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An Entirely New Class of Aircraft Arrives 289

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretty-fly dept.
fergus07 writes "Austrian research company IAT21 has presented a new type of aircraft at the Paris Air Show, which has the potential to become aviation's first disruptive technology since the jet engine. Neither fixed wing nor rotor craft, the D-Dalus uses four mechanically-linked, contra-rotating, cylindrical turbines for its propulsion, and by altering the angle of the blades, it can launch vertically, hover perfectly still, move in any direction, and thrust upwards and hence 'glue down' upon landing, which it can easily do on the deck of a ship, or even a moving vehicle. It's also almost silent, has the dynamic stability to enter buildings, handles rough weather with ease, flies very long distances very quickly and can lift very heavy loads. It accordingly holds immense promise as a platform for personal flight, for military usage, search and rescue, and much more."
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An Entirely New Class of Aircraft Arrives

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  • This article seriously lacks a video showing how the D-Dalus operates. Now it merely looks like a high-tech fan.
    • Add to that that the article seems to be describing the second coming, not any realistic plane. If it can do what the article says, you could at least show it moving, no ? It is quite hard to believe that nobody tried putting a movable wing directly behind the propellor before.

      But that's quite typical of these kinds of articles of course.

      • by gd2shoe (747932)
        I second. Without a video, I strongly suspect it's some kind of hoax. (If it sounds too good to be true and then keeps going...)
        • Re:Video (Score:4, Interesting)

          by arisvega (1414195) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @09:34AM (#36527378)

          No, no hoax. In the water, this kind of propulsion works fine. [wikipedia.org] In the air, however, the rotating speed needed to push against sufficient amounts of air to yield usable lift is insane, and so is the stress on the blades- so it is a question of fabricating it from the right material.

          I can assure you; the very instant the right material for constructing this becomes accessible, it goes to mass production.

          • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

            I can assure you; the very instant the right material for constructing this becomes accessible, it goes to mass production.

            Transparent aluminum, maybe?

          • by X0563511 (793323)

            If you read the article, you'll note they had to build the thing out of carbon fiber -and- invent a new type of swivel bearing. 5 foot turbine lengths even with these advancements can only lift about 70kg (interesting combination of units, but that's what the article states)

      • At least not yet. All they have is a proof of concept laboratory prototype.

        The current status of D-DALUS

        D-DALUS is currently in prototype stage. Over recent weeks IAT21 have conducted extensive constrained flight tests in a specially prepared laboratory near Salzburg, including the transition from vertical to forward flight, and are now ready to move to an open test range for free flight tests. In trials to date D-DALUS has met the performance criteria placed upon it and appears to be scalable, becoming more efficient and less complex as it increases in size. It will therefore be ideally suited for applications that range from maritime search and rescue, through the carriage of freight, to operating alongside and within buildings during fires or, for example, nuclear accidents.

        They could probably do a CG presentation, but for those satisfied with that, those couple of images on their site should suffice. [d-dalus.at]

        They are apparently also planning "an autonomous pallet-transportation-system" and a small roof-sized power plant based on the underlying technology.
        These last two apparently only existing in text form so far. [iat21.at]

        • by delinear (991444)
          What, they couldn't video those "extensive constrained flight tests in a specially prepared laboratory" and stick them online? Nobody had even so much as a camera phone that could do some crappy low res video? I agree with the others - until we see this in action, colour me highly skeptical. We've been promised cheap, effective personal flight many times before and we're still waiting :)
          • An engine attached to wires lifting of ground and maybe moving a meter or two left-right and ahead and back, probably with not that much stability...
            Not really something one would want to "present".

            And I'm guessing here, but I assume that they are in it for the money - not so they could "do some crappy low res video" and "get clicks" and "likes" on their fan-book thingamajig.
            In fact, something like that might prove detrimental to their long-term plans.
            Cause there sure as fuck exists such a thing as "bad pub

            • by iamhassi (659463)
              Yep, and they're getting all kinds of bad publicity now, because most the comments here and on gizmag are "I don't believe it exists I need to see a video". Ouch, press release fail guys, you say like our new product and we say what new product. With the press you have one good chance to get your foot in the door, it will be that much harder next time even if they do have a video. That said I'm done with gizmag, every week they have another BS article of something that doesn't exist but sounds amazing.
          • Yes, I'm sure high-tech labratories working on possibly-classified-definetly-trade-secret technologies would allow all sorts of cameras to do that with.

