Moller International has developed the first and only feasible, personally affordable, personal vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle the world has ever seen.
You've always known it was just a matter of time before the world demanded some kind of flying machine which would replace the automobile. Of course, this machine would have to be capable of VTOL, be easy to maintain, cost effective and reliable. Well, we at Moller International believe we have come up with the solution. That solution is the volantor named Skycar 400 (previously called the M400 Skycar).
Let's compare the Skycar 400 with what's available now, the automobile. Take the most technologically advanced automobile, the Ferrari, Porsche, Maserati, Lamborghini, or the more affordable Acura, Accord, or the like. It seems like all of the manufacturers of these cars are touting the new and greatly improved "aerodynamics" of their cars. Those in the aerospace industry have been dealing with aerodynamics from the start. In the auto industry they boast of aerodynamics, performance tuned wide track suspensions, electronic ignition and fuel injection systems, computer controllers, and the list goes on. What good does all this "advanced engineering" do for you when the speed limit is around 60 MPH and you are stuck on crowded freeways anyway?
Can any automobile give you this scenario? From your garage to your destination, the M400 Skycar can cruise comfortably at 275 MPH (maximum speed of 375 MPH) and achieve up to 20 miles per gallon on clean burning, ethanol fuel. No traffic, no red lights, no speeding tickets. Just quiet direct transportation from point A to point B in a fraction of the time. Three dimensional mobility in place of two dimensional immobility.
No matter how you look at it the automobile is only an interim step on our evolutionary path to independence from gravity. That's all it will ever be.
Moller International's Skycar 400 is the next step.
While we maintain that the Skycar will be usable on the road, for short distances and at low speeds, where it will excel is in the air. It will be a great aircraft, combined with its vertical take-off and landing capabilities, it is going to be a fantastic Personal Air Vehicle (PAV).
At the Air Races
To give you some idea of how the Skycar performs in the air, see the video below. This animated simulation created by Jesse Levin shows the Skycar in Red Bull colors during an air race. The video was captured from the Microsoft Flight Simulator software package while using the free M400 Skycar aircraft plugin. Fantastic job, Jesse. Really gives us a glimpse into the future of personal aviation!
Development Objectives & Analysis
For a more comprehensive overview of our development objectives, please click on the link below:
Moller International was requested to determine if it could integrate its vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technologies into a vehicle that would be more car-like than its Skycar® or Neuera™ vehicles. The purpose of this new vehicle would be primarily on the ground and on conventional roadways, but its novelty would be to have the ability to “pop-up” out of traffic and fly to a near-by, less crowded area. This scenario was given and the legalities were dismissed, therefore we were free to design a vehicle with the appeal of a modern roadster and the combined road-and-airborne capabilities of a volantor.
Today's typical vehicle design flow incorporates a series of distinct stages. The initial phase includes the functional specification and system design, followed by the specification and design of all components. Moving into the prototype stage, components are tested and verified against specification. However, it is not until the full system integration and verification phase, when physical components are connected for the first time, that any problems arising from the functional specification and system design stages become apparent.
For the initial design phase of the autovolantor we chose to use the Ferrari 599 GTB (shown modified below) for the basic fuselage. It had the general shape and layout we were looking for and using it allowed us to quickly modify a readily available scale model and run wind tunnel tests to establish the technical feasibility of the project. At first we were very skeptical that we could adapt a ground-vehicle with our VTOL technologies and make it work, but the model allowed us to quickly verify that it could in fact be done. For a final design we would, however, start fresh and design an entirely unique body, but for the first cut, the Ferrari 599 GTB had the front and rear decks that could accommodate our engine mounting requirements.
The timeline for development of the vehicle was analyzed and we estimated that we could produce a prototype-flying vehicle in approximately 6 months given sufficient funding. The budget was determined to be approximately $5 million. The party that was initially interested ran into financial problems, so we are on-hold with this project at this time.
When operating on the ground the autovolantor is powered by batteries alone for the first 35 miles. Beyond 35 miles one of the engines is used to provide power for electrically driven wheels. No gearboxes are required as the fans are connected to the motor/engine shafts directly. Speed and stability in the air are controlled by a set of redundant computer systems. Small vanes in the exit area of the ducts can direct the air back or down for vertical take-off and landing. The autovolantor maneuvers at low speed like a helicopter, tilting its nose down to move forward, rolling right or left to maneuver sideways. At higher speeds it operates like an airplane. Since the vehicle is not aerodynamically stable until it reaches higher speeds, the control system constantly monitors the attitude of the vehicle and maintains stability through duct thrust control.
