A domestically built double-winged eVTOL drone was a highlight among a variety of exhibits at the 25th China Hi-Tech Fair in Shenzhen on November 15-19.
The aircraft, built by Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Materials and Physics of Chinese Academy of Sciences, adopts what the designers say is a pneumatic architecture, with double wings and fixed-pitch propellers.
The design allows the aircraft, which has a somewhat odd appearance of two B2 bombers being connected to each other, to realize vertical take-off and landing.
When it is airborne, the drone switches into a horizontal mode of flight to cruise, just like most airplanes.
According to the team of developers behind it, in the process of building the drone, they have acquired full-chain technologies comprising the powertrain system, sensor data fusion, and flight control algorithms.
What sets this drone apart from similar devices, or conventional eVTOL aircraft, is that it has a lift of 5,500 m, can operate in temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius and withstand gales on a Beaufort scale of seven.
“We gave the aircraft a double-winged structure because this is perfect for vertical take-off and landing and can function independently of runway,” said Liao Dongpo, an official in charge with the drone’s exhibitor.
He added the these features considerably bolstered its ease of use.
Were the multi-rotor architecture to be replicated on conventional UAV models, their size would be about four to five times larger, occupying more space, Liao noted.
It’s not immediately clear how this weird-looking eVTOL drone will be applied in real-world scenarios, but its designers indicate that several possible use cases include electrical inspection, oil pipeline check, aerial forestry, emergency response and geological survey.
Currently, the drone is powered by lithium-ion battery packs. Specifically, working rotary blades will lift the device off the ground and then provide it with horizontal propulsion in mid-air.
Liao of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said the aircraft stands out for its energy efficiency, load capacity and endurance.
“Plus the weight of the drone itself, it can carry up to 50kg of load, including 17 to 18 kg of objects, and remain airborne for four hours,” he explained.