      • Re:Video (Score:4, Interesting)

        by theguyfromsaturn (802938) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @07:29AM (#36526136)

        It also sounds like a fuel hog. Helicopters are fuel hogs because the rotation of the blade is necessary to provide the lift as well as the thrust. Fixed wing setups have the advantage of getting the lift for cheap. I think if it has any potential it may be at replacing rotor aircraft. Not fixed wings. I don't foresee fuel prices going down in the future.

        • Re:Video (Score:5, Interesting)

          by jonamous++ (1687704) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @07:34AM (#36526166)
          I am unsure of how this design will handle an engine-out situation. A fixed-wing aircraft will have some glide ratio (9:1, 7:1, whatever) and a helicopter will autorotate. What happens with this design? It looks like it would just become a brick.
          • Re:Video (Score:5, Funny)

            by malkavian (9512) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @07:42AM (#36526220) Homepage

            Parachute?

            • This is modded funny, but I think it's actually closer to insightful.

              Parachutes work pretty well as far as I know. Probably the best system we have when you need to protect something from hitting the ground too hard. The big problem with them is that you need to me heading relatively straight down. Airplanes and helicopters have the problem that they don't fall straight down when an engine fails. Wings and rotors make it go all willy-nilly.

              This thing would probably fall straight down, and from the looks

              • by wvmarle (1070040)
                Considering the size of a parachute an average skydiver uses, a complete aircraft including a number of passengers would need a pretty big parachute to be able to come down at a safe speed. Doesn't have to be exactly a comfortable landing of course, just a safe one.
                • Don't they already toss everything up to and including tanks out of airplanes today, with nothing but a chute to slow it?

                • Re:Video (Score:4, Informative)

                  by yodleboy (982200) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @09:59AM (#36527686)
                  FYI: many planes these days from ultralights up to aircraft like the Cirrus SR22 which runs up to $500k have ballistic parachutes either standard or as an option. It's not a new concept to have a whole plane parachute and there are videos on youtube you can check out to see them working.
                  There's still a lot of debate over effectiveness. There aren't that many plane crashes, and even fewer crash that have ballistic parachutes, so data is limited. Also, a large number of general aviation accidents happen at low speed and low altitude, such as take off and landing. Unfortunately, this is exactly the place where ballistic parachutes are least effective. So, the jury is still out, but I'd personally rather have the chute, rather than not have it and be in a situation where it would have helped...
                • by rbrausse (1319883)

                  complete (light) aircrafts are no problem - the technique is working, see ballistic rescue parachutes [wikimedia.org]

              • by CaseyB (1105)

                Parachutes are great when you're at altitude. If things fail near the ground (which they usually do, as it's when the aircraft is under the most stress), then you'll just end up with a brick with a silk streamer behind it.

          • by AngryNick (891056)
            Hauling fuel will certainly hurt performance, but I can see this working nicely as tethered roving device, like a hovering robot with a cable that runs back to the power source. Could be really useful for navigating dangerous areas (i.e. mine fields, frozen ponds) and making lightweight extractions (someone sitting on the hood of a car, stranded by a flood).

            Still, sooner or later our energy sources will have to get smaller, lighter, and more plentiful if we plan to survive as a species and make a devic
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @05:30AM (#36525452)

    It's an entirely different kind of flying, altogether.

  • Anything else? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jamesl (106902) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @05:44AM (#36525508)

    And it will bring us world peace, end hunger and cure cancer.

    This shows the value of issuing press releases.

  • All those planes that weigh less than 70kg with a pilot are sure to benefit!

    I'll wait to see how it scales up.
    • by tweak13 (1171627)
      70kg with a 120hp engine certainly doesn't sound very impressive. A basic propeller driven light aircraft would probably have a payload closer to 300kg with that size engine. Even a helicopter in that power range should have a payload about double that.
    • by scsirob (246572)

      Got that right.. My 120HP Jabiru-powered homebuilt RANS S6S plane weighs 325kg empty, 545 MTOW. Does that mean I'd need to strap 1000HP of this engine type to get off the ground? Yeah, really tempting..

