Hovering freighter concept could use night ban airports says German Aerospace Center

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FanWing freighter credit: Adrian Mann / FanWing

A freighter that can hover, use short runways, have reduced maintenance and could be quiet enough for airports with night curfews is the conclusion of a German led study into a freighter concept called Fanwing.

FanWing could be used by package delivery companies, those targeting pilotless operation, or on-demand cargo operators, according to the German Aerospace Center (DLR). FanWing has an open rotor that spans the wing’s length (see picture – credit Adrian Mann / FanWing). It is this large distributed thrust system that is expected to make it quiet enough for night ban airports.

At the DLR’s Institut für Lufttransportsysteme, Jonathan Gibbs is studying the commercial aspects of FanWing. Gibbs tells Air Cargo Week about the project’s next steps: “What we have decided to do is pick two aircraft that we are going to design for specific markets, not for cargo, but they could be used for cargo.” The two aircraft are for fire fighting and crop dusting. However, Gibbs and his fellow researchers are going to talk to freighter operators. “Especially for cargo, we will try to interview operators and see if there is a demonstrated need and try to infer how competitive Fanwing will be with those,“ he adds. In Gibbs’ view, FanWing is competitive where slow maneuvering and short take offs are needed.

Starting in 2014, the 782,989 euro ($864,592) two-year European Union project, is studying FanWing’s technical performance and its economics. The results published so far have been from the project’s periodic report covering the first year. The FanWing freighter concept that has been studied is able to carry eight tonnes and its direct operating costs are being compared to conventional short take-off and landing aircraft, helicopters. Gibbs explains that FanWing’s fuel burn is better than a helicopter’s, while its take-off distance is greater, but for an aircraft the opposite is true.

The DLR led study is called SOAR, an acronym constructed from diStributed Open-rotor AiRcraft. The study’s partners include, FanWing, the company that created the FanWing design, the von Karman Institute and the University of Saarland.