A Podcast featuring an overview of VTOL and its potential applications with Daniel Schübeler
In December 2018, Microdrones acquired Schübeler Technologies as part of its global expansion. Since Schübeler Technologies serves a diverse and expanding client base that can influence developments at Microdrones, we like to share news of their progress, updates, and accomplishments.
Daniel Schübeler, CEO Schübeler Technologies, recently participated in a software and Technology Podcast discussing vertical take-off and landing technology, or VTOL. In this podcast, Daniel examines the issue of fan propulsion for vertical take-off and landing platforms, how they impact VTOL applications, and what a complex and compromising fan propulsion solution looks like in practice. You can listen to the podcast in the player below or read the summary provided.
Schübeler Technologies & VTOL Technology
Schübeler Technologies, founded in 1997, provides advanced fan propulsion jets and light-weight composite materials fabrication. They offer a full product lineup of robust turbo fans, jets, compressors, pumps, electric motors, carbon fiber and aluminum composites, Schübeler products are designed to withstand extreme conditions and demanding field use. These components provide thrust power and lightweight durability to high tech applications including UAVs, professional motorsports and heavy-duty outdoor equipment.
Schübeler Technologies see Vertical Take-Off and Landing as a promising direction in the near future. Daniel Schübeler, CEO Schübeler Technologies, notes that the company is a VTOL trailblazer when it comes to drone technology. “We are pioneers in this field,” he said. “We did the first VTOL drone in 2010. It was a tilt wing co-operative initiative between Schübeler, Microdrones and RWTH Aachen University, which saw the development of a successful experimental VTOL airframe.”
Smart Technology Sets the Stage for the Future of VTOL
However, VTOL has been around long before Schübeler Technologies. The history of vertical takeoff and landing dates back to early days of modern aviation. A primitive helicopter was flown in 1907, but it wouldn’t become a pillar of flight until after WWII. The crux of VTOL is all about physics, as two opposing demands play out—the need to hover and enable forward flight.
This push and pull had long mired VTOL in the land of something possible, but not practical. It has been a space mainly for military applications, but smart technology is removing some of its prior limitations with electric propulsion fans, which have been the focus of Schuebeler Technologies.
But what about the future of the field and new applications?
“VTOL is a very famous word in these days with all the start-ups in transportation and the air taxi market,” said Daniel Schübeler, CEO of Schübeler Technologies. “When thinking about feasibility, transporting goods is more realistic than people.”
While it certainly makes sense in densely populated metro areas to consider the air taxi industry, moving people and goods are quite different. There are more regulations and safety concerns, as well as the need for larger vehicles. It’s an expensive and complex idea to bring to market, but many start-ups are hoping to do just that.
VTOL Aircraft Explained
A VTOL aircraft is one that can hover, take off and land vertically. The segment includes both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. While VTOL technology is understood to be valuable, it’s been challenging to be successful. One of the best examples of a VTOL aircraft is the Osprey, an aircraft helicopter hybrid.
The key challenge with VTOL technology goes back to hover and forward flight. Hovering requires a considerable amount of air and high thrust at low power. Forward flight involves a smaller amount of air and acceleration to high speed.
These are two vastly different activities that work against each other, leaving performance to be uncertain. Because of this, scalability has not been a viable option to date.
“Besides Schübeler, I can only name one, maybe two companies who work with a really serious background in electric fan propulsion systems,” says Schübeler. “These one or two companies are working on their own tailored solutions for their own kind of air transportation project. So, I think it's fair to say that Schübeler is the only one in the market who offers a wide product range at a very high technology level. Our product range currently goes from a few hundred Watts to 17 to 18 kilowatts per fan at the moment.”
“We did the first VTOL drone in 2010. It was a tilt wing co-operative initiative between Schübeler, Microdrones and RWTH Aachen University, which saw the development of a successful experimental VTOL airframe.”Daniel Schübeler, CEO Schübeler Technologies
Smart Technology and Innovation Move VTOL into Realm of Possibility
However, Schuebeler Technologies has been on a mission to develop electric compulsion fans to meet VTOL aircraft needs, allowing performance and flexibility remain intact.
“In VTOL, you have to accept the best compromise between the two needs,” Daniel said.
The company has been working on electric propulsion to meet VTOL needs, learning over the years from previous roadblocks like overheating motors and batteries that lacked sufficient range.
By innovating, they developed a new motor with appropriate cooling concepts. The company took a systematic approach to solving the challenges, understanding the big picture of how to enable hovering and forward flight. Their years of perfecting these fans have brought the industry an expansive array to fit various aircraft.
Schübeler Technologies has continued to focus on increasing motor efficiency and mechanical robustness, which could make VTOL more accessible in the future as more applications become viable.
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