      • I have a Zenith CH750 with an O200D, that is a bit heavier with a bit less HP, and I don't feel it is particularly lacking.

        But then it has wings...

  • by bre_dnd (686663) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @05:48AM (#36525530)
    It looks like the Voith Schneider Propeller as used on tugboats: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voith_Schneider_Propeller [wikipedia.org] -- but spinning faster, displacing air instead of water, and rotated so it can generate up/downward thrust.

    The wikipedia page also has an animation showing how it works.

  • uh, rotating cylinders generating lift? similar described in this 1925 paper [flightglobal.com]? or a concept drawing in a 1950 Mechanix Illustrated [modernmechanix.com]?

    nice engineering (if it works/flies) but nothing exceptionally new...

  • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @05:59AM (#36525588) Journal

    The issue I see here is this:

    Helicopter: engine quits, it can glide (autorotate) to a landing that most of the time is successful, and nearly all of the time doesn't kill anyone.

    Fixed wing: engine quits, it can glide to a landing that most of the time is successful and nearly all of the time doesn't kill anyone.

    Both small fixed wing and helicopters have simple mechanical controls that are very reliable, and quite often the failure of one of these controls results in a brown-pants moment for the pilot but the aircraft can still be controlled to a landing.

    This doesn't look like it has that capability, and in addition requires electronic controls, so any failure = fall out of the sky. Of course, for small aircraft based on this concept, a ballistic full-airframe parachute may be used so in most cases the landing can be survived without serious injury, but ballistic chutes don't really scale all that well. With that it doesn't seem like a disruptive technology - perhaps a disruptive technology for small aircraft that can carry a ballistic chute or unmanned aircraft that don't fly over populated areas, but that's pretty restrictive compared to the different kinds of helicopter you can make, so I don't see helicopters nor fixed wing going away any time soon. That's not to say that if this turns out to be practical it won't be very useful, just that it's not really a disruptive technology if it requires a ballistic chute to not kill anyone if there's a computer or engine failure because this seriously limits the chances of it ever being a certified aircraft by any aviation authority in the world.

    • Offtopic, but the link in your signature no longer works. The new URL is http://www.oolite.org/ [oolite.org]
    • Re:Manned flight (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mcelrath (8027) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @06:56AM (#36525920) Homepage

      I'm not so sure. Assuming this is a variation on the Voith Schneider Propeller [wikipedia.org], consider a configuration of the cylinder of propellers with all the airfoils parallel, and pointed in the direction of flight (so the direction of flight is perpendicular to the cylinder's axis). That's essentially just six stacked wings in an odd configuration, kind of like a triplane. If you have enough forward velocity to maintain lift, all you need to do is lock the airfoils in place. By changing the angle of attack on some of them you can emulate flaps, and increase the lift. The compact configuration of wings would have lots of drag, but you could add fixed wings on the outside to help.

      I think this thing can glide.

  • It looks like my vacuum cleaner. And I'm not trying to be funny. It has fixed spinny things, which kinda reminds me of a rotor. Forget it, too early.

  • by nikolardo (2266242) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @06:19AM (#36525678) Homepage

    "I am now planning aerial machines devoid of sustaining planes, ailerons, propellers, and other external attachments, which will be capable of immense speeds"

    "You should not be at all surprised, if some day you see me fly from New York to Colorado Springs in a contrivance which will resemble a gas stove and weigh as much. ... and could, if necessary enter and depart through a window."

    "The flying machine of the future -- my flying machine -- will be heavier than air, but it will not be an airplane. It will have no wings. It will be substantial, solid, stable. You cannot have a stable airplane. The gyroscope can never be successfully applied to the airplane, for it would give a stability that would result in the machine being torn to pieces by the wind, just as the unprotected airplane on the ground is torn to pieces by a high wind. My flying machine will have neither wings nor propellers. You might see it on the ground and you would never guess that it was a flying machine. Yet it will be able to move at will through the air in any direction with perfect safety, at higher speeds than have yet been reached, regardless of weather and oblivious of 'holes in the air' or downward currents. It will ascend in such currents if desired. It can remain absolutely stationary in the air even in a wind for great length of time. Its lifting power will not depend upon any such delicate devices as the bird has to employ, but upon positive mechanical action."

