizmag are inappropriate as well as inaccurate. We are not Boeing or Airbus so of course we need funding and already have investors on board, but to suggest our project is some sort of scam along with questioning the intelligence of our investors is frankly offensive.

4X4Aviation
18th August, 2014 @ 05:02 am PDT

4X4Aviation

Anybody looking at that drawing and thinking the people presenting it are competent is a fool.

Slowburn
18th August, 2014 @ 12:37 pm PDT

I don't mean to offend, but... You are presenting your "technology" to the world - not to your grade 9 science fair. Respect your audience please. You are hanging your hopes on the re-development of a new and revolutionary swash-plate or barrel engine with stunning power-density? Nope. No risk there.

Paulinator
18th August, 2014 @ 03:24 pm PDT

I don't think this idea will take off. The suggestion that it could lift 30 t eventually seems too hard to believe. Is the pilot supposed to carefully lower himself down onto a loaded container?

Whenever you have to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy, there are always losses. Could you imagine what size engine would be required to power all those fans, to lift up 30 t?

I appreciate that 4x4 don't want to show a full design, but the fan mountings look incredibly spindly, and they have to lift 30 t.

windykites1
19th August, 2014 @ 08:10 am PDT

Flying on lift is a lot more efficient than flying on thrust like this thing is suppose to. It is just a bad idea.

Slowburn
19th August, 2014 @ 03:24 pm PDT

That is the most idiotic aircraft design I've ever seen.

I'm no engineer, but even I can tell that those toothpicks holding those engines wouldn't last 5 minute with said engines at full thrust.

CAlsup
28th August, 2014 @ 03:13 pm PDT

I see several problems with the setup. First, the frame seems very flimsy to withstand the downward force of the engines to lift 30tons. It would simply tear apart. Second, the lift force of all the engines directed downwards will have a negative effect from the downwash cycling around the unit. If there isn't enough side wind the downwash will cycle around and push the vehicle straight down. Third, the slipstream of the airflow of the front engines will create havoc on the rear engines in horizontal flight and disrupt the airflow over the rear-wings. The rear wings require positioning a bit lower in order to prevent air-pressure increase underneath destroying lift. Fourth, fuel limitations are a concern since either gas or electric power source must be concentrated or extensive due to the amount of engines involved. The consumption of energy is must be high.

There are a lot of questions to answer on this concept. Hopefully they will address each with an aeronautical engineer before development. An expensive prototype that doesn't work is irresponsible development and research especially when common concepts could've prevented it from being inoperable.

fsa0033
22nd September, 2014 @ 10:24 am PDT

Correct me if I am wrong but isn't one of the problems with tilt rotor designs is the fact that a spinning turbine engine acts like a gyro whose centrifical force resists changing its orientation thus needing very powerful heavy duty mechanical device to change its orientation ? The very orientation of the engines of one directly in front of the other also makes horizontal plane like flight impossible nullifying the whole idea of tilt rotors unless they plan on flying this like a helicoptor.

Joseph Pena
29th September, 2014 @ 09:30 am PDT

Not an engineer so I know nothing about lift to weight ratios but even an idiot can see that structurally that there is no way this could work. 200 mph? You could take this down with a rifle, forget a surface to air missle. Somebody's spending too much of their time cutting & pasting from comic book renderings.

noteugene
11th November, 2014 @ 01:17 pm PST

hahaha ... omg this article and the comments made my day !

@4x4 Guys, trust me on this, the design looks like something that most children who have seen a drone could come up with during their drawing classes.

I can understand that there might be issues with presenting your designs if you don't yet hold a patent for them so the point is: then don't do it !

If you are serious about making such an aircraft you have to come up with a serious design and a very technical presentation.

The above animation really does make it look like a scam or like the people who did it have no freaking clue regarding engineering and aviation.

Also I don't know what Gizmag were thinking with presenting such an obviously flawed and purely fictional project.

XfStef
1st December, 2014 @ 02:40 am PST
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