In a proposed hybrid version 60% of the installed power is from state-of-the-art batteries while the other 40% is from rotary engines. For take-off and hovering 670 hp is required, so auxiliary electric motors kick in and provide the additional hp for up to 90 seconds. The minimum time required for take-off and transition is 22 seconds. Allowing for a 20% reserve for engine failure, acceleration, and control, ~800 hp in total power is installed, 320 hp from engines and 480 hp from electric motors.
All of our power and range assumptions are based on using gasoline for fuel, although the Rotapower engine runs equally well on other "light" fuels such as ethanol, CNG, etc. "Heavy" fuels such as diesel or JP-8 require a different fuel delivery system.
Ground speeds are projected to be up to 80 mph, and maximum air speed would be 165 mph. The maximum all-airborne range is 104 miles at 9.6 mpg and maximum all-ground range is 545 miles at 45.4 mpg. Our analysis indicates that miles per gallon vary for the 12 gallon fuel capacity. A typical 50-mile flight plus 300 mile ground trip would result in 29.3 mpg, while a 10-mile flight plus 486 mile ground trip would provide 41.3 mpg. Range on batteries alone is 35.5 miles (assuming an 85% discharge). If the industry is able to double the battery energy storage capacity over the next two years (a goal of the GM Volt and other Hybrid automobile programs) it could extend the autovolantor's battery powered ground range to 70 miles.
While maximum altitude for this vehicle could be much higher, the practical height limits for a short-flight-duration aircraft like the autovolantor are relatively low, and would probably be just above city buildings and well below other air traffic.
Cost Effective Performance
From its inception the Skycar 400 has been designed to minimize both direct and indirect costs. The Skycar uses an engine that can burn almost any fuel from diesel to natural gas so that worldwide refueling can be accommodated by what is locally available. Using gasoline, the Skycar can be expected to get over 20 mpg. With a range of 750 miles, the logistics associated with refueling the shorter-range helicopter can be eliminated.
The Rotapower engines have only two major moving parts, weigh less than 80 pounds and occupy less than one cubic foot. The bulk of the remaining technology is electronic and replaceable in modules as the onboard redundant systems identify a failed or failing component.
Vehicle size greatly affects ground mobility and parking space required. The Skycar, with its compact size, can be stored in a space the size of a standard single car garage. The landing gear on the vehicle makes roadability possible for short distances.
Initially introduced as the M400, four-seat model, the Skycar 400 technology has the ability to be both scaled up to a six passenger, M600, or scaled down to a one passenger, M100. This allows a cost efficient vehicle size to accommodate a variety of military, paramilitary, and commercial transport missions.
Time Critical Performance
The Skycar's combined VTOL and speed capability make extremely rapid response possible. Search and Rescue, Emergency Medical, Drug Interdiction, Surveillance, or Critical Personnel Transport are examples where minutes saved can literally mean the difference between success and failure, life and death, or thousands of dollars. Helicopters have traditionally offered the flexibility necessary in these applications allowing for ingress and egress into a limited space where fixed wing aircraft do not have access. The performance penalties for using helicopters as compared to fixed wing aircraft have been a low maximum cruise speed of approximately 125 mph, a limited range of around 300 miles, and a restricted operational ceiling of less than 15,000 ft.
A Skycar 400, by utilizing its VTOL capability, has the flexible access of the helicopter. In addition, it has the 375 mph maximum speed, 750-mile range, and 36,000 foot ceiling of a high performance aircraft. The Skycar can also climb at more than a vertical mile per minute.
Moller is currently working with the FAA to obtain certification of the M400 Skycar under the "powered lift normal" category. The airworthiness criteria manual, which governs the certification tests, was drafted by a team of FAA personnel and industry representatives. Moller International is a member of this team.
In addition, the FAA has established a "powered lift" pilot's license. This, together with a thorough familiarization, will be required to pilot a Skycar, primarily to ensure adequate flight management and navigational skills. A Skycar is not piloted like a traditional fixed wing airplane and has only two hand-operated controls, which the pilot uses to inform the redundant computer control system of his or her desired flight maneuvers.
The FAA has established a “powered-lift” pilot’s license. This, together with a thorough familiarization with the flight controls of the Skycar, will be required for its safe operation, primarily to ensure adequate flight management and navigational skills. A Skycar is not piloted like traditional fixed or rotary wing aircraft. It has only two hand-operated controls that the pilot uses to direct the redundant computer control system to carry out his or her desired flight maneuvers.