    -Nikola Tesla

    • Oh. So that's why they thought he was crazy.

    • by IICV (652597)

      I kinda wish someone had just given Tesla his own well-funded lab and told him to go wild.

      Even if he never came up with anything, the stories would have been worth it.

  • It's an entirely different kind of flying, altogether.
  • My house, being in the approach lane for Dusseldorf international airport, I pray for the quite part.

    It is shocking how loud an old 747 is on final. The hope has always been for tech like this to come around and silence these old POS planes.

  • Great if you have error-free computer system to run it on. Not so good if you do not.
    Mid flight rebooting not a good idea.
    Looks like it unpowered, it'll fly like bricked i-phone

  • by randyjparker (543614) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @06:43AM (#36525832) Homepage
    Thirty years ago I was in the Propulsion & Thermodynamics group at Lockheed. One of the guys had a research project on spanwise rotor propulsion - his proof of concept used a beefed up cylindrical hair dryer rotor of the day. Yeah, you can get some net thrust, but at nowhere near the efficiency of conventional designs. There has to be a really strong reason to sacrifice all the extra fuel and weight and safety deficits when compared to better techniques. Perhaps there are niches where the tradeoffs are worth it, but that is not what I'd call "immense promise". Let's see what kind of thrust-to-weight, lift-to-drag, and thrust-specific-fuel-consumption their aircraft can produce first...
    • by metlin (258108)

      It looks like a modification of VSP, which is not known to have a particularly high thrust-to-weight ratio.

  • lol (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gavron (1300111) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @07:01AM (#36525958)

    Is it April 1st, or just slashdot mods got bored?

    As a pilot and an engineer... the sheer amount of bs in one article stymies the ability to say anything else!

    Silent turbines? Do you know how a turbine works? Definitionally it moves amazing amounts of air (and fuel). Air movement = sound. It can't be silent.

    It can "hover" into a building? Do you know how the threshold between "Hey we're just outside the window" and "oh now we're 2ft above the 3rd floor" and "yeah now our exhaust has nowhere to go" works?

    It can "glue itself down to a deck of a ship"? How many aircraft have been swept off a deck of a carrier after landing? NONE! Gravity keeps them there. Sure, the engines can generate more than 1G of lift ... but if you need 2G to stick the aircraft to the ground... get a nice tether because you have one really expensive balloon!

    Ridiculous.

    Is it April 1?

    E
    Full disclosure: I am a licensed rotorcraft pilot. That means I fly helicopters. They don't have silent counter-rotating turbines (lol) and don't "stick to the deck."

    • Perhaps I'm not quite understanding your point about sticking to the deck - the lynx helicopter is pretty amazing, here's an impressive youtube video that shows exactly what you seem to be saying is not possible: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bC2XIGMI2kM [youtube.com] Helicopter landing in very rough sea - negative pitch on the main rotor to push it down with some kind of harpoon arrangement that hooks to a grid on deck to keep it there after it lands..

      I fly helicopters from time to time too - not as a profession though

    • Re:lol (Score:5, Informative)

      by Goldenhawk (242867) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @09:50AM (#36527568) Homepage

      >How many aircraft have been swept off a deck of a carrier after landing? NONE! Gravity keeps them there.

      Sorry to argue but the answer is not "NONE", it's PLENTY. Gravity's great, but have you ever really watched a ship move in heavy seas? 30+ degree rolls are not uncommon, and when big pitching motion is encountered, the deck can actually move out from underneath you at nearly 0g.

      I work around a bunch of guys who test carrier-based rotorcraft for the US Navy, and I can tell you (from having watched more than a few of the horror-story videos from testing) that this is a very real risk.

      Here's a prime example from real life.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZSc5T-iUO4 [youtube.com]
      Sorry, but gravity didn't really do much to help here.

