Falx Air Vehicles, from Staffordshire, UK, will release commercially a tilt-rotor hybrid airplane by the end of 2009. The tilt-rotor concept is present in the aviation since the 1950’s, but there haven’t been any breakthroughs in this area yet. Still, Falx puts a 100hp combustion engine on it, a powerful solar array, and an electric engine which gives 240hp at its peak.
This type of aircraft has the benefits of a helicopter and the speed of a jet airplane. By using the hybrid concept they build it from, this air vehicle can achieve a performing consumption of only 10 liters of fuel per hour of flight.
In comparison, a regular helicopter uses approximately 170 liters of fuel per hour. The small ICE engine and the electric functionality of the aircraft, make it a perfect candidate for military stealth applications, since it has a reduced heat footprint and can be harder to detect.
The new electric – hybrid airplane will come in two versions: a one-seater and a two seater. The first will weigh 350kg and the second will weigh 405kg.
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.
This is a step further towards electric aviation. The next one will surely be cleaner and will apply to more faster air vehicles, making them harmless for the environment.