The left hand controls a pressure sensitive pad with right and left segments (similar to a computer mouse). The degree of finger pressure on the right segment of the pad determines the rate of climb. When finger pressure ceases, rate of climb stops and is maintained by a radar altimeter. Finger pressure on the left segment determines rate of descent, except when the aircraft is very near the ground where descent rate is pre-programmed. The right hand operates a joystick for multi-modal directional and speed control. On the ground the stick provides directional steering (by twisting), braking (pull back) and acceleration (push forward).
After the Skycar takes off vertically, the right-hand-controlled stick provides all flight movement: speed and longitudinal direction are achieved by tilting the stick forward or backwards. Lateral movement in and near hover is achieved by tilting the stick sideways, which also provides banked turns during cruising flight. Directional control in and near hover is achieved by twisting the stick. Flight coordination is not needed since it is provided by the on-board flight control system (FCS).
The link below is to a general overview of the safety issues with VTOL aircraft, and in particular the Skycar 400:
The M600 LAMV
The M600 Light Aerial Multi-purpose Vehicle (LAMV) is an aircraft with the vertical take-off and landing capabilities of a helicopter and the maximum speed of a high performance aircraft and without the limitations of either. Using these capabilities the M600 can shave critical minutes from a variety of missions where operational flexibility and speed are imperative. Forces using the LAMV would have unmatched speed and agility in positioning and repositioning from widely dispersed locations allowing them to achieve operational objectives quickly and decisively.
Moller International’s low-cost, small unit VTOL aircraft incorporate many of the features of the V-22 Osprey, without the accompanying complexities. Like the V-22, the Skycar combines a high cruise speed (265 knots for the M600) with the ability to land and take off vertically from “unimproved” landing areas. The VTOL payload of the M600 is 1,250 lbs, which allows for up to six passengers or a combination of crew and cargo. Suggested configuration for Search and Rescue (SAR) or medical evacuation (Medivac) missions is a pilot and a medic, with space for two injured. Where a short take off or landing (STOL) is possible a 200-foot rollout provides for net payloads of over 2,000 lbs.
The M600’s combined VTOL and airspeed capabilities provide extremely rapid response. SAR, medivac, drug interdiction, critical logistic supply deliveries, surveillance or special personnel transport are examples where minutes saved can literally mean the difference between success and failure, life and death, or thousands of dollars. For a more detailed discussion of the capabilities see “A Revolutionary Vehicle for the Future” by Colonel Larry Harman (USA-Ret), Director of the Combat Service Support Battle Laboratory at the Army Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia or “Winning an Asymmetric War with the Skycar” by LTC James P Thomas, 304th SB, 3rd Expeditionary Force, Sustainment Command LNO, Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
The M600 is being developed by Moller International to meet guidelines suggested by representatives of the US military. Helicopters have traditionally offered the flexibility of VTOL applications allowing for ingress and egress into a limited space where fixed wing aircraft do not have access. The performance penalties for using helicopters as compared to fixed wing aircraft have been low speed, limited range and restricted operational ceiling. In aircraft like the M600, vectored thrust allows the use of all the installed engine power when in conventional flight. The high thrust-to-weight ratio allows outstanding climb, accelerations and decelerations, and maneuver. For example, the M600’s projected maximum climb rate is more than a mile per minute.
Moreover, the M600’s engines have many of the characteristics of turbine-powered aircraft without the accompanying complexity and massive fuel consumption of the latter. For example, in cruise the M600 burns only 1 pound of fuel per minute. Moller’s M600 operational characteristics are predicted to provide a maximum dash speed of 395 mph, a range of 750 miles, and operational altitude of over 25,000 ft.
The M600 could also meet the requirements of commercial high-value cargo delivery, air taxi and emerging VTOL transportation service providers.
Modified Civilian Models
The Skycar technology was developed for civilian applications, however the aircraft's combination of VTOL and high speed overcome its payload restrictions and make it a likely choice for many non-combat oriented military missions. Modified 1-, 2-, 4- and 6-passenger models may allow the Skycar technology to play a key role in logistical support, search and rescue, medical evacuation, intelligence gathering, command and control and other missions.
Stiletto - A single-seat, high-speed, VTOL-capable aircraft intended for reconnaissance and special operations.
Conquestor - A two-seat, high-speed, VTOL-capable aircraft intended for reconnaissance, special operations and search & rescue missions.
Simulated Reconnaissance Patrol
Below is a great animation made by Jesse Levin using the free Microsoft Flight Simulator Skycar M400 plug-in. Like his "Flight to the Hamptons", this video features the Skycar in action, but instead of New York you'll see the Skycar in a simulated Middle Eastern town that has been set up at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, which is a major training center for the United States Marine Corps. Great job, Jesse!