      More short clips of ugly sea conditions:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4MbCu_YRM4 [youtube.com]
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3Mwd-3Kf-4 [youtube.com] (0:33 and on)

      Sticking a helo to the deck in rolling seas is NOT a trivial business, and downthrust or some mechanical hold-down is essential. It's not such a big deal for a carrier which doesn't move all that much, but every US Navy destroyer which hosts helos includes a winch-down system of some kind. Some are employed at great personal risk to the sailor who must run out under a hovering helo on a deck that's rolling over 10 deg back and forth every few seconds, hook up a cable (with a huge static shock risk), and run back out of harm's way while the cable literally pulls the helo down to the deck into the right position and holds it there. Some are lock-down systems that grab a probe sticking down from the bottom of the helo. You can see that probe and lock system here:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wWF9hDgl7E [youtube.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Dark007 (832582)
        I believe the Westland Wasp http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westland_Wasp [wikipedia.org] uses negative collective pitch to enable the helicopter to stick to the deck until it able to be lashed to the deck. I think the Merlin also has that feature. Very useful in heavy seas.
      • by wolfemi1 (765089)
        Great comment. I was also in the Navy and responsible for helo landings on frigates. I'm not sure that the downward thrust from the aircraft here is a good idea. With the winch, there's a constantly contracting connection between the ship and the aircraft, which means that it has no chance of the ship hitting a wave and re-vectoring the thrust from the aircraft sideways.
    • by CaseyB (1105)

      It can "hover" into a building? Do you know how the threshold between "Hey we're just outside the window" and "oh now we're 2ft above the 3rd floor" and "yeah now our exhaust has nowhere to go" works?

      I think they're referring to scaling the design down to micro-UAV size.

  • does anyone have any video of it, you know, flying?
  • From the article:

    The D-Dalus (a play on Daedalus from Greek mythology) is neither fixed wing or rotor craft and uses four, mechanically-linked, contra-rotating cylindrical turbines, each running at the same 2200 rpm, for its propulsion.

    Also known as a rotor wing aircraft. Its not rocket science. You can take one look at it and easily deduce its a rotor wing design.

    What exactly is disruptive about it?

  • I'm no aerospace engineer...

    But I'm imagining what happens if an engine quits during take-off/landing. In a fixed wing aircraft, you're probably still screwed depending on your altitude, but at least you have a chance at restarting and/or ditching in a field. With something that hovers, you have no more lift once the engine quits, you're just a rock. Heck, not even only during take-off/landing, just during cruise, what do you do?

    Helicopters can auto-rotate by storing energy in the main rotor and then "re-en

    • looks like a parachute might work, as there's no rotors or anything else that could interfere.
      • by wvmarle (1070040)
        Parachutes need a certain minimum height to work. If you're too low to the ground no time for a parachute to deploy and slow you down before you run out of height. And for a reasonably sized, manned craft you need one hell of a large parachute.
    • by vlm (69642)

      I'm no aerospace engineer...

      and obviously not a student pilot

      But I'm imagining what happens if an engine quits during take-off/landing. In a fixed wing aircraft, you're probably still screwed depending on your altitude, but at least you have a chance at restarting and/or ditching in a field

      Its not that bad, or it shouldn't be. Early on in training they make you run the math. In summary, with a "long enough" runway there is no dangerous zone at all... Fail early in takeoff and land on the remaining runway in front of you. Fail late in takeoff and you're so high up you can turn around before landing on the runway. If you insist on operating a "2000 foot minimum" aircraft on a 2001 foot long runway then you could be in trouble. Another way to get in trouble

  • by cvtan (752695) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @08:30AM (#36526604)
    This is going to be just as disruptive as the Segway. But less disruptive than the Fiat 500.
  • by dpaton.net (199423) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @09:58AM (#36527678) Homepage Journal

    The patent for the device is covered in US patent 7735773 [google.com]. It does indeed appear to be a variant of a Voith Schneider Propeller. The claim for autorotation is interesting, and possibly quite valid, as is the claim about flying close to buildings or vertical surfaces, based on the proposed flow mechanics of the 'turbines' (quotes on purpose). My biggest issue is with the "additional power units" to support high speed cruise, which are not shown, and not well described.

    Basically, I'll believe it when I see it fly. Until then, it's a Voith Schneider quadcopter demonstration mule. I'm waiting for a person to be transported.

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